December 31, 2005

Books/ Magazines Read in 2005 (amended)

ll[Compiled & posted on 28 Feb 2006]

The list includes only books and magazines (AV items are excluded).
  • Total items read in 2005 = 91 items
  • Fiction Vs Non-fiction = 79% Fiction Vs. 21% Non-fiction
  • Subject composition (top 3 in terms of %) = Fantasy 23%, Science Fiction 23% (21 items each); Society/ Contemporary Fiction 15% (14 items); Military 4%, Art 4%, Science 4% (4 items each)
  • Items from Singapore Collection = 9 (10% of total read)
  • Formats = Books 48% (44 books), Magazines 12% (11 magazines), Graphic Novels 40% (36 graphic novels)
  • Value of items as per prices (excluding Out of Print items) = USD$1,019.13 (or SGD$1,654.35, as at 28 Feb 2006 conversion rates)

Titles read in 2005:
  1. 9-11: Artists respond – Vol 1
  2. 9-11: Emergency relief
  3. A bit of earth/ Suchen Christine Lim
  4. A life force/ Will Eisner
  5. A morbid taste for bones (a Brother Cadfael series)/ Ellis Peters
  6. AD & D (Asian Defence & Diplomacy)/ Feb 2005 vol 12 no.2
  7. Aliens: Stronghold/ Dark Horse Comics
  8. American Gods/ Neil Gaiman
  9. Analog Science Fiction & Fact/ Jan-Feb 2005
  10. Asian geographic/ n27, issue 5, 2004
  11. Asimov's Science Fiction/ Apr-May 2005
  12. Asimov's Science Fiction/ Feb 2005
  13. Asimov's Science Fiction/ Jan 2005
  14. Asimov's Science Fiction/ Mar 2005
  15. Asimov's Science Fiction/ Dec 2004
  16. Astronomy/ Aug 2005
  17. Astronomy/ Oct 2004
  18. Balzac & the little chinese seamstress/ Dai Sijie
  19. Cities/ (ed. Peter Crowther)
  20. City people notebook/ Will Eisner
  21. Concrete: Killer smile/ Paul Chadwick
  22. Concrete: Think like a mountain/ Paul Chadwick
  23. Digital Painting/ (pub. Ballistics/ digital artists master class)
  24. Dreaming down under/ edited by Jack Dann & Janeen Webb
  25. Fax from Sarajevo: A story of survival/ Joe Kubert
  26. Finding Ben: A mother's journey through the maze of Asperger's/ Barbara Lasalle
  27. Firebirds: Anthology of original fantasy and Science Fiction/ Sharyn November (editor)
  28. Fistful of colours/ Suchen Christine Lim
  29. Getting results: Five absolutes for high performers/ Clinton O. Longnecker & Jack L. Simonetti
  30. Google power: Unleash the full potential of Google/ Chris Sherman
  31. Heartland/ Daren V. L. Shiau
  32. Hellboy: Seeds of destruction/ Mike Mignola
  33. Hellboy: The chained coffin & others/ Mike Mignola
  34. How to draw and sell comic strips for newspapers and comic books/ Alan McKenzie
  35. Insider's Singapore: The alternative city guide/ David Brazil
  36. Iron Council/ China Mieville
  37. Isn't Singapore somewhere in China, luv? Stories about Singaporeans abroad/ Josephine Chia Over
  38. King Rat/ China Mieville
  39. Kite runner/ Khaled Hosseini
  40. Last day in vietnam: A memory/ Will Eisner
  41. Lila: An inquiry into morals/ Robert M. Pirsig
  42. Lonely planet norway
  43. Marching to Valhalla/ Michael Blake
  44. New Spring (A Wheel of Time novel)/ Robert Jordan
  45. Norway rough guide
  46. Orbiter/ DC Comics
  47. Perdido Street Station/ China Mieville
  48. Reading & the reference librarian: The importance to library service of staff reading habits/ Juris Dilevko & Lisa Gottlieb
  49. Reinventing comics: How imagination and technology are revolutionizing an art form/ Scott McCloud
  50. Samurai cat goes to hell/ Mark E. Rogers
  51. Scientific American/ Dec 2003
  52. Seabiscuit/ Laura Hildebrand
  53. Seventeen/ Colin Cheong
  54. Sleeper: Out in the Cold/ Ed Brubaker & Sean Philips
  55. Space Usagi/ Stan Sakai
  56. Star Wars: Chewbacca/ Dark Horse Comics
  57. Star wars: X-wing rogue squadron. Mandatory retirement
  58. StormWatch Vol. 1. Force of nature/ Warren Ellis
  59. Stormwatch. Vol. 2. Lightning strikes
  60. Stormwatch. Vol. 3. Change or die
  61. Stormwatch. Vol. 4. A finer world
  62. Stormwatch. Vol. 5. Final orbit
  63. Stormwatch. Team Achilles. Book 1
  64. Stormwatch: Team Achilles book 2
  65. Tangerine/ Colin Cheong
  66. Terry Pratchett's The light Fantastic
  67. The alchemist/ Paulo Coelho
  68. The complete Concrete/ Paul Chadwick
  69. The dreamer (A graphic novella set during the dawn of comic bks)/ Will Eisner
  70. The Fantasies of Robert A. Heinlein/ Robert A. Heinlein
  71. The fifth mountain/ Paulo Coelho
  72. The five star stories (vol 10)/ Mamoru Nagano
  73. The green man: Tales from the mythic forest/ Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling (editors)
  74. The last heros/ W. E. B. Griffin
  75. The matrix comics Vol 2
  76. The reef/ Nora Roberts
  77. The Sandman: Endless nights/ Neil Gaiman
  78. The Sandman: The wake/ Neil Gaiman
  79. The Scar/ China Mieville
  80. The secret history/ Donna Tartt
  81. The seige of Singapore/ Lim Thean Soo
  82. The Sgt. Rock archives Vol. 1/ DC Comics
  83. To kill a mockingbird/ Harper Lee
  84. Tuesdays with morrie/ Mitch Albom
  85. Understanding comics: The invisible art/ Scott McCloud
  86. Void decks and other empty places/ Colin Cheong
  87. Walk like a dragon: Short stories/ Goh Sin Tub
  88. We, the media: Grassroots journalism by the people, for the people/ Dan Gillmor
  89. Wildcats Version 3.0: Brand Building
  90. Wildcats Volume 3: Serial boxes
  91. X-wing Rogue Squadron: Mandatory Retirement/ Michael A. Stackpole

Almost-read in 2005
Nil - I guess I was pretty selective this year.

December 23, 2005

Reading & the reference librarian: The importance to library service of staff reading habits/ Juris Dilevko & Lisa Gottlieb

Published in 2004, the book elaborates on a survey of the reading habits of librarians from academic libraries and public libraries in the US and Canada.
NLB Call No.: q025.52 DIL
Search NLB Catalogue

One key takeaway from reading the book -- the librarians surveyed recognise the importance of reading (for personal and job competencies), but they have no time to read on the job, and most did it outside working hours. Some librarians surveyed do have time to read on the job, but that's the minority.

As I read the book, I wondered how Singapore librarians would fare. I'm sure many of the survey results would be consistent, especially the "no time to read" part. It was interesting to note that this seems to be a problem faced by librarians across the world!

The first part of the book is on academic librarians & second part on public library reference librarians.

The book puts a convincing case that reading gives an edge to the reference librarian (in collection development, programmes & outreach etc). I thought the real question is whether those reference librarians who don't read (or not as often) are less effective than those who do? (chpt 7 addresses this, which says there's a link between effectiveness and reading).

In fact, same applies to "successful" people. I think there definitely a strong positive correlation bet reading & personal effectiveness but it's one's ability to assimilate & apply info that really gives an edge -- and that is something hard to qualify & quantify.

p. 8 - web call centre. Describes how chat works
p. 10 - scathing review of S & Coffman's paper
p. 12 - on the role of librarians & librarianship
p. 21 - "re-intellectualise ref work in the 21st century"
p. 22 - walking resource - role of lib
p. 30 - issue of whether there's value in becoming a mini-expert
p. 31 - pple often ask what they read from newspapers
p. 43 - diff bet an adequate lib & a great one (on reading newspaper & mags)
p. 59 - impact on job specific responsibilities
p. 66 - conversation starters
p. 68 - debunkers
p. 78/ 81 - types of fiction & NF read (NF mostly biographies)
p. 83 - *how reading fiction helps (see also p101)
p. 84 - "it's the totality of reading that is impt" & "it doesn't matter where the content comes from"
p. 95 - on reader's advisory
p. 115 - by inference above 76% read on their personal time
p. 118 - why some don't read/ don't want to read outside work time

p. 133 - PL ref staff/ p134 - successful (pl) ref lib is one with a quizzical mind. 79.2% surveyed don't have paid time to read but are strongly encouraged to during "slow times"/ p135 - reading is part of professionalism & resp of salaried staff so not necc to have paid time

p. 148 - how keeping current helps PL ref (but undelying assump is that users want to ask PL. A chicken-egg issue?)

p. 164 - diff deg of emphasis placed by academic & pl lib wrt reading & ability to relate to the cust they serve. For PL, it is the relationship rather than direct bk knowledge.

p. 177 - 187: char of "impressive ref svc" by academics, why they were disappointed, char of "preferred ref lib"

p. 192 - advice/ feedback from academics to ref lib on what makes good svc/ p202 - on how to stay current

Appendices - methodology & survey questions asked

December 20, 2005

King Rat/ China Mieville

The problem with writing about stories like King Rat is that it's easy to give the plot away. But if you don't describe with details, the review's very cryptic. So forget it, I told myself. This isn't a review.

NLB Call No.: MIE
Search in NLB Catalogue

Here are my thoughts/ notes on the book:
  • Saul was told about his heritage a bit like Harry Potter style.
  • It cuts from boring fantasy to something weirdly intriguing.
  • There's a british-fantasy flavour to his writings. A Faery-tale (rather than a fairy-tale).
  • It's not as grim & grungy as the New Crobuzon stories; it's almost Stephen-King-ish but not quite horror.
  • A play on the pied piper of Hamelin myth(oops, plot spoiler..)
  • I find that I actually sympathised with the rodents than humans.
  • A novel that makes hiphop (Jungle) hip! Rewind!*

* Mieville mentions this in his intro. Why "rewind"? You have to read the book to find out!

December 19, 2005

The Secret History/ Donna Tartt

If you enjoy murder mysteries, you're really going to like this. The story takes place around the 1990s, revolving around six college students (five boys and one girl in their 20s) enrolled in a laid back American town.
NLB Call No.: TAR
Search in NLB Catalogue

The story is told from the perspective of a young man, Richard. What's interesting is that by the first paragraph of the novel, you're already told that Bunny is they guy who gets killed, and Richard and the rest seems to have gotten away with the deed (yet you're not quite sure yet).

The novel proceeds at a leisurely pace yet not boring, mind you (quite a delft stroke or storytelling which I thought is refective of the quite and laidback mood of the surroundings in which they meet and form their bonds. The characters slowly develop with complex layers added as the story proceeds.

You learn more about Henry, the quiet intellect and unspoken leader of the group. Francis is a closet gay; Charles and Camille are twins; then there's 'Bunny'. You can't help but dislike the guy (a sponge, taking advantage of the good will of others). Yet halfway after I learn why they killed Bunny, I couldn't help but pity Bunny and thought that no one deserves to be murdered.

Before long, I was asking asking yourself what was it that made them want to murder Bunny and the beauty is that the reason is revealed right smack in my face -- not quite a slap but more like a gust of wind. As suddenly as that.

The story doesn't stop there. It's only halfway. The police and FBI gets into act when Bunny is discovered missing. I started wondering if the five of them get caught? More complex layers are added to the characters as they get caught up in the crime investigation.

The Greek Tragedy also plays itself out, but alas I'm know very little about Greek Tragedies. I'm sure if I did, I'd appreciate the novel even more. I suspect the whole story is a Greek Tragedy in itself. I understand that Greek Tragedies were dedications to the gods... which in a way, that was what they were doing.

Ok, so do they get caught? You'll have to read the book! And then reflect on why the title is called "Secret History"...

December 17, 2005

Google power: Unleash the full potential of google/ Chris Sherman

If you want to increase your search productivity using Google, read this book. Experienced searchers might also find this as a good refresher.

The book is obviously about using Google but where relevant, other search features and tools (like those from Yahoo!, Altavista and others) are also introduced. Later chapters include interviews of expert searchers, where they explain their favoured search techniques and resources.

NLB Call No.: 025.04 SHE - [COM]
Click here to check for item availability.

Some notes that I took:
  • Chapter 1 - mainly on how google works (good diagram to show how the crawler, indexer, and search engine works)
  • Faster to retrieve cache copy (than click on website) if required info isn't time sensitive
  • Some "metrics" related to how google retrieves webpages (these could be important clues when designing blogs and websites):
  1. - terms appearing in the title of webpage
  2. - appearing in unique font elements (bold, italics)
  3. - other "prominent" areas of pg, e.g. Bulleted list
  4. - frequency in which the terms appear on a page
  5. - off-page metrics like no of links to that page

  • Page 25 - Google isn't case sensitive. E.g. NLB and nlb is the same to google
  • Recommends that you use multiple search terms to make your search more specific. E.g. qi gong will give very broad results Vs qi gong chinese medicine
  • internal exercises asthma)
  • Use 32 words or less in your search (Google will ignore any thing more than 32 words)
  • Use quotes, i.e. phrase searching. E.g. "qi gong" Vs qi gong (it seems that phrase searching is a favoured techique by the experts cited in the book).
  • You also use quotations to ensure stop words (i.e. the, a, is) are included in your search terms. E.g. "to be or not to be".
  • 32 google translation tool
  • 36 abt boolean searching (common mistake is confusing or and And operator)
  • 38 other operators + - *wildcard ~fuzzy
  • "Brave new *"
  • "Dinosaur ~facts" will return "dino info"

Chpt 3 is about understanding google's search results page. Intuitive to most users but if you're planning on how to max the retrieval of your blog post or page, worth a read (e.g. Impt of page title & link, even image alt text)

Chpt 4 - using the advanced search page.
From p.105 on google operators:
  • cache: (shows most recently crawled version of stored page in google)
  • (shows similar pages)
  • (shows all pages linking to a specific URL)
  • (show info about a specific URL)
  • "burning man" filetype:ppt (restrict results to a file type)
  • "employee memo" ext:doc (restricts to pages of specific file type)
  • goliath frog (limit to particular site)
  • allintest:dormedary arabia water (show pages where all search terms appear in the body portion of the page)
  • allintitle:combinatorial mathematics (show pages where search terms appear in title)
  • intitle:funicular (show pages where single search term appears in title)
  • allinurl:crazy eights (show pages where all search terms appear in URL)
  • inurl:ouagadougou (show pages where a single search term appears in URL)
  • allinanchor:issaquena county (show pages where all search terms appear in the text of links pointing to the page)
  • inanchor:neanderthal (show pages where a single search term appears in the text of links pointing to the page)

Chapter 6: searching for images (how google searches for clues for images, and therefore how you can improve retrieval of your images if you want them to be found). Results depend on file name, text surrounding the image. P. 151 - operators like cache:, link:, and related: have no effect on image search. Tip: to limit to Macromedia Flash files, search for "filetype:swf" operator. Try search terms filetype:pdf

What I like about this book is how it shows tools beyond google. Examples listed (for images):

Chpt 7 on google groups, various ways of searching (useful if you want to go beyond webpages and into information from discussions). Tip: combine with terms like "forums", "message boards", "discussion groups", "mailing lists".

Chpt 8 on using google tool bar

Chpt 9: google labs (try google scholar)
P. 195 - something called google sets ( where it generates a visual image of related terms

p. 198 - On Google WebAlerts (
p. 200 - or newsalerts

p. 204 - - snapshot of most popular queries Google received during previous month

Chpt 11 talks about web research managers, collaborative bookmark managers like,

p. 224 - monitoring fav websites:
  • product update pages:
  • movie trailers:
  • fav blogs:
  • radio prog schedules:
  • best selling books:

chapt 12, p.230 - the art of googling people;
p. 231 rules of thumb:
  • always put person's name in double quotes
  • google ignores most punctuation symbols, so "john smith" also results "st. john's, smith square". advises that put a plus sign infront of search terms to force an exact match
  • google isn't case sensitive
  • use boolean OR to expand results

p. 232 on strategies to search for people (create your own biography, basically build list of terms; start with few terms; eliminate negative words; dont' overlook googlegroups)

p. 241 - finding email address tricky bec google ignores "@" symbol. try things like DOT AT anselATadmasDOTcom or insert space ivanchew @ nlb . gov . sg)

p. 243 - 245 finding personal webpages and blogs (but google just came up with blogger search)
tip like "barbara smith" intitle:"home page" or allintitle: "barbara smith" "home page"
"charles miller" OR

p. 250 - Examples listed:
  • "charles miller" OR
  • "name" intitle:"user profile" (find blogger's profile)
  • "name" "my web page" (find blogger's homepage)
  • "name" "recent posts" (find recent posts mentioning other people)
Mentions tools like,,,

p. 261 - finding reliable health information. good coverage on how to evaluate information

286 - searching googlenews using the advanced news search interface. Other tools like:

p. 295 - on "weblogs and nontraditional news sources"... "bloggers have broken numerous news stories before the mainstream media picked them up." [Aside: Librarians need to ask & answer the question "why search for content in blogs?" ~ Ivan]

p. 296 brief mention of RSS (alternative name for RSS - "rich site summary")
Recommends this site for list of news -

p. 300 - on

p. 348 - about discovering relationships with linkage maps TouchGraph GoogleBrowser

p. 351 - 4 : finding out what companies don't want found; "googledorking" - googledork is "an inept or foolish person as revealed by google".
Googledorking - process of trolling the internet for confidential information (that has been placed there by mistake). Some common key words in googledorking - ("total", "profit margin", "salary", "marketing plan", "confidential", "secret", "do not circulate") with "filetype:" operator.

December 15, 2005

Stormwatch/ Wildstorm Productions

I normally don't go for SuperHero-type of comics but for some reason, I picked up Stormwatch and I got hooked. Managed to borrow the complete series (over a few visits to libraries).

Maybe it's the gritty and fast-paced storyline. Or the fantastic powers of the superheros fighting against equally powerful and strange superpowered beings. It's kind of like X-men but somewhat more violent.

Ok, a lot more violent.

It deserves a "Parental Guidance" warning label. But then children are exposed to alot more weirder and violent stuff on TV and movies, I must say.

My favourite was "Team Achilles" -- where strangely it's a group of non-superpowered humans who kick the butts of superpowered beings, using hi-tech weapons, skill and plain luck. You just have got to read it to believe it.

Stormwatch. Force of nature (c.1999) - Vol. 1
NLB Call No.: q741.5973
ISBN: 156389646X
Click here to check for item availability

Stormwatch. Lightning strikes (c.2000) - Vol. 2
NLB Call No.: q741.5973
ISBN: 1563896508
Click here to check for item availability

Stormwatch. Change or die (c.2000) - vol. 3
NLB Call No.: q741.5973
ISBN: 156389646X
Click here to check for item availability

Stormwatch. A finer world (c.2000) - vol. 4
NLB Call No.: q741.5973
ISBN 1563895358
Click here to check for item availability

Stormwatch. Final orbit (c.2001) - vol. 5
NLB Call No.: q741.5973
ISBN: 1563897881
Click here to check for item availability

Stormwatch. Team Achilles. [Book 1] (c.2003)
NLB Call No.: q741.5973
ISBN: 1401201032
Click here to check for item availability

Stormwatch. Team Achilles, Book 2
(Last I checked, NLB only has up to Book 2 for Team Achilles)
NLB Call No.: q741.5973
ISBN: 1401201237
Click here to check for item availability

There's also "The Authority" series. Search for "Warren Ellis" in Amazon.
NLB OPAC keyword = "Stormwatch"

Sleeper Vol. 1: Out in the Cold/ Wildstorm Productions

Imagine being a secret agent, forced to go deep undercover into a criminal organisation carrying out acts of terrorism and killings -- the very things you were sworn to protect against. And imagine the only person who could prove you are one of the good guys is now lying in a coma with little hope of being revived.

"Sleeper" is like that, but with the added dimension of a world where there are humans and superhumans (both good and bad) infused with super-powers.

by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips
ISBN 1401201156
NLB Call. No: q741.5973
Click here to check for item availability.

The term "sleeper agent" refers to an agent who lies hidden until called into action.

Holden Carver is that sleeper agent. What I enjoyed about this graphic novel is that it really tells the story of his dilemmia. He's faced with a boss (the head of that criminal organisation he's forced to work in) named Tao, whose superpowers is actually in manipulation and strategy. You get the impression that Tao suspects and perhaps even knows Holden is a sleeper but for some reason, he made Holden one of his top henchmen.

Another thing I enjoyed is the many plots and sub-plots, like the elicit romance between Holden and Misery (who has to do evil deeds to stay alive!). Along the way, Holden even has to kill some good guys who were on the verge of discovering his double-agent status. He hates himself even more of course and wonders if he's falling into "the dark side".

It's complex storytelling in comic-art form.

I would rate this graphic novel for adults, and not for children. Parental guidance might be required for teens as there is nudity, depiction of sex and swearing. Mild by today's adult standards but something to watch out for in any case.

Holden has a superhuman power too, but I'll leave you to read it for yourself on what it is, and how he got it...

BTW, Tao was mentioned in "WildC.A.T.s covert-action-teams: Homecoming". I learnt that "Tao" stood for "Tactically Augmented Organism".
ISBN: 156389582X
Click here to check for item availability.

d'artiste: Digital Painting

If you are into computer art, computer drawing or computer graphics, then you'd love 'Digital Painting' featuring the works of Linda Bergkvist, John Wallin, Philip Straub and Robert Chang.
Ballistic Pub., Australia: c2004
Call No.: q750.285
ISBN: 09 750 9655 9
Click here to check for item availability.

Each of the featured artist talks about their style and techniques, where they draw their inspiration and ideas. There's also a step-by-step tutorial where you get to see how the digital canvas is transformed into a picture.

Amazing stuff. I thought the paintings were acrylics or oils but was stunned to learn that it's all digital.

The Fantasies of Robert A. Heinlein/ Robert A. Heinlein

I was surprised to learn that Heinlein wrote "Fantasy". But reading this, I felt only two of the stories ('Magic Inc.' and 'The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag' fitted the Fantasy Genre while the rest were closer to Sci Fi. But a good read anyway. Heinlein rarely fails to please, at least for me.

ISBN: 0312875576
here to check for item availability.

  • Magic Inc. - About a man who got "cursed" by a syndicated out to monopolise the magic market. Turns out that the "man" responsible for this was a devil...
  • "-- And He Built A Crooked House" - About a house built along the laws of quantum physics or something (it definitely defied normal physics.
  • "They --" - A man being treated for mental disorder claims that the doctor, his wife and his life aren't real; that they are the implanted memories...
  • Waldo - The technology powering the world is failing and it seems only Waldo can help. Waldo is an eccentric & crippled boy-genius. But turns out he can't figure out what's happening, until he receives guidance from an old man.
  • The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag - Hoag can't remember what he does during his waking hours and hires a private investigator to tail him. But turns the P.I. and his wife can't quite fantom what's happening (they seem to see different versions). The plot turns into the fantastic, involving some god-like beings. Hoag turns out to be a, ahem, "art-critic" of worlds as Heinlein explains.
  • Our Fair City
  • The Man Who Travelled In Elephants
  • "--All You Zombies --" -- A narrative by An Unmarried Mother, who used to be a man, who signed up and joined the Space Corps "Woman's Hospitality Order Refortifying & Encouraging Spacemen" (go figure the acroymn!)

December 08, 2005

Book Blog Partner - Lansing Adult News blog & High Browse Online

Earlier, when Kelli and I were IMing about her library podcasts, I told her about High Browse Online and we discussed the possibility of a "sister blog" (e.g. cross posting, referrals etc).

Recently she emailed me to follow up on the idea, and also crafted this short and sweet statement:
Taking advantage of the world wide web's abilities to transcend boundaries, we are teaming up with another library blog to offer you additional book reviews and reading suggestions.

So, High Browse Online and Lansing Adult News Blog are Book Blog Partners. Any other libraries interested in this? It costs nothing. : )

Would love to hear from you.


October 01, 2005

Finding Ben : a mother's journey through the maze of Asperger's/ Barbara Lasalle

Brutally honest.

That's how the book came across to me. In the preface, Lasalle explains that even though the book was about her, her journey and discovery, she wasn't sure if it was OK for her to write the story so she had to ask for permission from her son, Benjamin. Her hesitation became clear when reading more of the book.

ISBN: 0071431942
NLB Call No.: 618.9289820092 LAS
Click here to check for item availability.

It tells of one mother's experience of discovering her child not behaving like other kids his age, and not quite knowing what exactly was the problem because medical science had yet to give a proper diagnosis and name to the problem.

While much of the story is from the mother's point of view -- of trying to find a school for a son who couldn't quite fit in (none of the teachers understood his condition either); of her strained relationship with her ex-husband and even the second one; of her frustrations of her son's behaviour and weight problem.

Her story is also interspersed with the Ben's personal account of certain specific episodes of his life. Like the part where he was arrested and jailed, being humiliated by the police and prisoners alike. It's especially poignant when told by Ben himself.

Lasalle does not gloss over her disappointment, shame, guilt and bitterness of having a son with Asperger's. It was this brutal honesty that kept me turning the pages.

What's interesting is also Lasalle's account (near the end of the book) of her meeting Jack -- a man who spoke in riddles and in non-linear and logical ways due to an aneurysm. Yet Jack's utterances sometimes made the most sense, in a strange way.

The reader learns that there is no cure for Asperger's. One has to just deal with it as best as one can. That's the medical reality and it is this factual acceptance that enables both Barbara and Ben to cope.

P. 273 has a list of recommended resources:
  • Books and articles on Asperger's Syndrome
  • Books on dealing with Issues of Loss and Disappointment
  • Mother's Accounts
  • Support Groups

Benjamin has an official website at

The fifth mountain/ Paulo Coelho

I didn't quite get what Paulo Coelho's introduction alluded to, until after reading the last page of the book. I think that's the beauty of this particular story.

ISBN: 0060175443/ 0722536542
NLB Call No.: COE
Click here to check for item availability.

In his introduction, Coelho gave an example of how he was suddenly dismissed from his job when his career was at its peak. So basically, the story attempts to answer the question of why problems and tragedies seem to befall on people when they are at their most secure and confident time of their lives.

The Fifth mountain tells the story of the Bible's Prophet Elijah from Elijah's perspective -- his escape from persecution and then winding up in the city of Akbar.

The chapters are short and succint. I borrowed this so that I had something to read on my 16-hour flight to Oslo, Norway. Finished it when I touched down in Norway. Perfect timing.

The writing was simply poetry in motion to me. Very Zen.

Little wonder that Coelho's works are labelled as "Spiritual Fiction". Fifth Mountain was my first Coelho's story. If this is representative of Coelho's works, I'm definitely going to read more.

P. 21: Souls too, like rivulets and plants, needed a different kind of rain: hope, faith, a reason to live. When this did not come to pass, everything in that soul died, even if the body went on living

P. 64: The high priest knew that, of all the weapons of destruction that man could invent, the most terrible -- and the most powerful -- was the word. Daggers and spears left traces of blood; arrows could be seen at a distance. Poisons were detected in the end and avoided. But the word managed to destroy without leaving clues.

P. 128: "All life's battles teach us something, even those we lose. When you grow up, you'll discover that you have defended lies, deceived yourself, or suffered for foolishness. If you are a good warrior, you will not blame yourself for this, but neither will you allow your mistakes to repeat themselves."

P. 145: "... Fear reaches only to the point where the unavoidable begins; from there on, it loses its meaning. And all we have left is the hope that we are making the right decision."

P. 180: "... They had achieved everything they desired because they were not limited by the frustrations of the past."

P. 193: "The pain you and I feel will never go away, but work will help us to bear it. Suffering has no strength to wound a weary body."

P. 201: "... I know that children have no past... A child can always teach an adult three things: to be happy for no reason, to always be busy with something, and to know how to demand with all his might that which he desires."

P. 212: "Tragedies do happen. We can discover the reason, blame others, imagine how different our lives would be had they not occurred. But none of that is important: they did occur, and so be it. From there onward we must put aside the fear that they awoke in us and begin to rebuild."

A morbid taste for bones/ Ellis Peters

This is the first of the 'Brother Cadfael' series by Ellis Peters, (pen name of Edith Pargeter). I remember staying up late to watch the television series, starring Sir Derek Jacobi.

NLB Call No.: PET
ISBN: 0751517496
Click here to check for item availability.

Set in A.D. 1100 England, the series centers around the main character, Brother Cadfael, who's an ex-soldier of the Crusades turned monk, with a talent for solving crimes.

The story starts with acquisition of the remains of Saint Winifred by the Abbey. It's actually a ploy by the ambitious head of the Abbey, Prior Robert, to consolidate his political power. The remains are in a remote Welsh village and the Welsh are not on friendly terms with the English. Negotiations turn sour when Prior Robert tried to bribe the defacto-representative of the villagers, Rhisiart. Soon after, Rhisiart was found murdered and that's where the story takes off.

The writing is beautiful. It reminded me why I liked to read when I was younger, which was partly to pick up choice words for use in English composition homework:
"'God resolves all given time,' said Cai philosophically and trudged away into the darknesg. And Cadfael returned along the path with the uncomfortable feeling that God, nevertheless, required help from men, and what he mostly got was hinderance."

"His chin was shaven clean, and all the bones of his face were as bold and elegant as his colouring was vivid, with russet brushings of sun on high cheekbones, and a red, audacious, self-willed mouth."

"Brother Cadfael let loose his bardic blood, and rejoiced silently. Not even because it was Prior Robert recoiling into marble rage under Welsh seige. Only because it was a Welsh voice that cried battle."

A very engaging read. The characters are believable and the story is made even more interesting with the sub-plots, like the romance between Sioned and the foreigner Engelard (who becomes the chief suspect); Brother John and the Welsh girl, Annest. What was interesting was that both girls are Welsh and the men are English, and the couples had cultural and language barriers to overcome.

Like all good crime novels, you are kept guessing as to who is the real murderer. You would like this if you also like historical fiction.

August 09, 2005

Concrete: Think like a moutain/ Dark Horse Comics

Concrete is this man who was trapped in an avalanche and would have been dead if aliens did not encase his dying body in concrete. So now he's almost indestructable. Almost. But still very human.

NLB Call No.: q741.59
Click here to check for item availability.

In this story, Concrete is approached by a group of environmentalist who urge him to join their cause to save an old-growth forest from loggers. Concrete eventually agrees to go but only as an observer. He doesn't want to get into any trouble with the authorities by engaging in criminal acts. But soon, he has to decide if he is remains as an observer or active participant.

The story is well researched and gives good insights into environmentalism and eco-terrorism.
I also like the art. The drawing style and colours has this comtemplative feel to it. Come to think of it, that's something that Concrete does a lot -- contemplate.

Concrete/ Dark Horse Comics

I'm definitely looking for more Concrete stories. Try searching OPAC for "concrete paul chadwick".

August 08, 2005

The Sgt. Rock archives Vol. 1/ DC Comics

This archive covers issues #68 (Jan 1959), and #81 to #96 (Apr 1959 to Jul 1960). It's clearly a "Comics for Boys" type of story and drawings. One could say the plot is cheesy by today's standards but that's not a fair assessment.

This is best appreciated in the context of its time -- the comic series was produced in the 1950s.

In terms of storylines and plots, it's clear things were more straightforward then. It's really like watching old movies. The stories deal with heroism, perserverance and courage under fire. Not a complex "Saving Private Ryan" storyline but something more plain and simple.

NLB Call No.: 741.5973 SGT- [Art]
ISBN: 1563898411
Click here to check for item availability

The foreword by Joe Kubert explains how Sgt. Rock came about, and Kubert mentions the people responsible for the art over the years.

There's also a biographies section at the back -- of the various artists involved in the Sgt. Rock series: Ross Andru, Mort Drucker, Mike Esposito, Jerry Grandenetti, Bob Haney, Russ Heath, Robert Kanigher, Joe Kubert, and Irv Novick.

Reading this gives me the impression that I'm holding on to a piece of comic history here. You certainly get a sense that comics (from North America) have come a long way since the 1950s.

Orbiter/ DC Comics

The cover and title attracted me. It showed a space shuttle boosted into space. Maybe it was the talk by Astronaut Cady Coleman not too long ago. Reading the backcover blurb made it all the more intriguing:
In the early 21st century, the space shuttle Venture has suddenly returned to Earth after disappearing ten years ago... its crew missing -- save for the catatonic pilot -- with new instrumentation, new engines, and covered in something very much like skin.

And with Martian sand in the landing gear.

By Warren Ellis & Colleen Doran, with Dave Stewart
NLB Call No.: 741.5973 ORB (Graphic Novel/ Art section)
ISBN: 1401202683
Click here to check for item availability

The story mainly revolves around three people -- a psychologist, a forensic specialist, and a jet propulsion engineer -- well, a fourth if you count NASA pilot who was the sole survivor of the mission.

I liked the way their personal lives are revealed as the entire story unfolded. There's enough weird and scientifically intriguing concepts to satisfy the sci-fi reader in me. But lest you mistake this book as purely Science Fiction, I'd say it's really about human hopes, dreams and the drive for self-discovery.

How I felt about reading this: The story started off weird (in a Sci-Fi weird sort of way), there's suspense, then discovery, and finally a hint of something wondrous in the end.

Read it for yourself. I suspect you'll like it as much as I did.

August 06, 2005

Aliens: Stronghold/ Dark Horse Comics

This isn't scary at all, and is actually funny! A talking Alien called Jerry... ok, you read the comic for yourself to find out what's the deal.
Aliens Stronghold

Here's the gist of the story:
The Strunks are a husband and wife team sent by Grant-Corp to investigate on the bio-tech operations run by Dr Caspar Nordling. Not surprisingly, he's mad (i.e. psycho) and is an ego-maniac to boot. When the good doctor discovers that the Strunks are going to report on him, he attempts to kill the Strunks, but the Strunks have unexpected help...

NLB Call No.: 741.5973 ALI
ISBN: 156971262X
Click here to check for item availability.

Star wars: X-wing rogue squadron. Mandatory retirement

While I like Star Wars, I'm not exactly a Star Wars fan and don't necessarily pick up all Star Wars -related books. But I picked up this one up as it's an easy read (comic books don't take much time).
ISBN: 1569714924
NLB Call No.: q741.5973
Click here to check for item availability.

Rogue Squadron is one of the Rebel Alliance's Special Ops Forces, with a reputation for pulling off suicide missions. In this story, their mission is to rescue the disposed acting-Emperor Pestage. They get to him but gets stranded on a planet with the Imperial forces in pursuit. The Rebel Alliance can't send anyone to rescue them so it looks like their done for but of course they manage to escape but their missionisn't exactly fulfilled...

This comic book also includes a section called "In the studio with Terese Nielsen". Terese is the artist who did the comic cover, and the section shows how she did it.
Star wars: X-wing rogue squadron. Mandatory retirement

Star Wars: Chewbacca/ Dark Horse Comics

This comic book has an introduction by Peter Mayhew, the guy who played Chewbacca (with picture of Peter Mayhew as well).

NLB Call No.: q741.5973 (Graphic Novel/ Arts section)
ISBN: 1569715157
Click here to check for item availability.

As I learnt from the blurb at the end-cover, Chewbacca got killed off in the New Jedi Order novel, Vector Prime. So this Dark Horse comic book is sort of a commemorative story of the history of Chewbacca, as told by Star Wars characters who knew him:
  • Chapter 1: Mallatobuck (Chewbacca's wife)
  • Chapter 2: Attichitchuk (the father of Chewbacca)
  • Chatper 3: Ssoh (as told by a Wookie Slaver who had a run in with Chewbacca -- and survived)
  • Chapter 4: Mala Mala (the bounty-hunteress who was saved by Chewbacca)
  • Chapter 5: Turrdko (a Wookie who's the father of Tojjevvuk the albino Wookie killed by Chewbacca in Chapter 2)
  • Chapter 6: Wedge (as told by Wedge Antilles on an incident when he was a rookie pilot)
  • Chapter 7: Lando (as told by Lando Calrissian)
  • Chapter 8: Leia (she's the Senator now, and interestingly the story she tells is something very human and mundane as jealousy...)
  • Chapter 9: Luke (his version alludes to how Chewbacca got killed)
  • Chapter 10: Han (he explains what he regrets not doing...)
If you're remotely interested in Star Wars, you'd like this one.

August 02, 2005

Reinventing comics: How imagination and technology are revoluntionizing an art form/ Scott McCloud

If you enjoyed Understanding comics: The invisible art, then you're likely to appreciate more of Scott McCloud's thesis-in-comic-form. And it's really a thesis on the art form of comics presented in (whatelse) the comic art form. This is not a "how-to" manual. Be ready for some serious stuff.


Main chapters
  • Comics as literature
  • Comics as art
  • Creators' rights
  • Industry innovation
  • Public perception
  • Institutional scrutiny
  • Gender balance
  • Minority representation
  • Diversity of genre
  • Digital production: The creation of comics with digital tools
  • Digital delivery: The distribution of comics in digital form
  • Digital comics: The evolution of comics in a digital environment
Beginning chapters "Setting Course: A "low" art takes the high road" (p26) and "Negativeland: The business of comics" (p56) gives more insights into the development of the North American comic business and industry. I now understand how the major players (like DC Comics) and the independents came about.

p62 mentions "Creators' Bill of Rights" for comic artists:
"It seems like some gruesome fairy tale now, but there actually was a time when comic books were literally burned in the streets! In the mid-50s the book Seduction of the Innocent by psychiatrist Fredric Wertham helped trigger a firestorm of anti-comics hysteria."

p86 - persecution of comics in the mid 1950s.

p124 "... it is often those most schooled in life's harshest realities who grow up least inclined to revisit them in fiction"

p125 "but all readers want to be transported by fiction in the end, even if the journey is through a mirror of the world we already know --"

"-- and as long as no one gave us a choice of the world we were born into, a little escape seems a reasonable request, and one of the many that comics can fulfill."

p128. Chapter on "The things about tools: Some thoughts on computers" has interesting condensed version of the development of computers from early 70s to late 90s.

p 138 "Through the door: Digital production" - on the development and use of computers to make art.

p154 "The frictionless economy: Digital delivery" - talks about the internet and the impact, possibilities and issues to the comic industry. In fact, this chapter could very well apply to the publishing business as a whole.

p. 160: "As I write these words, about 16,000,000 domains have been registered worldwide. There are now more sites in operation than there are books in the Library of Congress -- and the Web is growing a Hell of a lot faster!"
(this book came out in 2000)

p161 brilliantly shows why libraries and books are still relevant:
Scott: Imagine anything you could possibly want to know about any subject!
Guy: Anything at all?! Uh... How about fishing?
(Woah! [shows books crashing down])
Scott: You got it!
Guy: (picks up book) Woo-Hoo! Look at all this stuff about fishing!
Scott: No matter how esoteric, no matter how specialized, it's either on the web now or it will be soon... With millions of sites in existence today, and more coming at a rate of --
Guy: (opening a book) Ahem. Why are all these pages blank?!
Scott: Hold on a minute... There. (flips book)
Guy: Oh. I see...
Scott: There ya go. Something's coming in now.
Guy: "Win a free dream Vaca --"
Scott: Oh sorry... No, that's just an ad banner
p175 - gives arguments on the advantages of print over digital.

p200 - "The infinite canvas: Digital Comics" - talks about how new digital medium can transform at how comic art is presented (from printed strip format to hyperlinking). Uses the analogy of "temporal maps". Of comics "being told vertically, horizontally, packed slowly in a revolving cube".

July 12, 2005

American gods/ Neil Gaiman

This is one book that you might be better off reading it first without reading any reviews. There's a surprising twist in the end, and you'd go "Ah, now I get it!". I'm mindful not to give anything away in posting this, but you'll never know. So don't say I didn't warn you.

The start of the first chapter already grips you. There is no snail's pace build-up to the plot. The moment I opened the page, I was drawn smack into the story. You are introduced to a convict serving time, but you sensed there was more. I sensed there was a betrayal... and upon hindsight, that theme set the tone for the entire story!

p423 - Conversation between Shadow & Samantha Black-crow sort of sums up the storyline:
"Would you believe that all the gods that people have ever imagined are still with us today?... And that there are new gods out there, gods of computers and telephones and whatever, and that they all seem to think there isn't any room for them both in the world. And that some kind of war is kind of likely."
NLB Call No.: GAI (Adult Fiction section)
Click here to check for item availability.

The "American Gods" refers to the gods & beliefs that early migrants to North America brought along with them. The gods are portrayed to be as mortal as men.

This book could be described as a sort of Dark Fantasy genre with Horror and Mystery elements to spice things up. Ok, not exactly right to say it's Horror 'cos the Horror here isn't "creepy-horror" and it doesn't overwhelm the story. It serves to spice things up. There is a feel-good closure at the end. Certainly not dull. It may be Dark Fantasy but the book really ends with hope.

As I absorbed the pages, I couldn't help but think that Neil could easily turn the American Gods storyline into comic boo.

Some things made me do a literary double-take though. Neil suggests the English Pilgrims to North America weren't pilgrims but convicts in exile?

The characters are interesting to say the least. The hero is a convict named Shadow, whose wife cheated on him and is now a walking-dead. There's more -- talking dogs, Odin in the form of a man named Wednesday who's a modern-day shyster and confidence trickster. There are two Eypgtian gods who are etching a living in modern-day as morticians.

Some notes:
p127 - Joke about who's Frank Lloyd Wright's evil twin (ans = Frank Lloyd Left. Ouch.)

p146, 147 - Story of how the tiger lost it's testicles to Anazi the Spider (pure fiction? Or really such a legend? Nah, fiction I guess.)

p 202 - Salim meets a jinn (with flaming eyes) who drives a taxi (ok, some might find the final chapter scene a bit disturbing)

p271 - Quote: "... a town isn't a town without a bookstore".

p317/ 325 - Legend of the Thundebirds (thunder & lightning as they flapped their wings). Ok, what if old world legends were true but not what we think? Were they describing rocket ships thundering & flaming across open skies?

p 453 - We meet the King of Dwarfs

p 462 - Shadow meets a modern god named "Media" (implying that we now worship The Media instead of old gods). Which reminds me -- "The Fat Kid" represents Technology (he turns out to be cold-hearted and ruthless but insecure & neurotic)

P474 - We meet Loki

p478 - The characters present gives their eulogy to the slain Odin -- reflecting their individual nature. E.g. Media was just plain spin-doctoring & quoting taglines; Shadow was ever pragmatic; Nancy (a god) obviously belonged to the "old school".

p435 - "Freedom to believe means the freedom to believe the wrong thing, after all. Just as freedom of speech gives you the right to stay silent." (Interesting discussion points. E.g. does freedom of speech means freedom to say the 'wrong' thing?)

p506 - Was there such a book titled Gravity's Rainbow?

p534 -- Macha of the Morrigan (who's she?)

p 574 - So the new gods are afraid too!

p605 - (I don't quite get it -- who's Kobod?)

Another quote from p539 that encapsulates what the conflict is about:
"We have the firepower... They have f*king swords and knives and f*king hammers and stone axes. And like, tire irons. We have fucking smart bombs."

I read the story as a kind of parable between Technology Vs. Beliefs (i.e. superstitions, raw, bloody, barbaric). Which made me think: When future generations look upon our Now, will they say the same thing? Our reliance on technology and trappings of modern life is as much our ancestors reliance on their Old Gods.

June 07, 2005

Lila: An inquiry into morals/ Robert M. Pirsig

This isn't a sequel from Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. It's a totally different story, although it does make extensive reference to Pirsig's earlier work. I think this book might make more sense if you read the earlier book, but even if you don't, you won't lose too much. I can't help but think this book is even more of an autobiography of Pirsig.

NLB Call No.: PIR
Click here to check for item availability.

Chapter 3, P.33: Starts talking about a Professor Verne Dusenberry (there was such a person) who studied Native American Indian culture. The thesis (I think Pirsig's) was that modern (White) American culture and values (like "freedom") arose from Native American Indian values. Intriguing. I thought this part was like Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code, in that it brought on an "intellectual hyperbole" of sorts.

P.34 - 35: Seems to me that Pirsig suggests there is no need, or one is unable, to have "objectivity in anthropological studies. Like saying that it's the same in Journalism . Somehow it reminds me of Carol C. Kuhlthau's Information Seeking Behaviour (see here or here).

Chapter 4, P.55 - This chapter provides that continuity from Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. It reinforced that the Phædrus character was a reference to mean Persig 'cos it says Phædrus published a successful book and Lila picks up the story 6 years later. Also mentions that Phædrus/ Pirsig had "enormous problems" (the death of Pirsig's son?), and that the book was on the subject of Quality.

P.66 - More references to Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

Chapter 6: Switches from narrative from Phædrus' point of view to 3rd person "the author" - a literary device perhaps... Later I realised chapter 6 was written from the character Rigel's point of view. A bit disorienting but quite an interesting literary device.

p.91 - Rigel admonishes the message in Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (Pirsig taking a dig at himself? Or mocking his critics?)

p.116 - Interesting point made on the Platypus -- that when the Platypus was discovered, scientists said it was a paradox. But Pirsig's point was it was never a paradox or an oddity. It didn't make sense only to the scientists because they viewed the nature of animals according to their own classification, when nature did not have any.

p.164: Quote:
A thing doesn't exist because we have never observed it. The reason we have never observed it is because we have never looked for it. And the reason we have never looked for it is that it is unimportant, it has no value and we have other better things to do.

p.185 - Quote:
Just as it is more moral for a doctor to kill a germ than patient, so it is more moral for an idea to kill a society than it is for society to kill an idea.

Chapter 20: p.286 - Pirsig makes reference to his schizophrenia.

p.312: Mentions background to the John Scopes "Monkey Trial" (1925), made into a movie "Inherit the Wind".

p.317: Quote:
Morals have no objective reality. You can look through a microscope or telescope or oscilloscope for the rest of your life and you will never find a single moral. There aren't any there. They are all in your head.

P. 331: A glimpse into the root of Lila's neurosis.
See also chapter 30.
End of chapter 31: The link between Rigel and Lila becomes clear... you have to read the book.

P. 342: A discourse on the development of Philosophy.

P.355 - That you cannot deal with crime by talking crime to death. Quote:
Intellectual patterns cannot directly control biological patterns. Only social patterns can control biological patterns. The instrument of conversation between society and biology has always been a policeman or a soldier and his gun. All laws of history... all the Constitutions... are nothing more than instructions to the military and police. If the military and police can't or don't follow these instructions properly they might as well have never been written.

P.442: Quote:
In cultures without books, ritual seems to be a public library for teaching the young and preserving common values and information.

June 05, 2005

Science goes to war: The search for the ultimate weapon, from Greek fire to Star Wars/ Ernest Volkman

Found this highly entertaining. A history lesson on the development of war and warfare, from ancient times to modern and speculates what might be beyond.

It reads like episodes from the Discovery Channel -- very entertaining and I couldn't put it down. You have to read it to know what I mean.

This is not just a book "for the boys". I've gained insights to the rise and fall of Greek/ European civilisations, the descent into the Dark Ages, the development and demise of the Arab/ Muslim era, to name a few.

It's like a concise History of the World, from the war perspective.
NLB Call No.: 355.809 VOL (General section)
ISBN: 0471410071
[Check for item in NLB Catalogue]

June 04, 2005

Understanding comics: The invisible art/ Scott McCloud

What better way to understand comics than to have a book done in the comic artform. It could have been easily titled "The world of comics, according to Scott McCloud" (p. 214).

Alan McKenzie's "How to draw and sell comic strips for newspapers and comic books" was focused on the practical aspects of comic strips. This book by Scott McCloud focused more on the concept and theory of comic art. Like a textbook on comic theory. But far more engaging than the typical textbook.

NLB Call No.: 741.5 MAC - [ART]
Click here to check for item availability.
(ISBN: 006097625X)

Chapter 1: Setting the Record Straight
Tries to define what is "comics". Very interesting overview on the history of comics -- including interpretation of a pre-Columbian picture manuscript, the Bayeux Tapestry depicting the Norman conquest, an Egyptian hieroglyphics.

Chapter 2: The Vocabulary of Comics
I understand this chapter as trying to say that comics can convey meaning using icons, symbols and pictures, rather than just words. That "visual iconography" being the vocabulary of comics.

Chapter 3: Blood in the Gutter
Explains the concept of "Closure" in comics (its grammar). I liked this particular quote:
Every act committed to paper by the comic artist is aided and abetted by a silent accomplice. An equal partner in crime known as the reader.

I may have drawn an axe being raised... but I'm not the one who let it drop or decided how hard the blow, or who screamed, or why. That, dear reader, was your special crime. Each of you committing it in your own style.
Explains various types of sequences (e.g. "moment-to-moment", "aspect-to-aspect"). Analyses the differences in styles from different countries. Pages 84 and 85 show how scenes can be cut and still retain the story in different perspectives.

Chapter 4: Time Frames
Shows how time sequences can be depicted using single panels or a series of panels, or repeat scenes, or even the length of the panel (something I in comics all the time but don't necessarily pay them any attention). Also motion lines etc. There's an interesting panel layout on P105, where reading it from any possible direction would tell you a different story.

Chapter 5: Living in Line
How lines rendered in different ways can convey different meanings.

Chapter 6: Show and Tell
Piecing together the words, pictures, panels, and sequencing to convey the story. Pages 157 to 160 shows how a simple storyline of a person going out of the apartment to buy ice-cream could be depicted in different ways.

Chapter 7: The Six Steps
Details the six steps (or aspects) to be considered in comic art: Idea/ purpose, Form, Idiom, Structure, Craft, and Surface. I found this chapter very theoretical.

Chapter 8: A Word About Color
Short chapter on the concept of color in comics.

Chapter 9: Putting It All Together
Well, as the chapter says, it sums all the previous chapters... Quote (p.199) on understanding comics:
The first step in any such effort is to clear our minds of all preconceived notions about comics. Only by starting from scratch can we discover the full range of possibilities comics offer.

A word to describe this book -- Wow (apparently, Tinkertailor felt the same way too).

This was like an undergrad course on comic art. It's precisely that the theory and concepts were conveyed via the comic artform that it makes it all so convincing.

May 23, 2005

Dreaming down under/ Edited by Jack Dann & Janeen Webb

This book has an interesting preface from acclaimed SciFi writer, Harlan Ellison. His following quotes alludes to the quality of the book:
"...I had no idea of the depth of richness that existed in the pool of Australian fantasists... I grit my teeth in frustration at how powerful a collection they have put together..."

The stories truly do not dissappoint. Each story begins with a short introduction to the author, and ends with a short note from the author on how they story came about. Some of the stories are really gritty (as most good Sci Fi is, it seems to me) so what I do is to read one story, then move onto to another different book that's of a lighter read.

NLB Call No.: DRE (Adult Fiction section)
Click here to check for item availability.

To give a review of each story would warrant several posts, so I'll just list them with brief annotation:
  1. Entre les Beaux Morts en Vie (Among the Beautiful Living Dead)/ Sean Williams - Deals with concept of immortality; what it means to be 'Alive' as opposed to 'Living'. Futuristic setting, where only the unbelievably rich (with generations of wealth to support their immortal lifestyles) get to become immortal, through a process which essentially turns them into self-conscious living dead. Great for class discussions.
  2. The Dancing Floor/ Cheery Wilder - Quite a complex story. More to do with societal norms about kinship and family than Science per se. Set in a off-world colony, about the investigation of an Alien species whose culture seems to be based on a dance.
  3. Descent/ Cecily Scutt - Very short story that changes your view of death and Hell. More Fantasy than Science. About a girl's visit to her deceased grandmother who's residing in a Hell that's more like an institution than the fire & brimstone stuff.
  4. The Soldier in the Machine/ Russell Blackford - Reminds me of "Ghost in a Shell", although the story isn't like that. I'd call this a SciFi-military-techno-thriller. Centres around an augmented human who hires himself out as a bodyguard. Has concepts like body morphing/ augmentation, personality uploads, high-tech devices, something called "Flickdancing" (you've got to read it to appreciate it). Interesting stuff, and easily turned into a book.
  5. Matilda Told Such Dreadful Lies/ Lucy Sussex - One of my favourites in the collection. This story gives a new twist to the "Waltzing Matilda" lyrics. Told from the angle of the "swamp spirit", it narrates what actually happened to the swagman, the jumpbuck, the squatter...
  6. The Womb/ Damien Broderick - Told from two perspectives -- (1) the woman whose father was a cult leader and proclaimed UFO-abductee; (2) the father, who tells his own story of being abducted and confined by the government. In the end, the story suggests that the father really was abducted, and the woman was the creation of the alien experiments. Weirdly wonderful storytelling.
  7. A Walk-on Part in the War/ Stephen Dedman - Another of my favourites. The Trojan War (of the Illiad), told from a different perspective. This time, it strips away the glory and myth, and makes the whole story very believable. There's still a Trojan Horse, but it's role in the breech of the city of Troy is something down-to-earth, but very different from what we've read in popular texts and stories.
  8. Wired Dreaming/ Paul Collins - A detective story set in the future. The detective investigates a crime, where perverts watching VR porn seem to be dying off under mysterious circumstances. In order to learn more, the detective forced himself to watch the video. The crime was solved in the end. There's an interesting twist to the story in the end (which could be a bit subtle) -- the detective was supposed to have died after watching the VR disc, but didn't...
  9. The Body Politic/ Tess Williams - This story is really about socio-political issues. It's the kind of SciFi stories that I like, where the background context (about the world, the characters) is slowly revealed in the telling. Set in the far future where humans are modified and augmented to have specialised roles. In this story, the woman is a prostitute of sorts, hired by the client but in the end, the client got more than what he bargained for. Nothing sexual or perverse, which makes the story even more interesting.
  10. The Truth About Weena/ David J. Lake - A different version of H.G. Well's The Time Machine that delves more into the parts about Eloi and Morlocks. Specifically, the young Eloi girl (the love interest of the Time Traveller) was brought back to Industrial-age England, and thereby subtly changing the course of European history (where Hitler was a famous painter instead).
  11. The Marsh Runners/ Paul Brandon - A horror Fantasy. Set in rural Australia, it's about a girl who's abused by her father, and how she finally escapes from him.
  12. Prelude to a Nocturne/ Rowena Cory Lindquist - The Nocturnes are a class of humans who have not been modified at the genetic level to not suffer from puberty (i.e. the Preluders). A group of renegade Nocturnes has kidnapped a senator who's a Preluder. They attempt to force her to change back to being a "normal human". It's a story about family conflict and relationships; about class and prejudice.
  13. Real Men/ Rosaleen Love - Well in some ways, I got the story and in some ways, I didn't. I don't know how to describe this. The author explains that the story was written in response to the 1997 Melbourne Grand Prix.
  14. The Latest Dream I Ever Dreamed/ Norman Talbot - This is Hi-tech Military SciFi! About "Corporate Medical Espionage Teams" who raid dreams to scavenge secrets. Where the theatre of war really resides in operating theatres, or specifically in the minds. Funny twist at the end.
  15. Ma Rung/ Steven Paulsen - Set in the Vietnam War, 1968. A "unexplained happenings in times of War" type of story. Reminds me of a Lucius Shepard story that I read before, that's also set in the jungles of Vietnam...
  16. Dream, Until God Burns/ Andrew Enstice - Oooh, this one is really morbid. I'm afraid I'll be giving away the story if I explain what it's about. Let's just say you are in a coma, and actually you are conscious but no one knows...
  17. Night of the Wandjina/ Wynne Whiteford - Another horror-fantasy story, about how a group of geological explorers disturbed a spirit in the Australian Outback.
  18. To Avalon/ Jane Routley - Set in Glastonbury Tor, where Avalon (of the King Arthur fame) is said to have been. A couple of people holidaying there, and well, they see sheep disappear... (sorry, I'm being flippant).
  19. He Tried to Catch the Light/ Terry Dowling - It appears to be high-tech SciFi, but it really deals with the issue of cultural notions of god and religion. Nothing controversial, I think. It's the kind of SciFi that I enjoy, where Science is used to set the context of a larger social topic.
  20. The Third Rail/ Aaron Sterns - I really didn't get this, inspite of 2 readings. Not bad, except that I didn't get the story, so I can't really describe it here. The author says the story is "the dreaming of a lonely Australian amidst the dirt, destitution, and death of the archetypal city."
  21. Jetsam/ Kerry Greenwood - A story involving the myth of the Greek god Dionysus. Woman finds this strange half-drown stranger, who goes away as mysteriously as he appeared.
  22. And Now Doth Time Waste Me/ George Turner - Apparently, this story didn't manage to be completed as the author died of a stroke before it could be completed. The story is about a couple who managed to reverse the effects of ageing, and could live very long (but still equally human). They squander their wealth and that's when their longevity becomes a liability. Basically it points that having a long life isn't enough in itself. Too bad the story is left hanging.
  23. The Man Who Lost His Shadow/ Isobelle Carmody - Nice in its own way. But I didn't get it. Well, the man lost his shadow! He didn't find it. Maybe you read it and tell me what it's about.
  24. Unborn Again/ Chris Lawson - Not exactly a horror story. Maybe more a story where justice is served. Woman has Parkinson and goes for treatment (outlawed in Australia). Treatment supposedly involves the stemcells of aborted foetus. Then she starts experiencing residual memories of the people whom she received the stemcells, and realises the stemcells might be of developed babies. She gets her revenge for herself and the dead babies.
  25. The Evil Within/ Sara Douglass - Set in the Dark Ages, it tells of a village plagued by demons. Interesting tale that suggests how the stone Gargoyles came to be a familiar sight on top of buildings.
  26. Two Recipes for Magic Beans/ Rosaleen Love - No real point to the story (as the author explains). A fun piece that strings some familiar fairytale characters together.
  27. The Doppelganger Effect/ Dirk Strasser - Something about parallel universes, and how it merges together. About the life of this man -- in one, he seems to have killed his wife (by accident) and being punished for it; in the other life, he's part of a team riding an alien-craft hurtling through space. Their paths seem to merge. Can't say I really understand the entire thing. Quite intellectual in a way.
  28. Tamed/ Robert Hood - More horror fantasy stuff. Something about the monsters becoming uncontrolled, and this girl turns out to be the one who could control them.
  29. Queen of Soulmates/ Sean McMullen - A sort of SciFi story in a Fantasy setting. A "recurring atomic bomb" of sorts called Weapon being discovered and detonated, to detrimental effects.
  30. The Last Dance/ Ian Nichols - More fantasy than Science, but entertaining nonetheless. Fans of rock music from the 70s & 80s would identify with this. A small-time rock band playing a gig in a small rural town find themselves literally playing music to save their lives.
  31. With Clouds At Our Feet/ Simon Brown - Interesting twist to the Vampire genre. Set in modern times Australia. Two brothers, half-human and half-vampire, spend a few days with their father (who's a true blue vampire). A kind of "coming of age"/ "self-discovery" story. Sensitively written and very believable.

Keywords (to search in OPAC):
. fantasy fiction, australian
. horror tales, australian
. science fiction, australian

The Reef/ Nora Roberts

Not my typical read, but I wanted to know why it was so popular with women readers. This was the first Nora Roberts book I read and it's not bad.

Click here or here to check for item availability.
NLB Call No.: ROB (Adult Fiction section)

Main characters:
  • Tate Beaumont - the heroine who's in love with Matthew. She's got the looks, the brains, and is gutsy to boot.
  • Matthew Lassiter - the hero, a treasure-hunter who's got almost nothing to his name but his pride.
  • Buck Lassiter - Matthew's uncle, who after losing his leg to a shark, grew despondent and became an alcholic. But he recovered.
  • Silas VanDyke - Billionnaire, egomaniac. The bad guy who murdered Matthew's father and is obsessed with the "Angelique's Curse".
  • Marla Beaumont - Tate's mother. Great cook and seemed to be the perfect mother and wife. She came up with the idea to deal with the evil Silas VanDyke.
  • Raymond Beaumont - Tate's father. A millionaire in his own right. An amateur teasure-hunter who turned out to be great friends to the Lassiters.
The story & plot, in brief:
The "Angelique's Curse" is a richly jeweled amulet that went down with a Spanish ship. Legend has it that the woman who wore it was wrongly accused of murder and burned at the stake. And though it was found a few times throughout history, the owners always suffered mishaps.

The Lassiters are treasure hunters of ancient sea-wrecks. Matthew has a vendetta against VanDyke, whom he believed killed his father. The Lassiters meet the Beaumount and end up as partners. They find treasure. Matthew and Tate falls in love. Then bad luck struck -- a shark maimed Buck. VanDyke took the opportunity to steal all the Lassiter's and Beaumont's teasure. Matthew and Tate break up with misgivings.

A few years later, the Lassiters and Beaumonts get back together to find "Angelique's Curse". Matthew meets Tate again and they have yet to find closure and they get together, they break up, they make up... ah, it goes on. VanDyke is in the background, plotting to steal from them again. Matthew is adament about killing VanDyke.

Then Tate and Matthew finds and amulet. VanDyke kidnaps Tate and sends someone to kill Matthew. Tate escapes, Matthew survives. Marla comes up with a simple plan to entrap VanDyke. They succeed. VanDyke doesn't give up and confronts Tate, and he almost manages to steal the amulet...

The last part alludes to some mysterious happenings with the amulet, so I shan't give it away.

To quote a page from the last chapter: '...You've got murder, greed, lust, scarifice, passion, sex--'

The sex scenes, to me, seemed to have been thrown in for good measure because it was a Romance book. More like the garnishing to a dish (i.e. didn't matter if you didn't eat it anyway). The book has a credible plot and storyline, and has enough twists to sustain till the end.

May 17, 2005

How to draw and sell comic strips for newspapers and comic books/ Alan McKenzie

Found this to be a practical book on drawing comics for newspapers and comic formats. Even if you don't draw comics, you might still find it useful as it covers (briefly) the development of comics in newspapers. I learnt how comics came to be syndicated.

There's a section that shows the step-by-step development of the story, storyboarding, preliminary drafts, layout planning, inking and lettering.
How to draw and sell-- comic strips-- for newspapers and comic books!
More details at
NLB Call No.: 741.5 MAC
Click here to check for item availability.

It also covers the tools used, the type and choice of materials. Also the technical aspects of submitting comics for publication. For instance, that you have to draw in larger formats which is then resized down -- I forgot what the term was. Also about colour-separation.

The book was published in 1987. I suspect with current computer technology, some of the more tedious and manual aspects is made a lot easier (like lettering and inserting speech bubbles).

Anyway, if you think producing comics is easy work, read this and think again.

April 24, 2005

Books on Blogging & Weblogs

Updated 21 May 05:

Some books on Blogs & Blogging, available at NLB libraries. For more titles, search the online catalogue using keywords like "blog", "blogs", "weblog" or "weblogs" (the pural & singular returns slightly different results).

We the Media: Grassroots journalism by the people, for the people [Available Online]
NLB Call No.: 302.23 GIL
Click here to check for book item availability in NLB libraries.

The cluetrain manifesto: The end of business as usual [Available Online]
NLB Call No.: 658.054678 CLU -[BIZ]
Click here to check for book item availability in NLB libraries.

Never Threaten to Eat Your Co-Workers: Best of Blogs
Bonnie Burton c.2002/ 2003
Call No.: 081 NEV
Click here to check for item availability.

We Blog: Publishing Online with Weblogs
Paul Bausch c.2002
Call No.: 005.72 BAU [COM]
Click here to check for item availability.

Blog On: Building Online Communities with Web Logs
Todd Stauffer c.2002
Call No.: 004.678 STA [COM]
Click here to check for item availability.

Who Let the Blogs Out?: A Hyperconnected Peek at the World of Weblogs
Biz Stone c.2004
Call No.: 006.7 STO [COM]
Click here to check for item availability.

Essential blogging
Cory Doctorow c.2002
Call No.: 005.72 DOC [COM]
Click here to check for item availability.

Blogging: Genius Strategies for Instant Web Content
Biz Stone c.2002/ 2003
Call No.: 004.678 STO [COM]
Click here to check for item availability.

BLOG: 部落格线上出版, 网路日志实作
(BLOG: bu luo ge xian shang chu ban, wang lu ri zhi shi zuo)
艺立协著(Yi li xie; author)
CAll No.: Chinese 005.72 BLO -[COM]
Click here to check for item availability.

- Related post: 10 points on Blogs & RSS (Newsfeeds)

[Tag: , ]