I geek out, therefore I do: Jung and Descartes in comic form are much more fun!

So back when I was making my master’s thesis on sci-fi and mythology and motifs, I have had to read a lot of Carl Jung for related literature to support my ideas on the correlation between mythology, sci-fi and the collective unconscious. At that time, I enjoyed reading him, but not being a psych major had its drawbacks, especially since I struggled with some terms he would reference from other materials. However, be that as it may, his ideas were amazing, and certainly a lot more fun than the idea of perpetual repression Sigmund Freud perpetuated.

There was a point in my life as well when I was reading nothing but philosophy all the time, just for fun, and I had a great time reading them, until I got to Descartes.

In my search for worthwhile online comic books, I came across this one from eviltwincomics.com, which has chosen to make Jung and Descartes more intelligible. 🙂

Entitled “Action Philosophers”, this is a comic book series by Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey, that succeeds in simplifying Jung and Descartes and thus making them more understable for the internet-age millenium.

Their series on Jung chronicles the friendship (and closeness) between Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud, points out the friendly rivalry between, Carl Jung’s discovery of the collective unconscious, his inevitable break from Freudian ideas, and the falling out and bitter rivalry between them and their followers that resulted. The comic book succeeds in laying out the foundations of Jungian psychology as followsin making Descartes more comprehensible,  able to condense his ideas from his Meditations on Philosophy to bitesize form:

Jung discovers the collective unconscious

Jung discovers the collective conscious 🙂

 

“I think, there I am”: Descartes in comic form


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Geek discovers: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and the dangers of a single story

There are advantages to being in Africa.

One is that it expands your world further.

Another is that stereotypes you’ve had, misconceptions you’ve had, expectations you’ve had go completely out of the window, when you come and you realize that the things you’ve read about Africa are not all necessarily true.

For another, you may discover how different you are from them, but more often than not, you’ll discover how similar your lives are, how you think and feel and dream and wish for the same things, that at the end of the day, we’re all just living under the same sun afterall.

Another advantage you have: you discover a wholly different world, of books and music and movies and artists and writers that you wouldn’t have discovered had you stayed home. 🙂

Chimamanda Adichie: The danger of a single story (speech at Oxford, England)

A few days ago the housemate downloaded a video of a speech from a writer I had never heard of, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. This is my literary ignorance, and the fact that back home, it is mostly world literature is eclipsed by either self-help books or books by Stephanie Meyer.

I listened to the speech, whilst watching an episode of a Filipino telenovela badly dubbed in English. As the speech began, with Adichie talking about childhood reading memories filled in blonde-blue eyed children, white people talking about the weather, people eating apples, and producing the exact same stories later on, not realizing that these were removed from a country where it was always hot, and people ate mangoes, and there weren’t any blonde-blue eyed children, I found myself listening to her speech.As her speech progressed, talking about the time when, as a student in America, she had an American roommate who irritated her with her ignorance about Africa and its people, I couldn’t help but listen. By the time she was talking about the dangers of a single story, how that creates stereotypes, how stereotypes are dangerous because they are stories that are incomplete, and must needs be completed, I had turned the volume on the tv down, completely engrossed in her speech.

I have, since then, been looking for the complete  text of her speech. What I have found though is an excerpt of her speech at cnn.com:

“It is impossible to talk about the single story without talking about power. There is a word, an Igbo (Nigerian language) word, that I think about whenever I think about the power structures of the world, and it is “nkali.” It’s a noun that loosely translates to “to be greater than another.” Like our economic and political worlds, stories too are defined by the principle of nkali. How they are told, who tells them, when they’re told, how many stories are told, are really dependent on power. Power is the ability not just to tell the story of another person, but to make it the definitive story of that person. The Palestinian poet Mourid Barghouti writes that if you want to dispossess a people, the simplest way to do it is to tell their story, and to start with, “secondly.” Start the story with the arrows of the Native Americans, and not with the arrival of the British, and you have and entirely different story. Start the story with the failure of the African state, and not with the colonial creation of the African state, and you have an entirely different story. I recently spoke at a university where a student told me that it was such a shame that Nigerian men were physical abusers like the father character in my novel. I told him that I had just read a novel called “American Psycho”—(Laughter)—and that it was such a shame that young Americans were serial murderers. (Laughter) (Applause) Now, obviously I said this in a fit of mild irritation. (Laughter)”

I remember my own childhood then, of stories about Snow White and Sleeping Beauty and of Beauty and the Beast, of white-skinned, beautiful young women who always seemed to need to be in danger and the tall, handsome, dashing young princely men who always rescued them. I never wanted to be these white young women, I was shorter, I had brown skin, I knew I could never be as pretty as they were…but I did want to be those young men – they always seemed to have more fun. 🙂 (but that will be a story reserved for another day).

As I grew, I was able to read books by Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, and contemporary authors like James Michener, Leon Uris and popular authors like John Grisham and Sidney Sheldon. I’ve moved a step up, maybe, but maybe not. They were white, most times male, and they wrote about realities that were far removed from mine. Sure there were universal themes that I could relate to, love and honor and courage and all that, but at the end of the day, it was a different perspective still. This is probably why when I started writing, my stories were set in the Philippines, but they could just as well be set somewhere else – in some white, middle class suburb somewhere, with snow and maple trees and blue-eyed people talking about the weather. 🙂

I’ve since not written any story. There was a period of working and just looking for myself and wondering if writing fiction was what I really wanted. It’s a question I haven’t answered, since my years of journalism has made me want to write real stories, not fictional ones.

As I listened to Adichie, it made me want to write again. But barely. Maybe this time I might just write. 🙂

How to Enjoy Shakespeare without crying

I know what you are all thinking. Reading Shakespeare, not good. Movie version, better. 🙂

Bear with me. Reading Shakespeare can be fun, if you only try. Follow my tips and you’ll be able to enjoy Shakespeare. 🙂

Antony and Cleopatra

1. Get a good version of the book. I have just finished Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra. I have his other books waiting to be read. Of course, Shakespeare’s plays are meant to be watched, but it’s nice to read them as well. Get the book with annotations, since some of the words he uses in his plays are no longer in use, or have changed meanings already.

2.  Give Shakespeare your full attention. Reading Antony and Cleopatra or some other works by Shakespeare, requires your full, undivided attention. If you can’t, then read something else.

3. You don’t need a degree in Shakespeare to understand him. He wrote his plays for the masses. So whatever play he writes is bound to be something you can relate to, as Shakespeare is a very scarily keen, astute  observer of human behavior.

4. Check out how people in Shakespeare’s time used words. You’ve got to hand it to the ancients. They knew how to use words. And you can too!

To threaten someone:

Cleopatra: The gold I give thee will I melt and pour down thy ill-uttering throat.

Cleopatra: Like balls before me, I’ll unhair thy head.

Cleopatra: Thou shalt be whipped with wire and stewed in brine, smarting in ling’ring pickle.

Cleopatra: The gods confound thee!

Enobarbus: Think, and die.

When trying to insult someone, Shakespeare’s characters (from Antony and Cleopatra) can be very useful:

1. She shows a body rather than a life, a statue than a breather.

2.  (Your face is) round even to faultiness.

3. Her forehead (is) as low as she would wish it.

If you are the boss and your subordinate wants to give you a message:

1. You (as spoken by Antony): Grates me! The sum!

2. (From Cleopatra): Ram though thy fruitful tidings in mine ears, that long time have been barren.

If somebody asks you out, and you want to turn them down, you can say, as Charmian did in “Antony and Cleopatra”: I had rather heat my liver with drinking.

If you are in a relationship, you can impress your partner with this:

(Revised from Antony and Cleopatra)

1. Eternity was in our lips and eyes, Bliss in our brows’ bent…

2. My full heart remains in use with you.

3. (Instead of  simply saying goodbye like a normal person) The world and my great office will sometimes divide me from your boss.

4. (Instead of saying “Please be careful with my heart” like any lovesick idiot) You take from me a great part of myself; use me well in ‘t.

5. (When describing your love) “The April ‘s in her eyes: it is love’s spring.” or “The rose of youth is on (his/her) lips.”

6. Shall I abide in this dull world, which in thy absence is no better than a sty?

6. My heart was to thy rudder tied by th’ strings.

When ordering mead in a pub:

Enorbabus: Cup us til the world go round!

When coming on to a hot guy/girl in a pub: Word me!

Warning: Blogger will not be responsible for results that will arise from the use of the above. 🙂

5. Read a stanza at least twice to get the gist of the stanza. Because Shakespeare, like Goethe, needs to be savoured. And understood. For maximum enjoyment.

6. It helps if you do some research on the characters. Most o Shakespeare’s characters were based on historical ones. Knowing the background helps you understand the story and the context better.

And…!if all else fails, just read the books again. And don’t forget to watch the movies.

Happy reading!

Discovering Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World”

So as I mentioned before, I’ve got so much books at home I’ve got books coming out of my ears.

Thus I have been reading like mad, reading my way through all the unread books and continuning with this, I have discovered how interesting Aldous Huxley‘s “Brave New World” is. Since I like books like George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm, Ayn Rand‘s Anthem, and the mother of all novels utopian or dystopian, Sir Thomas More‘s Utopia, Aldous Huxley’s novel is right up my alley.

Now, I’ve read my share of utopian/dystopian visions of the world gone awry. In fact, these literary novels have been adapted for the screen or have enjoyed post-modern incarnations in popular blockbusters as “The Matrix”, “Gattaca”, and any number of Steven Spielberg-inspired films, but this novel, written in the 1930s, makes it all the more refreshing. In fact, as I was reading it, I was surprised at how eeriely it captures the kind of (post)modern, (post)industrial, global, consumerist/capitalist life that we have.  The scary thing about this 1930s’ novel is that humans are engineered, brainwashed and deliberately conditioned to form castes, lifestyles, attitudes, behaviors, perceptions and so on in order for them to function as useful members of society. People share each other (physically, sexually)  in a communal, off-hand, casual way, the idea of property, ownership, spirituality and relationships are abolished, and the idea of freedom and individuality extinguished. What makes this book so interesting is that it effectively describes what we are going through now, except that we have been conditioned even without having been brainwashed or engineered to have these kinds of lifestyles, attitudes, behaviors, perceptions and prejudices.

Pretty riveting stuff. I recommend it.

Guerilla Geek books and DVDs: Salmon, Faust, Star Gate and Cheerleading

Spent Saturday scrounging around for books at SM Booksale and National Bookstore, then going to my suking DVD shop for my weekly dose of DVDs. Spent Sunday morning napping, had a lecture at 1pm on how to make effective rĂ©sumĂ©s to HRM students at Teacher’s Camp here in Baguio City. Sweet, short and nifty, that. Had lunch of mussels and some wine after at SM.

What I have managed to dig up at the booksale:

Salmon spawning

1. How to Travel with a Salmon by Umberto Eco –  I have Umberto Eco’s “The Island of the Day Before” which I never seem to get finished. I always get stuck at Chapter 1. I guess I should have bought “The Name of the Rose” instead – but “The Island” was on sale at National, The Name of the Rose was unavailable, and since I’d been hearing a lot of positive reviews about Umberto Eco decided to read one and see what all the fuss about. Verdict? Should have bought “Name of the Rose” instead. However, “How to Travel with a Salmon” is actually not too bad. In fact, I am so far, liking it. I bought it primarily because I love salmon, both as metaphor, inspiration and food (not necessarily in that order) and because since this is a collection of essays, I figured maybe Umberto Eco is more interesting as an essayist. As it turns out, he is interesting. In fact, he is that, and more. I still haven’t finished the whole book, but I am so far loving it. His sardonic, snarky sense of humor and his detailed amusing accounts of traveling with salmon, trying to get a driver’s license, surviving customs and immigration and traveling by train calls to mind my own experiences of trying to get my own driver’s license, going through customs and immigration, traveling by train and by plane. I wanted to tell him, come to the Philippines, where getting a driver’s license is as easy as buying a stick of Marlboro cigarette at the neighborhood sari-sari store.

2. Goethe’s Faust translated by Walter Kaufmann – Okay, so I don’t know why I bought this one. I already had a hundred year old, dusty,musty, hardcover edition of this book (bought at 10 pesos or something) bought in the Ramos administration way back in college. But I saw this paperback edition, with the left hand side in the original German, and the right hand side in English – and I realized I had to buy for those days when I have run out of stuff to read and must thus read that stuff that I have to read but haven’t found the time to. Plus I saw the translation and thought it was a better translation than the one I already have. Plus, it was translated by Walter Kaufman, who translated the anthology of Friedrich Nietzche works that I have and I liked that translation. Nuff said. It looks pretty nifty.

I must say, actually, I should put a moratorium on my book-buying habit. I’ve got so much books to read, I’ve got books coming out of my ears! IN fact, I think my books are spawning all on their own, so much so that when I try to clean up my room or get rid of books that don’t need to be kept, some nook or cranny reveals some long-forgotten book I didn’t know I had bought long time ago.

Anyway, feeling a little guilt at having bought a couple books, I go to the DVD shop to assuage my guilt, only to realize that I find myself feeling more guilty as I leave the shop with a couple of DVDs: Ryan Murphy’s (he of “Glee” fame) now-defunct, two-season TV show, “Popular” and Ming Na’s new TV show, “Stargate Universe”. The lady at the DVD bookshop had offered me the DVD of “True Blood” and some other TV shows, which I vehemently refused, and I told her, “I have so much to read and watch. You’ve recommended so many DVDs to me I don’t even have time for a social life anymore! IN fact, all I ever do is watch DVDs! I have no friends! Ya hear me? I have no friends!” The lady laughs and says, “You have a friend. I am your friend.”

Funnily enough, that doesn’t make me feel better.

But no matter! I am happy to report that I may have to chuck the Battlestar Galactica DVD. It ain’t working, and the first few scenes I’ve seen of the premier is pretty much ho-hum. The only thing that makes this interesting is Ming Na but she isn’t the star, so when she isn’t in any frame, it’s boring. Even the presence of Robert Carlyle isn’t doing it for me.

Now, “Popular” though is another thing altogether. I’ve had apprehensions about buying it. But I remember it when it was first being shown on TV, at Studio 23, and from what I had seen (I hadn’t followed it as religiously as “Buffy”) it was entertaining and funny. It had shown at the time when I was busy with school and work, so. Plus DVDs weren’t invented yet, or the fine art of DVD marathons, so. But! I have since started watching it and I must say, this is one cleverly written, witty, hilarious, snarky, sardonic, ironic little TV show. It’s a bit like Buffy, except without the vampires or demons or staking and slaying and action. All the action happens in the dialogue, which is tight and nasty and funny, even when it talks about serious stuff like bulimia, anorexia or the scary stage in a person’s life that is puberty.

My favorite has always been Glamazon cheerleader Mary Cherry (Leslie Grossman) and Nicole Julian (Tammy Lynn Michaels, Melissa Etheridge’s girl), who light up dull scenes with their easy, nasty banter. Whether trying to turn pre-pubescent wanna-bes into p0pular types by requiring them to read Sun-Tzu’s “The Art of War” and Nicolo Macchiavelli’s “The Prince” (call them shallow, but never call them stupid. They read, these cheerleaders!), or calling each other hos and sluts, or going off to vomit before a big pep rally, or making life miserable for all those who are not popular, these two are always fun to watch. I think of them as Buffy’s Cordelia, Anya, Glory, Harmony all put together, plus every other bitchy character ever created on TV. But more fun.

And who can forget that androgynous chemistry teacher, Bobbie (Diane Delano) who rocks as the unforgiving, unapologetic, single, overweight, tough teacher from hell? Also, blink and you’ll miss Michelle Krusiec (“Saving Face”) playing Exquisite. I blinked and I missed her the first time. Then again, she was the token Asian, so she’ll just register as such in your consciousness. But I think the most interesting here has to be Carly Pope’s “Sam MacPherson”. What can I say, brainy types are hot. 🙂

There are a lot of memorable quotes here, so I suggest just clicking here for the full list. 🙂

In the meantime, I have got to go. Must finish el reading and el watching.

Book review: On reading John Burdett’s “Bangkok Tattoo”

Heard about John Burdett from a Pinoy writer who, apart from having developed such toxic, anger-inducing snobbery that she doesn’t seem to have any plans of overcoming, does have a penchant for recommending good reads.

I came across a John Burdett novel called “Bangkok Tattoo” at the SM Booksale in Baguio,pretty much the only place you can find a John Burdett novel in Baguio. I had tried to look for one at National Bookstore and they didn’t have it. Then again, they’ve run out of the “Watchmen” comic books, so why did I expect more from them? I am looking for the Buffy Season 8 comic books but of course why the hell would I find them in Baguio? Good luck finding them at CID and Jet Bookstore, too!

So, the sardonic, cynical, morally ambiguous and ambivalent hero of the “Bangkok Tattoo” novel is the corrupt, co-owner of a prostitution club, Sonchai Jittlecheepeep (?) who, incidentally, also seems to have a heart of gold.

The plot: a series of seemingly random murders involving flayed victims slowly reveal that they are not so random at all. All of the skinned victims have been stripped of their awesome tattoos, and these tattoos seem to all connect to a beautiful, enigmatic Thai prostitute, who, in turn is connected to the genius Japanese tattoo artist whose signature tattoos were on the bodies that were murdered. Sonchai must solve the mystery and fend off a possibly polarizing situation since one of the murdered is a CIA operative, whose death is being suspiciously and deliberately linked to the Al Quaeda and the Moslem contingent of Thailand, of which Thailand has a lot of.

What makes the novel interesting: Where do I start? The fact that it centers on tattoos is one. The fact that the main character is a Thai is another. The fact that for a British writer, Burdett seems to have understood the Asian psyche well, but does not condescend is another. The fact that he has created a novel that is objective, but never moralizing, pedantic, preachy, annoying, offensive, but still manages to be thought-provoking is another. The fact that the main character, Sonchai, may ostensibly be cynical but deep inside yearns to be good is another. The fact that in this novel, Burdett has captured the consistent inconsistences and the peculiar merging of Eastern and Western consciousness seamlessly through the marriage of Buddhism and eastern mysticism and western materialism, along with poverty and prostitution and spirituality and sex and culture is another. The fact that while this may be a murder crime thriller (and a good one at that), it still manages to be entertaining, page-turning and riveting is another.

This is one awesome book you would like to have.

Made me want to get another tattoo actually.

Reading like a maniac: Reading “Grails – Quest of the Dawn” & John Burdett’s “Bangkok 8”

Just finished reading “Grails: Quest of the Dawn” (Martin Greenberg, Richard Gillliam and Edward Kramer, editors), an anthology of fantasy stories about the Holy Grail. Bought it because it featured Neil Gaiman, Jane Yolen, Orson Scott Card and who can resist Neil Gaiman? 🙂 Got stuck at Orson Scott Card’s Noah/Atlantis/The Great Flood novellete, but otherwise okay. The stories were pretty standard fare, but the stories towards the end of the anthology are pretty good. I recommend it to anyone who is crazy about Holy Grail stories.

I was actually alternating between reading Thoreau’s “Walden” and “Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance”, but got sidetracked when I spotted John Burdett’s “Bangkok 8” at the bookshop (along with Bitch magazine). So I am reading that instead. I must say, I am enjoying reading “Bangkok 8” immensely, so far.

More later.

Recession keeping you from buying new books or DVDs? Newsweek advice: Re-read your favorite books!

Taking the time to balance my viewing habits, wilfing habits and blogging with reading these days. Halfway through Che Guevarra’s totally recommendable “Motorcycle Diaries” and have caught up on newsweek.com, because the recent Time magazine (UK) issue leaves much to be desired and because it seems to be extolling the virtues of liberal capitalism – a bit weird considering we are in a global financial crisis that is the direct result of liberal capitalism.

Came across yet another article on newsweek.com that rhapsodizes on the joys of re-reading your favorite books, entitled, “Now, Read it Again (the Joys of Rereading)“, by David Gates.

The author, among other things, extols the virtues of re-reading, rather than it being “comfort reading” or being the childish indulgence of “obsessive repetition”,re-reading your favorite books is a guilty pleasure and comfort that provides endless challenge, complexity, newness and I suspect, the many different levels of interpretation it provides for the maturing reader, who may find different meanings in the text as he/she grows older.

The author surmises that the most re-read authors are Dickens, Shakespeare and Austen precisely because of the reasons he has set above. He even admits that he has read Dickens more than he cares to admit. Apart from Dickens, he likes to re-read Hemingway, Nabokov and authors who write about sports. He reveals that one can tell a lot about one’s re-reading habits: in his case, being white and straight, he likes white and straight testosterone-fueled adventure stories that involve a bit of bro-mance (Mr. Pickwick and Sam, Frodo and Sam, Sherlock and Watson).

Made me think about my re-reading habits. I don’t generally re-read Dickens – but that is because I’ve been made to read it as a child, although since I am on a mission to read as much Victorian novels as my attention span can permit, I will still read the Dickens’ novels I have not read yet. Shakespeare not so much as well, and Austen’s novels have been adapted to the screen so much I just choose which Austen cinematic heroine I prefer (nothing Keira Knightley please, a bit of Emma Thompson and Sally Hawkins is alright), although I have read most of her books and do like Mansfield Park most of all.

I think about what Gates wrote, reflect on what he has said and am surprised that he may be right afterall: our re-reading habits do say a bit about us and what we believe in.

And so while I do not indulge in the white male heterosexual re-reading habits the author has, I am not-so surprised by my own. For some strange, inexplicable (well,not so inexplicable if you think about it) reason I like re-reading Nancy Garden’s young adult novel, Annie on my Mind. I came across it when I was in college, and I liked it. I have, since then, re-read it many times. I also like re-reading Sarah Water’s “Fingersmith”, which is a modern take on Victorian London with a lesbian twist. I like going over my Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8 comic books as well. I remember I used to re-read Ray Bradbury’s “Dandelion Wine” and I loved going over choice parts of Joyce Carol Oates’ novels, and there is a particular short story of hers that I love re-reading. Tillie Olsen, Kate Chopin, Amy Tan are favorite re-reads as well, along with short stories about dragons and vampires. There is a Fil-Am short story entitled “The Smell of Her Sleep”that I love to re-read as well from “Tibok”, a Filipino lesbian anthology. And there is Kahlil Gibran’s “The Prophet” and Rainer Maria Rilke’s “Letters to a Young Poet”.

Looking back at my favorite re-reads, I notice a pattern: short, easy to read (that is not to say, simple or simplistic, just straightforward writing), modern or contemporary, about women (straight or gay),  dragons, vampires, a bit of the sci-fi, magical, poetic and philosopical. Which makes sense: for a person who is gay and is a woman, the gay re-reads are logical. For the interest in fantasy and sci-fi, it also makes sense: for a person who is perpetually, existentially the other, I would go for genres that discuss, explore and celebrate that otherness, and envision a more utopian world where otherness can be accepted rather than despised. Mere escapism, pure naivete, hopeless optimism? Who knows?

What about you? What kind of books do you like to re-read and what does that tell you about yourself?

Retro-mad comic book review: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 8 (Volume 1) “The Long Way Home”

https://i2.wp.com/www.seanax.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/08/buffy_season8.jpg

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 8, part 1 cover (Dark Horse Books, seanax.com)

A bit of digression (skip this if you want to get to the discussion of the volume itself):

Back in the day. When Buffy the Vampire Slayer (BTVS) debuted on TV in 1997, I was already 19 years old, in college, and was already too preoccupied with the business of keeping my grades up, securing a degree and my emerging left wing, feminist, radical, liberal politics to find the time to watch BTVS every week.  I was a member of the campus paper, coming out, trying desperately to fit in and was also on a regimen of reading at least one Jane Austen book per week (Please don’t let me explain that), so you can imagine that the first season of BTVS breezed by me without it failing to incite any urge from me, to watch it every week. Remember, I was part of the demographic, the generation for whom “A Different World” (yes, my memory goes that far), “Saved by the Bell”, “My So-called Life”,  “Degrassi Junior High”, “High School Confidential” and the ultimate teen show, “Beverly Hills 92010” (the original series, not the remake), was aimed at. I was having “high school TV show” fatigue. Plus I actually remember the original movie on which the TV show was based. It starred Luke Perry and Kristy Swanson. I was sick of Luke Perry and I was not interested in Kristy Swanson. I took one look at the poster,dismissed it as too camp,and ignored it. Anyway, then season two came, the famous season that kickstarted it all, when Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) falls in love with the vampire, Angel (David Boreanaz), and that got me hooked. In that one season, the series explored love, loss, conflict, suffering, pathos, the consequences of the decisions we make, the choices we have to live with, and the ensuing pain that comes with it. Buffy was a vampire slayer, the Chosen One, who, up until then, was a childish teen airhead who was a high school student by day and a vampire slayer by night. She did not stop to think about what she was doing, and the burden of being the Chosen One. Vampires were all the same with her and she killed them all with nary a thought. But she meets the vampire, Angel, and her world changes. He is older, more sophisticated, more cosmopolitan, but woe of woes, he exhibits a deep sense of humanity sorely lacking from other vampires. Buffy’s meeting Angel perplexes her – here is a vampire amongst vampires she was born and sworn to kill, and yet this is the one vampire that she seems drawn to, the one who, in the end, ends up loving her, and she finds herself falling for him as well. This culminates in the consummation of their forbidden relationship – the very thing that pushes Angel back into his evil ways. Buffy is thus wracked with guilt. The evil Angel, now Angelus, is bent on destroying the world, and since it is Buffy who has unleashed him, it is she who must destroy him as well. The climactic season finale, when Buffy and Angel/Angelus duel and right before she is about to slay him, he turns back into his old self again but the portals of evil had already opened and she has to make the choice between killing him or letting him live, has got to go down in horror/fantasy television history as the most heartwrenching scene ever. That was the hook that got me. BTVS became my guilty pleasure. And so, though my mom and I always fought about viewing rights and she came to loathe Buffy because it got in the way of her favorite telenovelas I always had the chance to watch almost every episode.  Through dodgy principals and mayors intending to take over the world, vampire slayers who go haywire and/or berserk, evil goddesses intending to take over all dimensions, the deaths and resurrections of Buffy, Frankenstein-inspired uber humans, evil geeks, heartbroken lesbian witches who just lost their lovers to evil geeks and countless apocalypses that the Scooby gang always manage to thwart, I stayed with them, rooting for all them. Buffy and the Scooby gang grew up with its intended audience (meaning, us) and I saw them coping with the same things I was going through in young adulthood: careers, jobs, and so on. And then Willow came out and that kept me even more glued to the show. I thought Joss Whedon was a frigging genius. Character development! Who would have thunk it? (something sorely lacking now). It was funny, it had smart one-liners and Whedon et.al treated us, the audience, like we were smart. Which we were.  As Buffy gained the loyal following, the devoted fan base that would catapult it into pop culture icon status, Buffy also gained academic validation in the growing number of previously non-fantasy/horror/teen TV show academics who found Buffy to be a very positive, feminist TV show.  That made me even more validated. Long after BTVS was cancelled, and a slew of crappy teen shows took its place, BTVS remained the standard with which other fantasy shows (at least the teen ones) would be measured against. Sadly, nothing could ever measure up to BTVS.

So, when I heard from afterellen.com that Buffy the Vampire Slayer had been resurrected as a comic book, I was overjoyed. Comics and Buffy – two of my favorite things in pop culture.It made perfect sense! So I bought the Buffy Omnibus Season 8, Volume 1’s “The Long Way Home” for a paltry ÂŁ10.50 (well, not so paltry, if you think about it) and settled back to read the first volume.

So here goes.

Plot:

“The Long Way Home” Part 1 – Part 1 picks up where Season 7 ends and it starts right smack in the middle of all the action. Buffy is now leading an army of vampire slayers (thanks to the spell she and the Scoobies made in the last season which made every potential slayer an actual slayer) to rid the world of demons. They are safely ensconced in Scotland, but have already expanded into other parts of the world. Dawn has turned into a giant, thanks to a thricewise and they are trying to find ways to turn her into a normal sized human being. Xander has stayed on with Buffy as one of her commandos, in charge of the command station as she patrols with her army. Willow, Faith, Giles are nowhere in sight. One of the bodies she had tried to save but failed to has a cryptic sign on it which, presumably will lead to whatever next nemesis she and her army will face. The US military has got wind of what Buffy’s army has turned Sunnydale into and is now on her trail. While poking around what was left of Sunnydale, they encounter an old Buffy enemy, Amy.

“The Long Way Home” Part 2 – Giles, Buffy and Andrew are all running slayer boot camps, where slayers are trained in the fine art of combat, strategy and Buffy iconography. As Xander probes into how and why Dawn has suddenly turned gi-normous,  he surmises that it is her abandonment issues that has pushed her over the edge. Buffy has been put under a spell, thanks to Amy and only the thing that can save her is the kiss of true love. Meanwhile zombies have attacked the Buffy fortress. Cue (favorite, self-sufficient geek lesbian witch) Willow, ready to take on Amy.

“The Long Way Home”, Part 3 – Buffy is still under a sleeping spell, stuck with Ethan Rayne, who acts as her guide. She is actually in dreamspace, and dreams of Angel, Spike,high school life and so on (a very intriguing concept, dreamspace: it means, in Ethan Rayne’s words, “You are always dreaming every dream you could dream all the time. Even when you’re awake, a part of your brain is stirring that brew. Which one you choose to remember in the morning is based on wishes, anxieties – in your case, your collective slayer memory and prophecies are mixed in as well”.). Meanwhile, Willow battles the aforementioned Amy, and succeeds in capturing her. Buffy is finally kissed, quite anonymously, by whoever is in love with her and she wakes up. Willow, Buffy and Xander savor their short-lived reunion before Amy succeeds in trapping Willow and teleporting them both into the military installation. Willow is captured, strapped down and being slowly lobotomized by Warren (the brains behind the evil nerd trio in that season when Tara dies), who, as it turns out was saved by Amy before Willow murders him (in that same season). The principalities (I just love finding a way to use that in a sentence) are protecting Willow from the worst of the onslaught and as she sees herself dying she sees all the possibilities of what she could have been dying, as well. Buffy and Satsu teleport to save her, and they defeat Amy and Warren and save Willow,but not before finding out what the cryptic sign from part 1 is. they discover it from the military officer ((who discovered both Amy and the nuked Sunnydale). The sign means “Twilight” and it is a group that has declared war on Buffy and her army of slayers. The military officer, a “Twilight” minion,  reveals that “Twilight” means a kind of movement dedicated to destroying Buffy and her “spawn”. She has upset the balance, has recreated the world and they are afraid that she is creating a “master race” and that eventually the evil within the slayers will take over and destroy the human race. Buffy destroys him.

“The Chain” (stand alone issue) – This issue tells the story of a slayer who goes into the dark underworld disguised as Buffy and battle the principalities. She is trained, and prepared for what is to come, but she is defeated by the demons all the same. Excellent issue that explores what it means to be the Chosen One as viewed by somebody other than Buffy, what it feels like to be chosen (like a punch in the face), the initial rush (“the power, the shared memories, the truth”), the idea of choice and truth, the power of names, identity, individual and collective memory, connection, the questions we ask ourselves our whole lives and ask again moments before we die, how fleeting, transitory and insignificant our lives are. This stand alone issue rises from its obscurity and while not addressing all these issues in detail, it does touch at the heart of what it means to be who we are. And it is at these moments when I realize how far comic books and fantasy have come.

Coolest things about this volume:

Parts 1 to 3 of Season 8, pick up, as I mentioned,where Season 7 left of and it addresses unanswered questions  left off from the cancelled series, such as what has happened to Buffy and her army? How will she and the world at large deal with a suddenly not so level playing field, where an army Chosen Ones exist side by side in one generation, slaying vampires? Where will Giles, already markedly growing more insignificant as the TV seasons progress and Buffy’s power and growing awareness grew, fit in? Where will Willow, Xander, Dawn, Kennedy fit in in this new riddled-with-slayers world as well?

Well, this series answers the questions quite neatly, which I am happy about. Staying true to what made the TV series popular in the first place, new and old villains arise. We have Warren and Amy for one (although I must admit I wasn’t looking forward to them – their evilness is soooo last season), and a new big bad, “Twilight” which seeks to destroy Buffy and her slayer army. And of course there is the trademark inner villain within each character that has made them so flawed and so loveable at the same time: Buffy battling with her demons in dreamspace, Dawn trying to deal with her abandonment issues, Willow off to somewhere to deal with her powers, Giles still being Giles and Xander being the human who always remains the fulcrum, the anchor of the group. and of course the introduction of new characters, Satsu and Renee (Xander love interest).

Buffyverse’s trademark wicked funny conversations and one-liners are alive and well in the comic book universe, as well as the action, blood and gore.

And of course,the one thing that makes Buffy Buffy is the opportunity for graduate school trained geeks like me (insert grin here) to look into these issues and find meaning and symbolism in it: questions of destiny, power and moral responsibility, control, women and power, morality (power that comes from evil that is used for good), the nature of good and evil, are all subtly spliced into the discussions. This makes for an interesting return to Buffyland and again it confirms my belief that popular culture, repackaged as postmodern fantasy, or fantasy as re-imagined in Buffyverse, to reflect the shared collective sub/unconscious of humanity is a valid form of cultural expression.

Verdict:

Totally a must-have. Like, right now. ^_^

Script: Joss Whedon, Pencils: Georges Jeanty, Inks: Andy Owens, Colors: Dave Stewart, Cover Art: Jo Chen, Dark Horse Books (2007)

Harper’s Island withdrawal symptoms…

Can’t wait for the next episode.  I know it sucks but I can’t help it.I’m off to watching Ghost Squad now. It’s actually way better than Harper’s Island. Too bad they cancelled it only after 7 episodes (Producers! Wankers! 🙂 ).

In the meantime, my book wishlist for best les/bi sci-fi fantasy books (meaning books I must read but can’t find and must find soon, since I am a sci-fi/fantasy geek and should be up to speed with this):

1. Ammonite – Nicola Griffith

2. Solitaire – Kelley Eskridge

3. Fire Logic – Laurie J. Marks

(For a full list of lesbian books you should at least have read – if you are interested,  there is a nice article about that in afterellen.com entitled “13 Lesbian and Bi Characters You Should Know“. I was happy that I knew most of them. ^^

Also, check out Rachel Stirling on “The Frank Skinner Show” promoting the BBC (?) adaptation of Sarah Water’s book “Tipping the Velvet” [actually hilarious that one. She’s exactly the kind of British person I’d meet on the streets. ^^ Now I know what “Tipping the Velvet” means. I don’t know if I needed to know that. For full interview, click here. Oh, and you have to check out this hilarious comparison of “Tipping the Velvet” and “Fingersmith” called “Battle of the Lesbian Miniseries“. Ah, the joys of the internet! To find like-minded gay geeks who have eccentric interests is such joy!]).