Monday, September 26, 2011

Anne Rice Philippines Book Meet- Servant of the Bones

                For a time it felt like The Gathering that was never going to happen.
                After a long hiatus since our last meet at A Different Book Store in Serendra, Fort Bonifacio for the 5th Vampire Chronicle, Memnoch The Devil, meeting up for the next book in focus was a done deal. Apparently we were wrong for events and different life plans for all members got in the way up until it was decided that August 27 was the date and I would be seeing my fellow Vampires once more and we’d get to feast on coffee and cake and chat another late Saturday afternoon away. But once more, the Vampiric order of things was thrown in disarray for a typhoon set in that day and only me and Lynn were able to make it. Penny, on the other hand, whose back problem was acting up joined us on Skype as we tried to make some sense of a discussion and catch up on each other’s lives. With just us two (or 3), we decided to move the Book Meet to another Saturday that looked feasible for all. Fast forward to last night.
                I got in at around 5pm at the new designated place which was now Cravings restaurant in Shangri-La Edsa Plaza. As per the conversation thread in our Facebook page, this was place was suggested because of their ongoing promo of unlimited cake and coffee for only P150 (roughly $3.45), that begins at 4pm and ends at 8pm. With our love for blood and coffee (interesting book title, if it be used), the excitement to gather once more and make do on that postponed promise to meet up loomed into reality until I got there. Penny was the first to arrive and looking fabulous and made up ordered her share of salad and take home Cordon Bleu. I, on the other hand, disciplined myself to stay away from cakes and started first with a cup of Cappuccino, before ordering their Hungarian sausage by the time Lynn came from after having an exhausting workload of tutoring.
 I didn’t want to think that it would be only the 3 of us again who were arriving because Jestat was glad of the postponed book meet the last time and expressed desire to join this time and even sent me a text message yesterday morning inquiring if the Book Meet was pushing through. Now, Lynn was still finishing the book by the time we got there and that gave us some more time to enjoy our food and by the time the discussion was under way, I realized that it was too late for anyone else to come and “make habol”.
         First off, Penny felt the book didn’t grab her on the onset. Having been accustomed to seeing Lestat drive things in a narrative was an Anne Rice staple and no other character had the stamina and the bratty wit to keep us enthralled. So for us who all read the book ages ago when it first came out (and after Memnoch, mind you), we didn’t really catch onto the character of Azriel.
                To give you a summary, the story tells of Azriel, then a man living in Babylon, whose narrates his life to a Jewish scholar named Jonathan. Azriel, now a powerful spirit or dybuk, appears to this aging man during a self imposed writer’s retreat in his mountain cottage, nurses him back to health and reveals his story. We are introduced to Azriel’s life in Babylon during 539 B.C. and living under the rule of King Cyrus the Persian. Azriel was someone marked as special for during his young age, he is able to hear and converse with the golden Babylonian god, Marduk; to which the priests have already singled him out as someone to be reckoned with and later on to be used to appease the god himself in their glorification of their deity. Marduk for Azriel became his confidant, accomplice and best friend. And because of that, Azriel was craftily selected by the Babylonian witch Asenath, to participate in a celebration to personify Marduk by having himself painted in gold, re-enact the god’s slaying of a lion and paraded throughout the city with the conquering King being blessed on and thus bringing Cyrus closer to acceptance by the populace. But Asenath had an alterior motive.
She knew that this act meant Azriel had to sacrifice himself to the cause and take part in a ritual that involved boiling him into a pot of Gold and bonding his soul to the gold-encrusted bones and making him a genie or dybuk that would obey the whims and wishes of the one who possesses his bones; his Master; thus successfully creating the legendary Servant of the Bones. Lucky for Azriel, he only felt the boiling gold touch his skin momentarily as his soul rose to evade the pain and witness his own transformation as a spirit that can be sent to inhabit the bones and summoned back out whenever needed. His creation thus led him to be sent to his first Master, the Magician Zurvan in the Greek city of Miletus. Zurvan proved to be the Master who had the most profound effect on him; teaching and guiding him to fully realize the extent of his powers. His lessons carried and guided him from one master after another until he appears in present day New York City during the murder of a woman named Esther Belkin, who just happens to be the daughter of his current master, Gregory Belkin.
But Belkin was not the Master that Azriel can learn wisdom from. He may be rich, powerful but was also the fanatical leader of his own new age organization called The Temple of the Mind. With it, Gregory exerted much influence and planned to genocide the world’s population by way of a manufactured virus; a combination of new and old strains of the dreaded Ebola. Part of his plan is to use his twin brother, Nathan, whose existence was unknown the public, assassinate him thereby successfully faking his death and later rise 3 days after as a Messiah. Azriel fools him and spoil his plans, thus saving humanity from genocide.
I remember excitedly getting this novel first in 1996, the preferred Chatto and Windus version with a golden skull in front rather than the US cover that was all gold with embossed figures. Read it then and then most recently and found that although it wasn’t Anne’s best, it still had the potential to slowly draw you in and let you take part in the peeling process of characterization and layering of the plot till you reach the end.
Here are some points that were discussed:
1.       We started by identifying the first issue that we had about Azriel and that was his pacificity. How could one, a loving son at that, so readily accept his father’s decision of allowing him to take part in the ritual and not have one ounce of anger and bitterness for it. Azriel knew that he was going to die and that the process will kill him. Was Azriel’s unconditional love for his father that deep or was it justified in the book by Azriel himself that no matter what he said about the issue, his father, being the parent of gifted son, would still be in danger from the Babylonian priests. Better to appease them than see my own father suffer. Should that be the case, then we would understand but his lack of emotion about the situation was just one of the things that had us scratching our heads.

2.       Having kept his emotions in check, we were surprised to see Azriel cry at the death of Esther Belkin on the day that he re-appeared in New York. Could Esther have summoned him? Perhaps not a formal summoning. But having no concept why he was there and to see him break down as if he knew her and had some profound bond with Esther was another thing if not flaw that we found most puzzling. If we were to base it on the fact that seeing a woman murdered in front of you in cold blood was tragic enough to make one weep as such, then perhaps Azriel should’ve have had an issue regarding the taking of another life even way back then when his first Master, Zurvan ordered him to kill a group of Bedouins in the desert when they stole Azriel’s golden bones from him. Where was this sudden outpouring of emotion coming from?

3.       According to the lore, the Servant of the Bones was not supposed to be able to touch his bones, but because the process of his own making was already flawed, the consequences could not have been the same. What the evil High Priest, Remath and Asenath wanted to make was a powerful genii that would be able to perform any task appointed to it. Although Azriel is indeed able to do that, his selection in itself was already a mistake. You see, the candidate needed to make a ruthless spirit was one that was already inherently bad in his human life. Azriel, was inherently good. A direct opposite of the prime candidate and perhaps it is that reason that we as a reader were getting mixed results.

4.       Penny pointed out and asked why did Anne’s characters need a scribe to tell their tale? The Vampire Lestat spoke directly to the reader and didn’t need a scribe up until his adventures in the 5th Vampire chronicles. By then, Lestat, bound in chains needed David Talbot to transcribe his tale. But was it more “fashionable” to have one’s characters tell their story via a Scribe or does it have any purpose in lengthening and fleshing out the narrative in this manner?

5.       For someone regarded as a god, Marduk certainly didn’t fulfil his end of the bargain by being a friend to Azriel. In fact, he was at a loss once Azriel became a spirit and proved useless to him by not being able to give comfort or wisdom to his plight. Did Marduk come off as all-knowing because Azriel didn’t share the same “status” as his because he was “beneath” him, as he was human? And once made like him, the mystery is unveiled; the truth revealed? The deception complete?

This by the way, reminds me of the Nihilistic themes of Anne in her earlier Vampire works. Her protagonist Louis, in Interview With The Vampire, was on the search for his purpose because he didn’t understand what was his nature in being a Vampire. Akasha, the antagonist in Queen of the Damned, could find no meaning to her own purpose and sought to make one by proclaiming that the male species should be annihilated and only the females are to be glorified and put on a pedestal. Was Marduk, equally exhibiting signs of a Nihilist nature by being unable to provide sense and comfort to Azriel because he was only putting up a front. To paraphrase Louis in describing Lestat’s absence of guidance, He knew nothing because there was nothing to know.

6.       Like in her previous novels, our Anne has enjoyed writing and incorporating characters who have embraced their individuality or varied sexuality. Our favorite, Vampire Lestat was the first. And Azriel was no different as he felt no qualm in kissing his Master on the lips and loses himself to physical pleasure and abandon as he sleeps with Gregory Belkin’s wife, who already was dying from her ailment, just before she killed herself by jumping from the balcony of her Florida mansion. We wonder what fuelled Anne to add such textured but passionately written scenes into her works. Where does perhaps, carnality, lie in the essence of her writing?

7.       We also were wondering who was it really that called Azriel to New York. The novel purports that Azriel came into his own and learned not to depend on a Master to constitute himself as opposed to the given that whoever possesses the bones has the power and authority to summon Azriel from the golden bones.
Could it have been Esther herself, for she recognized him in the few moments just before her death as she was ambulanced out after her murder. But then again, Azriel knew that no one called him. He was just drawn to the scene to witness a cleverly and made-to-look casual killing of Gregory Belkin’s step daughter.
We thought about it and referenced an earlier incident wherein Zurvan unconsciously summoned Azriel during his sleep by just thinking of him when he didn’t even need him during that moment. Could it be that Azriel, by this time, and after 4 Masters in his current incarnation, have become so well tuned, that even the slightest thought or reference of him by anyone who knows of the lore of his making can instantly summon him without his knowing and thus led him to believe that he has done so by his own will and volition?
8.       The casting of an actor for the role of Azriel was also bandied and tossed about. We all agreed that the ideal person to play this if ever was Iranian actor, Oded Fehr. He was Zankou in the 6th season of Charmed, was the leader of Guardians looking after the tomb in Imhotep in the first 2 Mummy movies of Brendan Fraser and was also in Resident Evil 2 and 3. He is also my ideal actor to play my favorite Marvel comic character, Dr. Strange. I know I am digressing but indulge me in this a bit.

9.       We also found that it was tragic that Azriel, for all his sacrifices and good intentions, has not been rewarded entry into Heaven. True that as Nathan was killed and he saw the similar stairway to Heaven which Rachel Belkin went up to, and he himself went on as it appeared, he was urged by Rachel to go back and inhabit Nathan’s dying body in order to stop Gregory. Azriel’s master, Zurvan, even urged him to see the “rationale” in this act even if it meant damning himself back into mortality and risk the possibility of not ever seeing the freedom again that he so relished in, as a spirit.

Could Anne have thought of a possible sequel and reworked her narrative to keep Azriel on Earth for another adventure back then? It certainly felt that his presence as a wanderer can lead to another story but then again, there was no guarantee of that. A door was potentially open. But unless one steps through it, it will always be ajar and not a true doorway that would certify its use to deliver a promise after having been crossed.

By the time we covered most points that got us enthralled, confused, laughing with cross references to other books, the restaurant started to close down, shut it lights and it was time to go home. And even though we were only a handful of members who attended all 3 of us still had fun and look forward to the next discussion, of which the next book we decided was the most unlikely of choices and yet one that would hopefully get more of the members talking and attending at the same time. It’s book 1 of Anne’s erotic trilogy, The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty.


Friday, September 16, 2011

Seeing Green and Red....with Guy Gardner

First off, I was never a Guy Gardner fan. Kinda felt that he was the offbeat Lantern; one who couldn't keep his cool and foam at the mouth whenever something or someone didn't agree with him. But in the past 3 years of reading GL and all other tie-ups I've come to accept Guy and all his quirks. And so it was in this spirit that I looked forward to reading this compilation and boy did I like it.

Branching off from the events compiled in Brightest Day:Green Lantern, this compilation centers on the pact that he made between Guardian Ganthet & Atrocitus, and the devestating results from following up on that.

Not to give anything too much for those who have yet to read the other issues of Brightest Day, basically it follows up on the mysterious disappearances of the other entities of the color spectrum as someone seems to keeping them plus the fact that the Green energy of will seems to be on the verge of being siphoned out by another entity located in the Uncharted region that prompts Guy Garder, along with Drill Sergeant Kilowog and Lantern Arisia to check it out.

The host for the Ion entity, Sodam Yat also returns in this issue and figures prominently in the events on Daxam following his sacrifice to go into the planet's sun, turn it yellow and empower all inhabitants of his home planet to have superpowers. He faces the consequences of that sacrifice and how it means to him to follow through after such a choice was taken from him.

All in all it's a good wild ride of a read together with the unlikely partnership of Red Lantern, Bleez, I soooo can't wait for the next compilation and like Guy Gardner I'm starting to see Green.....and Red!!! 

Power up Poohzers! 

Seeing Green and Red...with Guy Gardner

First off, I was never a Guy Gardner fan. It was always Hal Jordan from Day 1. Kinda felt that Guy was the offbeat Lantern; one who couldn't keep his cool and foam at the mouth whenever something or someone didn't agree with him. But in the past 3 years of reading GL and all other tie-ups I've come to accept Guy and all his quirks. And so it was in this spirit that I looked forward to reading this compilation and boy did I like it.

Branching off from the events compiled in Brightest Day:Green Lantern, this compilation centers on the pact that he made between Guardian Ganthet & Atrocitus, and the devestating results from following up on that.

Not to give anything too much for those who have yet to read the other issues of Brightest Day, basically it follows up on the mysterious disappearances of the other entities of the color spectrum as someone seems to keeping them plus the fact that the Green energy of will seems to be on the verge of being siphoned out by another entity located in the Uncharted region that prompts Guy Garder, along with Drill Sergeant Kilowog and Lantern Arisia to check it out.

The host for the Ion entity, Sodam Yat also returns in this issue and figures prominently in the events on Daxam following his sacrifice to go into the planet's sun, turn it yellow and empower all inhabitants of his home planet to have superpowers. He faces the consequences of that sacrifice and how it means to him to follow through after such a choice was taken from him.

All in all it's a good wild ride of a read together with the unlikely partnership of Red Lantern, Bleez, I'm excited for the next compilation and like Guy I'm starting to see Green.....and Red!!!

Power up Poohzers!

Visiting Malaysia - Day2 - 9.10.11

                Waking up at 6am on a Sunday, our 2nd and last day to Malaysia, we vowed to make the most out of it. We all took turns in flooding the very, very cramped rest room when taking our showers and quickly feasted on our breakfast buffet at the hotel cafĂ© before heading out to the famed Petronas Towers. As it is, the Towers are a major tourist attraction and therefore one would have to be early just to get in. Our tour guide mentioned that the entrance was free. But getting there after having been separated in two taxi cab rides and got the round around from a crafty taxi driver who charged us double, we found out just how much people wanted to go in that morning and that it wasn’t free anymore.

                
           Lining up to get tickets just to get in, we all took 10 minute shifts in standing in line while the rest stayed along the stair steps and chatted. Finally after about an hour and a half, the lines stirred because an attendant started counting and asking how many people per party are with the ones lining up. Now, not everyone was required to fall in line. Only 1 can line up while the rest waited it out. So it was evident that they were doing a head count. Thinking that it was for those going in within the hour, we were hopeful. But finally the screen at the counter flashed and it said that Tickets available were now for Batch 2 at 1pm. That just pushed us back and threw our schedule out of whack because our tour guide Mr. Bell was slated to pick us up that morning so we could go to Genting Island


        After much debate, we decided to fold and not go up the Towers and instead did lots of photo ops outside, hamming it up and posing by the fountain. Badet, who with her SLR Camera, was the consummate photographer getting shot after shot and directing us individually and as a group. So Badet, when do you open your studio? J

After much posing, it was around 10am and the Tower Mall was open. We walked around and checked the stores. Baby got a cool hoodie and then we got nice shirts at Uni-Qlo and even were rewarded with a nice sturdy tote bag for our purchases. Charm and Jun followed suit and got their own after we combined receipts. Badet and Meanne indulged themselves and each got a bag from ZARA. Next, we indulged ourselves just before lunch with cookies from Famous Amos and later some souvenir items before meeting Mr. Bell outside. 

         Following that it was division of duties as we had to go back to the hotel to check out. Badet, Charm and Meanne lined up to get lunch while I along with Baby and Jun went back to check out and bring down the luggage but not before I had to pass by the moneychanger for some more Ringgit. Lesson learnt. Have some currency of the country you’re visiting before leaving.

      Soon an hour after, and much trek along circuitous roads going up the mountain, we reached Genting Island; a tourist destination which we felt was the equivalent of Baguio, our own summer capital here in Manila, with much fog and cold winds blowing in our faces. With the darkening of the skies and imminent rain, the temperature significantly dropped and Baby with the new hoodie and others strapped in, were very much equipped to deal with it. Expecting a sunny day, 5 of us were actually in shorts so the jackets that we had were a much needed buffer against the cold. We had two options to choose from upon getting there, deal with the cold with the outdoor theme park or be safe inside the hotel beside it as it also houses another theme park. As per the ticket office, we had no guarantee with the weather outside and should the rain come down on us, the outdoor park would be closed and we wouldn’t have a refund. So going inside was the obvious choice.

              It turned out to be the better choice actually, as it finally rained when we were getting in through the walkway and the indoor park resembled our very own Star City. Quickly we all took to shopping instead of going on the rides with Baby and I each getting big colourful watches in Padini Authentics; a Malaysian clothing line. Charm also got a shiny metal watch for herself and flashed it around. In between shop hopping, we sat down for coffee and banana muffin as well as two members of the Kurimaw group posing on a vacated stage after an afternoon show; clearly the picture of happy shoppers. Now, would the mall get them as models for their posters? Yes, they should. Wish!

          Finally it was time to go and we met Mr. Bell at the bottom of the hill after a much excited and anticipated cable car ride. Riding in the “caboose” we all marvelled at the expanse of the ride’s construction as we glided down from one hill to another, seeing much fog and greenery. The next stop just before getting dropped at the airport was the area of Putrajaya, where most of the government buildings were housed. Passing by the famed bridge, we all took shots while the ever changing shades of the spotlight lighting the bridge served as the perfect colourful backdrop amidst the night sky. 

Back in the van, we took shots of the Parliament house, another Grand Mosque and the huge metal archway leading up to it. The area was clean, and a lot of tiled and cemented areas for people to just hang around. I was told by Mr. Bell too that this was the case as people on religious holidays would gather outside the Mosque to observe it, so much consideration for parked cars and assemblage was put into the mapping and landscaping of this clean and efficient area.

        Soon with pictures stored, camera batteries drained, we were left at the airport with much time to spare before our return flight to Manila at 1:20am. All of us were down for the count by the time we got to our seats and didn’t even feel the rumble of the plane as we took off. It was 5am when we got back to Manila. We were all tired but happy and looking forward to the next flight when the Kurimaws would be complete and set to conquer another country. Ah it’s Hong Kong next year right guys? J

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Middle of a Vampire Trilogy - The Fall

    To say that reading The Fall would remind one of the movie 28 days and 28 days later but with a “Bite” is perhaps close to how reading the book would feel but of course any cinematic medium still can’t compare to the cinema of images and sound that runs and rules the mind when gripped by a good book. Such, for me, is this one.

    Following the events detailed in the first book, The Strain, its sequel, The Fall aptly titled, metaphorically works on different levels for the reader upon finishing the last chapter. When last seen our hero, (CDC) Center for Disease head, Ephraim Goodweather together with Jewish Pawnshop broker and Vampire expert, Abraham Setrakian, has just faced the Master and lived to tell the tale. Along with rat exterminator, Vasilly Fet, they have traced the Master’s lair to the tunnels underneath Ground Zero in New York, flushed him out and even wounding him after facing him head on following an attack on their home. But surviving that was just the beginning as The Master’s human partner in this pandemic crisis, billionaire cripple, Eldritch Palmer have begun to infiltrate people in government, and turned the tide against Ephraim and made him look like the bad guy for having uploaded a video of a Vampiric transformation and blamed him for the death of fellow CDC officer.  Apparently in wanting to warn the public and do good, he has done more harm.

    By the time the crisis was addressed by Congress, numerous raids by newly turned Vampires have begun in different neighborhoods and being not warned, local enforcement officers have fallen both as prey and have become turned victims by the monster themselves. If this wasn’t enough, Ephraim had to deal with his wife being newly turned and is hunting them as they move from one sanctuary after another. One silver lining amidst all this was the revelation of The Ancients, a group of 6 Vampires who are opposed to what the Master is doing and have rescued Book 1 survivor, Gus and added him to their roster of exterminators and contracted humans to fight against the Master’s increasing forces.

    Like the first book, and in spite of the wait for its release, The Fall, succeeds in keeping the pace and twists of the storyline and even add more glimpses into some of the characters past like how Abraham and Eldritch Palmer have been rivals in the Vienna University, and it is rivalry that has characterized their relationship ever since. We also learn that being a survivor in a Nazi concentration camp, Setrakian’s commanding officer was currently the Master’s right hand man, Thomas Eichhorst. Add to that is the revelation and search for a mysterious book called the Occido Lumen, a silver lined tome that holds the key to the Vampiric origin and greatly desired by both the Master and Abraham himself. And you know how Silver is poisonous to Vampires. Well, in this book, that is.

    The title works for me on all levels as it refers to different beats in the story. On the surface, it does mean the fall of different key cities in the book like New York, Washington, Korea, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Paris and others as well as the fall of Man to these beings who clearly declare that they are at the top of the food chain by way of their actions. But in certain places, it also covers the fall of the Ancients themselves, by falling into hubris and not protecting their own ranks from the Master’s infiltration as well as Man’s own fall into the abyss of his own dark side and turning against his fellowmen when push comes to shove.

    (Spoiler)

    So clearly on all levels, the book is a good read for me in spite of some scenes that didn’t explain why some of the Ancients were just dropping down like flies and turning into a pile of white ash while Abraham was in conference to them when he brought them the book. Clearly it was the doing of the Master who by this time in the book we know was part of this Ancient Coven and was also the 7th and the youngest member of the circle who rebelled and waged this war; this infection of the food supply in bitter protest against the Ancients who have not given him his due. But I would’ve wanted a clear insight as to how the Master was doing this. Or we left to assume that the silver-lined photo flash that Fet and Abraham rigged underneath the tunnels have been copied by the Master? (scratches head)

    With that said I hope that I have given this book its due and warrants enough interest for you to either pick it up or begin reading the book that began it all. Like Empire Strikes Back, Two Towers, our heroes are battered, bruised, pushed to hell and back but there is definitely still some fight left in them. Till then like you, I will be awaiting the 3rd and final installment of this hi-tech vampire epic and like the Master and picking up on his own line, I look forward to “The Night Eternal”.

Middle of a Vampire Trilogy - The Fall


                To say that reading The Fall would remind one of the movie 28 days and 28 days later but with a “Bite” is perhaps close to how reading the book would feel but of course any cinematic medium still can’t compare to the cinema of images and sound that runs and rules the mind when gripped by a good book. Such, for me, is this one.

                Following the events detailed in the first book, The Strain, its sequel, The Fall aptly titled, metaphorically works on different levels for the reader upon finishing the last chapter. When last seen our hero, (CDC) Center for Disease head, Ephraim Goodweather together with Jewish Pawnshop broker and Vampire expert, Abraham Setrakian, has just faced the Master and lived to tell the tale. Along with rat exterminator, Vasilly Fet, they have traced the Master’s lair to the tunnels underneath Ground Zero in New York, flushed him out and even wounding him after facing him head on following an attack on their home. But surviving that was just the beginning as The Master’s human partner in this pandemic crisis, billionaire cripple, Eldritch Palmer have begun to infiltrate people in government, and turned the tide against Ephraim and made him look like the bad guy for having uploaded a video of a Vampiric transformation and blamed him for the death of fellow CDC officer.  Apparently in wanting to warn the public and do good, he has done more harm.

                By the time the crisis was addressed by Congress, numerous raids by newly turned Vampires have begun in different neighbourhoods and being not warned, local enforcement officers have fallen both as prey and have become turned victims by the monster themselves. If this wasn’t enough, Ephraim had to deal with his wife being newly turned and is hunting them as they move from one sanctuary after another. One silver lining amidst all this was the revelation of The Ancients, a group of 6 Vampires who are opposed to what the Master is doing and have rescued Book 1 survivor, Gus and added him to their roster of exterminators and contracted humans to fight against the Master’s increasing forces.

                Like the first book, and in spite of the wait for its release, The Fall, succeeds in keeping the pace and twists of the storyline and even add more glimpses into some of the characters past like how Abraham and Eldritch Palmer have been rivals in the Vienna University, and it is rivalry that has characterized their relationship ever since. We also learn that being a survivor in a Nazi concentration camp, Setrakian’s commanding officer was currently the Master’s right hand man, Thomas Eichhorst. Add to that is the revelation and search for a mysterious book called the Occido Lumen, a silver lined tome that holds the key to the Vampiric origin and greatly desired by both the Master and Abraham himself. And you know how Silver is poisonous to Vampires. Well, in this book, that is.

                The title works for me on all levels as it refers to different beats in the story. On the surface, it does mean the fall of different key cities in the book like New York, Washington, Korea, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Paris and others as well as the fall of Man to these beings who clearly declare that they are at the top of the food chain by way of their actions. But in certain places, it also covers the fall of the Ancients themselves, by falling into hubris and not protecting their own ranks from the Master’s infiltration as well as Man’s own fall into the abyss of his own dark side and turning against his fellowmen when push comes to shove.

                (Spoiler)

                So clearly on all levels, the book is a good read for me in spite of some scenes that didn’t explain why some of the Ancients were just dropping down like flies and turning into a pile of white ash while Abraham was in conference to them when he brought them the book. Clearly it was the doing of the Master who by this time in the book we know was part of this Ancient Coven and was also the 7th and the youngest member of the circle who rebelled and waged this war; this infection of the food supply in bitter protest against the Ancients who have not given him his due. But I would’ve wanted a clear insight as to how the Master was doing this. Or we left to assume that the silver-lined photo flash that Fet and Abraham rigged underneath the tunnels have been copied by the Master? (scratches head)

                With that said I hope that I have given this book its due and warrants enough interest for you to either pick it up or begin reading the book that began it all. Like Empire Strikes Back, Two Towers, our heroes are battered, bruised, pushed to hell and back but there is definitely still some fight left in them. Till then like you, I will be awaiting the 3rd and final installment of this hi-tech vampire epic and like the Master and picking up on his own line, I look forward to “The Night Eternal”.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Visiting Malaysia -Day One -9.10.2011

The plan was set into motion some months back when we got wind of a promo tour for Malaysia for only 2 days. The day was set and here I am chronicling the first day.

Like any other trip, all of us were excited from the get-go; not to mention the excitement we had in getting to the airport. It was a Friday and so traffic was expected. Baby had to go straight to the airport and wait for me there while I had to take a cab to Terminal 3. Badet, Charm and with husband Jun followed suit. Meanne was the last to arrive. And when she did, we were queing up to the check in counter. Our flight was 10:50 in the evening and so we had a lot of time to catch up on our own excitement from the Friday traffic trek to the airport, the weeks quest to find the proper rate and money exchange center for our respective Malaysia Ringgit, to which I only was able to find 200 and the prospect of awesome purchases in Malaysia when we get there.

We call ourselves the Kurimaws, a name that Baby called his fun loving and rowdy group of dentists and nurses. And so it was that the Kurimaws got into Malaysia at 1:00am with apparently no sign of our tour guide Mr. Bell. We were surprised to find out from him as we got into the van some 30 minutes later that the airport we arrived at was a low cost airport. But considering that the airport was well lit, well equipped technologically with finger scanners at the immigration, it was for us, a far cry from a low cost airport. And because it was low cost, we could only imagine how the real Malaysian international airport is going to be.


Now since 1pm is the check in time for our hotel, Swiss Inn, in Chinatown, Mr Bell, who is a resident Malay and has been doing this for 17 years took it upon himself to check us in at Guest Hotel where we stayed for the night. As we were at the outskirts of the city, the hotel did not have the glitz and charm of most 3-star, much less 5 star hotels but had the basic necessities we needed that night, which was a good bed and good bathroom to freshen up and be ready for gruelling day ahead.


The day started with rather unusual and non-satisfying breakfast choices consisting of only toast bread with egg and the Malaysian staple called Nasi Lemak. Baby, being the adventurous one in tasting new food and vowed to immerse oneself in Malay went for the unconventional choice. When we were served, I got the better end of the deal with the toasted bread with preferred scrambled egg and coffee. Nasi Lemak as it turned out was just white rice topped with egg and with a side dish of some spicy concoction that we never got the name for. I know, bummer. Later when Jun and Charm came down for breakfast, the server saw the result of our choices and changed both their toasted bread selections to the standard American breakfast with additional sausages. Lucky.


And with those choices, we set off for the first stop of the morning which was the Royal Palace. And like the UK, the Royals were just figure heads and do not hold true lawmaking power. The Prime Minister is the one who does. The Palace was off limits for casual visitors and tourists.  People hoping to catch a glimpse of Malaysian royalty were only relegated to the gates, where sentries, like UK’s Buckingham Palace, were posted and riding atop big horses and in full Malaysian military regalia. The high gates reminded us of our own Malacanang Palace in Baguio to which we were also forbidden to enter. Second stop of the day came next by way of the Batu Caves.


The cave itself is a limestone hill, which is a series of caves and cave temples, located in Gombak district. I remember seeing a documentary about the cave some months back on the Lifestyle network. The cave itself is truly a wonder of massive rock formation and although may seem incongruent in the middle of a bustling city, it is that quality that makes it a wonder to behold up front. I can only imagine the same awe that Malaysians in history had when it was discovered and formed. The sight itself was something to behold with a gigantic golden statue of Muruganthe son of the Hindu GodShiva at the mouth of the cave.


We had to climb some 300 steps to get to atop the big cave and some 50 or 60 more to get to the heart of the natural wonder and reach its innermost core which consisted of an altar, a statue of the many handed goddess Parvati and more picturesque rock formations beautifully lighted and preserved. Truly, only nature could do justice to the beauty of the caves. By the time our photo op within the caves and evading pesky monkeys that would grab your bag and belongings, it was time for some Malaysian lunch. Lunch, at a local eatery below the caves consisted of Squid in curry sauce, Kang-kong, Chicken in Pandan leaves, a very spicy fish omelette dish and my favorite, some fried wrapper called Paparam along with more curry for our rice. Yum! Oh and to top that, we got free ice cream after the meal. Per person that is. J

The after lunch challenge was to burn the calories we took in with the next stops we had after and the first afternoon stop was the National Mosque where the rain got the best of us and a National Monument commemorating war heroes where it finally cleared out and made way for some of our quirky shots and poses consisting of Baby hamming it up for the cameras each and every time with the borrowed red umbrella from Mr Bell. With 2 stops and still no good Ringgit changed in our hands to show for, we moved onto the Tower which had us go more than 421 meters above ground and bask in the Malaysian sky and look down at the expanse of the city. Sadly it was foggy and we didn’t see much.

That didn’t stop us from enjoying the personalized video tour of the different sections and parts of Malaysia courtesy of the portable video player and headset that each and every visitor is given upon reaching the observation deck. But after that, we got our fill of an indoor zoo that had us cringing in our wet clothes with big yellow and gray slithering snakes, furry tarantulas and a few poses with parrots and cockatoos on your shoulder for 5 Ringgit. I just wanted to speak Parseltongue the moment I got in there. Help me, Harry Potter.

 Although, Meanne had the better end of the deal with more than several shots to show for, Charm for me wins the Best Reaction award for heightened voice raising and loud protests when we started to put the animals on her shoulder. She was so afraid to have all 3 perched on her and actively protested to only have one. We love you Charm but we had hoped that you had given the animals the chance to love you back. LOL!

Following the zoo, there was a quick stop at a handicrafts store and to Beryl's where we feasted on their bestseller, Tiramisu  almond chocolate. Needless to say it was divine and we were hooked.  I wonder if our very own, GOYA, has factory tours such as this one. It would be good for Tourism as well. (Hint, Hint)

After the chocolate feasting, it was time to make our way to Chinatown where our hotel was and have some Ringgit changed. There we feasted on Chicken Sate by the vendor on the street. After that, we all took a power nap, woke up at around 8pm and ventured off into the downtown streets for dinner and some bag hunting for Badet.


The evening ended with some heavy rain, the search for Meanne’s coffee and “Hopia”, a forgotten order at a small eatery and 2 plates of Thai noodle (the best one so far) before we called it a night and slept soundly in anticipation of our 2nd (and unfortunately) last day in Malaysia.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Visiting Malaysia - Day 1

The plan was set into motion some months back when we got wind of a promo tour for Malaysia for only 2 days. The day was set and here I am chronicling the first day.
Like any other trip, all of us were excited from the get-go; not to mention the excitement we had in getting to the airport. It was a Friday and so traffic was expected. Baby had to go straight to the airport and wait for me there while I had to take a cab to Terminal 3. Badet, Charm and with husband Jun followed suit. Meanne was the last to arrive. And when she did, we were queing up to the check in counter. Our flight was 10:50 in the evening and so we had a lot of time to catch up on our own excitement from the Friday traffic trek to the airport, the weeks quest to find the proper rate and money exchange center for our respective Malaysia Ringgit, to which I only was able to find 200 and the prospect of awesome purchases in Malaysia when we get there.
We call ourselves the Kurimaws, a name that Baby called his fun loving and rowdy group of dentists and nurses. And so it was that the Kurimaws got into Malaysia at 1:00am with apparently no sign of our tour guide Mr. Bell. We were surprised to find out from him as we got into the van some 30 minutes later that the airport we arrived at was a low cost airport. But considering that the airport was well lit, well equipped technologically with finger scanners at the immigration, it was for us, a far cry from a low cost airport. And because it was low cost, we could only imagine how the real Malaysian international airport is going to be.
Now since 1pm is the check in time for our hotel, Swiss Inn, in Chinatown, Mr Bell, who is a resident Malay and has been doing this for 17 years took it upon himself to check us in at Guest Hotel where we stayed for the night. As we were at the outskirts of the city, the hotel did not have the glitz and charm of most 3-star, much less 5 star hotels but had the basic necessities we needed that night, which was a good bed and good bathroom to freshen up and be ready for gruelling day ahead.
The day started with rather unusual and non-satisfying breakfast choices consisting of only toast bread with egg and the Malaysian staple called Nasi Lemak. Baby, being the adventurous one in tasting new food and vowed to immerse oneself in Malay went for the unconventional choice. When we were served, I got the better end of the deal with the toasted bread with preferred scrambled egg and coffee. Nasi Lemak as it turned out was just white rice topped with egg and with a side dish of some spicy concoction that we never got the name for. I know, bummer. Later when Jun and Charm came down for breakfast, the server saw the result of our choices and changed both their toasted bread selections to the standard American breakfast with additional sausages. Lucky.
And with those choices, we set off for the first stop of the morning which was the Royal Palace. And like the UK, the Royals were just figure heads and do not hold true lawmaking power. The Prime Minister is the one who does. The Palace was off limits for casual visitors and tourists.  People hoping to catch a glimpse of Malaysian royalty were only relegated to the gates, where sentries, like UK’s Buckingham Palace, were posted and riding atop big horses and in full Malaysian military regalia. The high gates reminded us of our own Malacanang Palace in Baguio to which we were also forbidden to enter. Second stop of the day came next by way of the Batu Caves.

The cave itself is a limestone hill, which is a series of caves and cave temples, located in Gombak district. I remember seeing a documentary about the cave some months back on the Lifestyle network. The cave itself is truly a wonder of massive rock formation and although may seem incongruent in the middle of a bustling city, it is that quality that makes it a wonder to behold up front. I can only imagine the same awe that Malaysians in history had when it was discovered and formed. The sight itself was something to behold with a gigantic golden statue of Murugan, the son of the Hindu God, Shiva at the mouth of the cave.
We had to climb some 300 steps to get to atop the big cave and some 50 or 60 more to get to the heart of the natural wonder and reach its innermost core which consisted of an altar, a statue of the many handed goddess Parvati and more picturesque rock formations beautifully lighted and preserved. Truly, only nature could do justice to the beauty of the caves. By the time our photo op within the caves and evading pesky monkeys that would grab your bag and belongings, it was time for some Malaysian lunch. Lunch, at a local eatery below the caves consisted of Squid in curry sauce, Kang-kong, Chicken in Pandan leaves, a very spicy fish omelette dish and my favorite, some fried wrapper called Paparam along with more curry for our rice. Yum! Oh and to top that, we got free ice cream after the meal. Per person that is. J
The after lunch challenge was to burn the calories we took in with the next stops we had after and the first afternoon stop was the National Mosque where the rain got the best of us and a National Monument commemorating war heroes where it finally cleared out and made way for some of our quirky shots and poses consisting of Baby hamming it up for the cameras each and every time with the borrowed red umbrella from Mr Bell. With 2 stops and still no good Ringgit changed in our hands to show for, we moved onto the Tower which had us go more than 421 meters above ground and bask in the Malaysian sky and look down at the expanse of the city. Sadly it was foggy and we didn’t see much.
That didn’t stop us from enjoying the personalized video tour of the different sections and parts of Malaysia courtesy of the portable video player and headset that each and every visitor is given upon reaching the observation deck. But after that, we got our fill of an indoor zoo that had us cringing in our wet clothes with big yellow and gray slithering snakes, furry tarantulas and a few poses with parrots and cockatoos on your shoulder for 5 Ringgit. I just wanted to speak Parseltongue the moment I got in there. Help me, Harry Potter. Although, Meanne had the better end of the deal with more than several shots to show for, Charm for me wins the Best Reaction award for heightened voice raising and loud protests when we started to put the animals on her shoulder. She was so afraid to have all 3 perched on her and actively protested to only have one. We love you Charm but we had hoped that you had given the animals the chance to love you back. LOL!
Following the zoo, there was a quick stop at a handicrafts store and to Beryl's where we feasted on their bestseller, Tiramisu  almond chocolate. Needless to say it was divine and we were hooked.  I wonder if our very own, GOYA, has factory tours such as this one. It would be good for Tourism as well. (Hint, Hint)
After the chocolate feasting, it was time to make our way to Chinatown where our hotel was and have some Ringgit changed. There we feasted on Chicken Sate by the vendor on the street. After that, we all took a powernap, woke up at around 8pm and ventured off into the downtown streets for dinner and some bag hunting for Badet.
The evening ended with some heavy rain, the search for Meanne’s coffee and “Hopia”, a forgotten order at a small eatery and 2 plates of Thai noodle (the best one so far) before we called it a night and slept soundly in anticipation of our 2nd (and unfortunately) last day in Malaysia.