Monday, March 31, 2008

Dith Pran (1943-2008)

Yesterday, Dith Pran died at age 65 of pancreatic cancer in a New Jersey hospital.

He is the Cambodian-born journalist who reported the happenings in his homeland with his partner, Sydney Schanberg, for The New York Times. They went over there in 1975, when the Khmer Rouge entered Phnom Phen and started what later became known as "the Killing fields," s term coined by Pran and which became the title of the Oscar-winning film. It was called such because over an estimated 2.5 million people died during this terrifying campaign. People were rounded up and sent to the countryside to work as farm labourers. People died of starvation, disease and over-work; hence, the killing fields. Anyone who opposed the demands of the Khmer Rouge were executed or sent to prison. There, they were tortured. Pran was one of these unfortunate souls when the Khmer forces forbade him to return to the United States.

Four years later, he was able to escape to Thailand.

In recent years, survivors of the Khmer Rouge era who have emmigrated to western countries like the US have opened up about their experiences in prison. Paintings have been exhibited at galleries, and looking at these oil and canvas renditions would make your churning stomachs feel like an endless hollow pit.

How a person can survive such suffering and have their mental faculties intact is something of a mystery to me. I find it revolting because of the evil behind those acts of torture, but I also find the resilience and strength of the survivors to be mystifying.

I have often thought of what professions do I admire most, and undoubtably, journalism is close to number one. It's right up there with being a teacher :p

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

TDIR Inspired Research on the Celtic Beliefs on the Afterlife

The Celts did believe that a soul lived on after death and would enter another world. It's not the same as reincarnation, but it's similar. Or, maybe it's the same?

'It was around the first century AD that both the Greek and Roman writers were surprised by the fact that the Druids, a priestly caste of the Celts (see Druidism), believed in reincarnation. The Greek writer Diordus Siculus (c. 60 BC - 30 AD) noted that the Druids believed "the souls of men are immortal, and that after a definite number of years they live a second life when the soul passes to another body." '

Celtic Reconstructionism FAQ
Has a lot of questions with links to answers. Not necessarily on reincarnation, though.

Now, assuming that Cooper based a lot of her book on Celtic folklore and mythology, then the idea of immortality for the Old Ones makes sense in this way: the soul of an Old One doesn't die. It just takes on a different bodily form, or it goes into a different world. Whether it is Merriman's case or Will Stanton's case, this makes sense. After Merlin died, he came to our world. How could it be that Will is so young, yet he could possess an Old soul? Perhaps the soul just reincarnated into his body at birth, and so when he dies, the soul will travel to another body. That body will have to be "awoken" when the time is right. However, Will is the last of the Old Ones, and he is immortal. That means that his soul will not reincarnate into another body. He will simply live forever.

It's actually not clear if Merriman had to go through a similar process as Will did on his 11th birthday, or if Merriman is the same body-form of Merlin way back in King Arthur's time. I think if Will Stanton had to be born ignorant of his special powers, and only realize it once he turned 11, then Merriman would have had to go through the same process. It's just that with an Old One, Merriman could have gone through that process over 3 or 4 hundred years ago.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Dr. Drew (Over Sea, Under Stone)

I'm re-reading The Dark is Rising Sequence for the nth time now. I never noticed how funny Dr. Drew is, the father of the three adventurers in Susan Cooper's novel.

Chapter 2
'Did you go fishing today, Father?' Jane said hopefully from across the table, feeling that it was time to change the subject.

'No,' said Father.

'Don't be stupid,' Simon said ungratefully, still smarting. 'It was raining.'

'Well, Father does go fishing in the rain sometimes.'

'No, he doesn't.'

'Yes, he does.'

'If I may be allowed to explain my own actions,' Father said with heavy sarcasm. 'Occasionally I have been known to go fishing in the rain. Today I did not. Is that comprehensible?'

Chapter 3
But when all three children were upstairs (sent early up to bed because, Father said ominously when Simon imitated a lightship siren right behind his chair, they were all 'overtired'),

Saturday, March 08, 2008

師奶唔易做 My Mother is a Belly Dancer (2006)

I just saw this movie on CFMT (cable 14 on Rogers). It's so rare to see this kind of movie come out from Hong Kong*(see note below). The cast does not contain any young pop superstars, and the story is not about how a boy tries to get a girl. Instead, the movie is a candid yet inspiring portrayal of how four housewives (women with children is more accurate) try to go against oppressive attitudes about what a woman's role is, and where her power lies.

Four women each have their own problems to deal with at home. One young woman is a single mother; another is aging and loses her husband to a younger mistress; a third loses her job as the garbage lady and is afraid of telling her family; a fourth is emotionally abused by her husband and her young son. One day, they decide to take belly-dancing lessons, given by the housing estate after the original folk dance teacher disappears. Through the dancing, these women start to rediscover the greatness of having self-confidence and self-esteem on your own terms. Then trouble arrives...

In the end, real life catches up to the fantasies, and not everyone has a happy ending...well, at least some have bittersweet endings. Having supportive friends, belly dancing and self-esteem aren't the answers to all their problems, but they are the foundations to building a meaningful and fulfilling life.

Kudos to Andy Lau for appearing in a cameo role to show his support for My Mother is a Belly Dancer.

No wonder the story is so well-written! The screenwriter is Erica Li 李敏, who was a member of the musical group, Dream Theatre. Together with Yvonne Lau, they wrote their own lyrics and released over 5 albums during the mid-80s to early 90s. I knew that she had since moved to the US and become a writer, but I didn't know that she had started writing for the screen. YAY!