The Stand by Stephen King…end of humanity?

The Stand is a post-apocalyptic novel revolving around the survivors after an outbreak of the “superflu” in America. Think of it like the swine flu, but way worse. Everyone who comes in contact with it dies, except for the few lucky people who are immune to it.  The survivors eventually end up following either Mother Abigail, whose society represents Christianity & democracy, or Randall Flagg, whose society represents an Antichrist cult & dictatorship. It’s basically a “good vs. evil” kind of book.

When I first saw The Stand at the library, I wasn’t sure if I really want to read a book over 1150 pages long or not, though I admit, I am strangely fascinated by stories that have to do with viruses. I have mentioned in my other post (Take that, Kindle!) that this is my very first “big book,” so I didn’t really know what to expect from it. Even when I read books that are 300 pages long, I would often feel that there’s already enough stuff going on. So with a book more than 1150 pages long, was it possible to make it interesting as well? Did Stephen King, one of the most famous contemporary authors, live up to the challenge?

With a curious mind, I decided to read the book. Here’s what I think of the beginning, middle, and the end of the book:

Beginning: Wow, just what I thought. The book does get draggy at times. I don’t like the fact that it’s going into every detail. I just want to know what happens next. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that it’s the uncut version. Oh well, it’s not bad enough for me to stop reading it. After all, there are hundreds of pages left…but it better get more interesting soon!

Middle: I cannot put the book down! I am actually somewhat glad that the beginning was draggy. It allowed me to know all the characters and feel for them. Because of the great characterization, the book ended up being insanely addictive!

End: The ending was meh…was I expecting too much since the middle was so amazing? Or does it actually have some deep meaning behind the ending, which I didn’t get? Or is it just a Stephen King thing, since I read somewhere that he rarely plans a plot when writing?

Nevertheless, I think this book is worth reading. It’s the journey that counts, not the destination. ^_^ The ending could have been better but I did enjoy most of the book.

It kind of makes me think about the possibility of the world ending like this. I feel that we have put ourselves on destruction mode ever since we decided we’re going to become more civilized. We decided that we don’t want to chase after our food. We wanted to control how much food we get instead,  and hence we went from foraging to farming. Because the people living next to you might not be the people you like anymore, we started having fights with each other. Over time, towns became cities, which then became countries. Our desire for control grew with the size of the population; We started to feel the need to control everyone that was not one of us, and we did this by destroying & taking over their land, resources, etc….our definition of civilization is having control.

“Always remember, Kojak, that control is what separates the higher orders from the lower.” 

So to accidentally release a virus from the military (which is what happened in The Stand) is not at all impossible. I wonder how will our react to it. If the “superflu” really did happen, will we see it as a global pandemic or just another over-hype made to gain more profit? Hmm…

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“This is a waste of time”


“This is a waste of time” is one of the most unhealthy mentalities I’ve heard. What’s worse is that there are people around me who say this almost all the time. They say they are not going to waste time from now on. They are going to be productive all the time. Yeah, okay. Good luck with that, because I have yet to see one person who is productive all the time.

Usually when we think of time-wasting activities, we think of activities like playing video games, or watching the television, but it has come to my attention that there are also people who think reading novels is a waste of time. Now that is just sad, which inspired me to rant and ramble about this.

The common trend I see is that if someone sees one thing as a waste of time, he/she will start viewing other things as a waste of time as well:

Playing video games is a waste of time because you are immersed in a virtual world that won’t be of use to you in real life.

Watching the television is a waste of time because it does not help you put food on the table.

Reading novels is a waste of time because how will knowing fake stories ever going to help you pass your exam? (unless you are taking English)

School is a waste of time because by the time you graduate, most of the stuff you learned will be outdated.

Going to the doctors is a waste of time because you are just going to get sick again.

Living is a waste of time because you are just going to die so why bother.

Anything can be a waste of time if you really think about it. But how is anything a waste of time if you enjoy doing it? I think that time spent doing something I like is hardly wasting time at all. Happiness, in my opinion, should be the top priority in life. If you hate your job, you are wasting your time going to work everyday because you probably have very little motivation to do your job well anyways. Listening to a lecture you don’t enjoy is a waste of time because chances are, you aren’t even paying much attention to it.

Then there are times when you have to do something you don’t enjoy because you have no other choice. But instead of seeing them as activities we don’t enjoy, I think that we should see them as activities that will help us enjoy other activities better. For example, if you keep on doing chores, you can do them better and faster, so that you will have more time for activities you like later on.

Studies have shown that video games improve hand-eye co-ordination, watching television can make us become more aware of different things, and reading fiction increases your ability to feel empathy towards others. So if there are two sides to everything, then why always pick the negative side?

I do think there should be a limit though. If an activity starts to take over your desire for self-improvement and goal-setting, then it is not time well spent.

What do you think? Where should the line between wasting time and being productive be drawn?

Take that, Kindle!

I blogged about reading The Stand several weeks ago. To think I would’ve finished it by now, but I am not. I keep on having love affairs with other books while I am reading it. Not that I don’t like The Stand, but it is just so hard for me to not start reading a new book because of its captivating plot. And when I actually start reading another book, I’ll still be in the same situation again where I’ll want to start reading yet another new book. Is anyone in the same boat as me here?

Nevertheless, I actually would want to start reading another lighter book while I am reading books like The Stand though. It’s going to give you some serious arm muscle training if you carry The Stand with you all the time. It has 1168 pages in total and it is the first book I’ve read which is over 1000 pages. Since it is my very first “big book,” it’s very special to me. Here is a side view shot of this beauty:

It is in times like this when I wish I have a Kindle (or any brand of e-reader in general ). I am considering buying it, but since everything is going electronic these days, I think that we need to be reminded of that feeling of holding an actual tangible object in our hands again. This is why I decided to spend last Saturday taking out my old photo albums and looking through them. I have most of my photos on the computer nowadays, but it’s quite a different experience looking through an actual photo album. It gave me that sense of comfort knowing that these photos will always be there forever.

I guess that’s the thing about actually owning the object rather than having it on an electronic device. My point is this: What if one day companies like Amazon shuts down? What will happen to the e-books? If you have the actual book, you know it will always be there and you can go back and reread it whenever you want.

As long as you can read the words, it doesn’t matter if it’s electronic or print, right? Wrong! Real books come in real handy in the most unexpected situations. For instance, I find that The Stand makes a great laptop riser because of its size. It was placed in front of a door to serve as a door stopper one time. It was also used to raise a tripod when I had to take some photos for school. Of course, you can just buy a laptop riser, a door stopper, and a bigger tripod, but I value the fact that when you need something, books will always be around to help you out when you need them.

And where would beautiful art like these be if it weren’t for printed books? These two are my favorite:

So for people who say real books will go extinct: Take that! Kindles may be light and convenient, but it can never replace the true value of a real book!

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

A heavy subject matter, and a very familiar story. It has no cultural or time restraints. We see re-enactments of The Grapes of Wrath everyday. “‘I’m learning one thing good,’ she said. ‘Learnin’ it all the time, ever’ day. If you’re in trouble or hurt or need – go to poor people. They’re the only ones that’ll help – the only ones.'” Steinbeck successfully captures the horror of the Great Depression and the conflict between the powerful and the powerless. I can definitely see why it’s considered to be a landmark of American Literature.

The Grapes of Wrath tells the story of the Joads family. The dust bowl has made farming unprofitable, so the bank forces the Joads to leave their farm. They decide to travel west, because money and work are being promised there. As we follow along on their journey, we see the hardships and oppression suffered by migrant laborers which are very common during the Great Depression.

The character that I remember the most is not Tom or Ma or any of the major characters in the book. It is a minor character named Noah Joad (which is probably a biblical reference to Noah and the Ark, since both Noahs have not been very well understood by other people). He is the older brother in the family and is seen as being strange and aloof in the book, because he does not share the major values and goals of the society. As the family reaches California, he finds something in the cool and clear river, something he can’t find in the society. He then decides to live by the river and catch fish for survival.

My interpretation of this is that he does not want to become the people who make money out of other people’s misfortune, like the cheating car dealers or Willy Feely. At the same time, after hearing about the starving people, he does not intend to be ranked as one of them either. His thinking is that even if all the poor people supported each other, the rich will still get richer, and the poor will still get poorer.

He can’t do anything about it and he can’t change the people, so he decides to go with what he believes in and live by the river, where a “Fella can’t starve”. Perhaps this takes just as much courage as characters like Jim Casy, who tries to organize a strike to prove his point. I mean, it takes a lot to even think about living by yourself without anyone supporting you.

Ever felt like walking your own path and letting the people talk, hoping that one day they might understand you? I think this is how Noah felt.

I really liked how the book ends. As I was reading the book I kept wondering how it will end. I figured it will probably “just end.” But Steinbeck is such a brilliant writer. He made my mouth go wide open in amazement and awe. The ending was beautiful.

I will definitely read this book again. If I read it after several years, I will probably see it differently than how I see it now.

What are some books that you will definitely read again in the future?

If you want something done, give it to a busy person

Hi! I haven’t been making posts for more than a week now. And I’ll be honest. I didn’t read much either this week because I had a lot of schoolwork. But something interesting that I noticed is that I actually became less productive despite the fact that I “gained” more time by not reading. I started to used the time to perfect things. When I devoted a part of my life to reading, I polished things instead. Maybe perfecting does give better results than polishing, but it slows everything down. I might have been able to get the same amount of work done even if I continued to read this week. Then I remembered a quote from a book I read a while back called Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. David Allen, the author of this book, wrote that “If you don’t pay appropriate attention to what has your attention, it will take more of your attention than it deserves.”  I stopped putting my attention on reading, which resulted in putting too much attention on other things. So I guess the saying “If you want something done, give it to a busy person” is true. The more things you have to do, the more things you will get done.

Reading is not just something you do when you have the time. If you commit to reading everyday, it will teach you a lot about discipline and productivity. I just picked up “The Grapes of Wrath” from the library. Now I’ll be off to reading again. ^_^

So are you a productive person? What do you do to stay productive?

Versatile Blogger Award!

I am really honored. And surprised as well, since I didn’t know such an award existed.

I am really delighted by the fact that people actually come to this little ambiguous corner on WordPress to read my posts. Thank you Michelle for nominating me! You made my day!

Update: Yay! I just got nominated again by Becky. Thank you Becky 😀

There are three simple rules to the Versatile Blogger Award. They are as follows:
1. Thank the person(s) who shared the award with you by linking back to them in your post.
2. Pass this award to 15 recently discovered blogs and let them know that you included them in your blog post.
3. List 7 things about yourself.

So here we go…

I will pass this award on to the following blogs:

7 things about myself:

  1. I live in Canada and my favorite thing about Canada is the spirit. I love seeing people gathering together and cheering for games and stuff. Canada also has the best potluck feasts because we are made up of many different cultures.
  2. My life has been pretty boring so far and I would like to start doing something exiting with my life…like bungee jumping!
  3. I find it really hard to pick a favorite color, or a least favorite color. I just can’t do it. I know it’s one of the most common questions to ask people, but all the colors in the world are just so beautiful. It’s hard.
  4. I am a really picky eater.  But it’s not that I don’t like certain foods, it’s just that they have to be prepared in the right way. For example, I will only eat eggplants if it’s the ground pork eggplant dish that a certain restaurant I know makes. If it’s the same dish coming from another restaurant, I won’t eat it. I guess you could say that I have high standards when it comes to food. I won’t just eat any food, I need to eat good food.
  5. I’m supposed to be doing my homework right now but I am trying to avoid the task by writing this…yes I’m a procrastinator…=P
  6. I listen to k-pop and j-pop despite the fact that I have no idea what they are saying.
  7. Actually I can understand some Japanese but not really. But this is something that I would like to work on and improve. I tried to learn Japanese online. So far I can pick out words and phrases when I am watching something Japanese (i.e. dramas and variety shows). I hope one day I could take a Japanese class to learn Japanese however that’s not my top priority right now. ^_^

Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson

 Set some years after Bonnie Prince Charlie’s failed rebellion in Scotland, Kidnapped is a timeless classic about David Balfour, whose uncle cheated him out of his inheritance and schemed to have him kidnapped and sold into slavery. A great majority of the story is about his journey in different parts of Scotland with his acquaintance Alan Breck Stewart. They have very interesting affiliations; the main one being that Alan is a Jacobite (someone who is unhappy with King George and hopes that a Stuart rules Scotland again), while David is a Whig (a supporter of the English Government). Several historical characters are included in the novel (such as Cluny Macpherson), though Stevenson is not aiming for historical accuracy and tells us that  “This is no furniture for the scholar’s library, but a book for the winter evening schoolroom when tasks are over and the hour for bed draws near.”

I picked this novel up because after reading the back of it I thought it would be about David coming up with some smart strategy to reclaim his inheritance. And to that, I was slightly disappointed because the inheritance part of the story is only the subplot. But Stevenson’s way of “building things up”  kept me reading. For example, there are so many things that lead up to David and Alan’s quarrel which makes it so real, not just all-of-a-sudden.

This novel is rich in dynamics and characterization. It is originally intended for young children. Sadly, young children today might find it a bit difficult to read, since it is written in Scots English. As for me, I didn’t read it with ease, but I didn’t find it really challenging either. Ay, I actually learned some Scottish words by reading this. ^_^

Though showing “buddy love” is very common in the past, it is not so common now. Nowadays, guys just “act cool” and show little care for their friends (though they probably care for each other on the inside). I actually don’t like that…What do you think?

Using Templates to Write Essays?

In the introduction to They Say/I Say: The Moves That Matter in Persuasive Writing, Gerald Graff and Cathy Birenstein talks about the importance of using templates in academic and persuasive writing. They believe that you can improve your writing if you use templates such as “What I am saying is not ___, but ___,” or “I agree with you that ___, and would even add that ___.”

I was a little bit skeptical about it. At school you might have learned about things like the basic model of an essay (i.e. the five paragraph essay structure), but never templates. I thought this would discourage creativity in writing so it made sense. How can you write like yourself if you are using a formulaic device developed by someone else?

However, this little book has made me change my opinion about this. By following the exercises in the book, it actually encouraged me to write what I would not otherwise write down. The templates in the book are a great help to me because I am often unsure of what to say. I tend to think all my ideas are self-evident and end up not putting enough of them on the paper. The templates prompted me to write down all these seemingly self-evident ideas that are actually needed in the essay.

This is quite useful for beginning writers like me because I have yet picked out enough  moves from people’s writing to apply it to my own writing. Even though it’s a short book, it is loaded with examples of what works and what doesn’t. I like how it has exercises at the end of every chapter which allows the reader to practice and apply the guide.

The book claims that it is still possible to carry out your personal voice with templates. After all, even great writers like Shakespeare learned to write through imitation.

If you are looking for a guide to academic writing, I recommend this book to you. 😀

Room by Emma Donoghue

I am not quite a fan of novels narrated in a kid’s perspective. They are interesting but they tend to be a bit too simplistic, so the novel must be very good for me to like it. Room is one of the few books that are narrated in kid’s perspective which I liked. Here’s the book trailer:

In the first half of the novel, the author tries to create a strong mother who’s love for Jack has allowed her to raise him under almost impossible conditions. The second half of the novel is about Jack getting used to the world.

I really liked Ma in the novel because she shows us what a mother is like. She tries to protect Jack from all the ugliness in the world, and she sets rules like making sure that he watches T.V. for only a certain period of time. But she is not a saint. Like all mothers she gets tired, there are days when she doesn’t want to get up and cook for Jack, but nevertheless Jack is her top priority in life even though she doesn’t show it sometimes. And that’s what makes mothers great!

This novel is really thought-provoking. Does stories like this only happen in books and not in real life because no one proved that there are indeed real life examples of this? Does miracles only happen in movies and T.V.? Lack of evidence to something does not necessarily make the contrary true. This book is not perfect, but it did make me think and see the world in a different way:

“But the things is, slavery is not a new invention. And solitary confinement — did you know, in America we’ve got more than twenty-five thousand prisoners in isolation cells? Some of them for more than twenty years.’ Her hand is pointing at the puffy-hair woman. ‘As for kids — there’s places where babies lie in orphanages five to a cot with pacifers taped into their mouths, kids getting raped by Daddy every night kids in prisons, whatever, making carpets till they go blind — ”

Random: Born in the Wrong Time Period?

Just something I’ve realized recently. I feel like I am not acting quite like the people in this time period. For example:

  • I wake up at 4 to 5 am for no apparent reason
  • I almost never watch the T.V. anymore
  • I read books for fun
  • More specifically, I really like books written a long time ago (classics) and I’d choose them over contemporary works
  • I deleted my Facebook because it somehow didn’t appeal to me (why waste time on this website just talk to your friends in real life)
  • Just stuff from the past fascinates me a lot in general (i.e. when I go to the museum or something)

Anyone else feel like they are born in the wrong time period? Do you find that you should belong to the past? Or even the future?

Btw, I’m currently reading Room by Emma Donoghue. I’m at page 50-ish atm and I like it so far. Love the fact that it’s told in a fresh and unusual perspective. Will write a review on it once I’m done reading ^_^.