Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Da Vinci Code

It has been quite a while since I last read an English novel. As far as I can remember, probably since my younger days with Enid Blyton... Moonface, Famous Five, Hardy Boys and the like.

Towards the end of our Laos trip, I have a whole day of airport transit and time in-flight. So while in ChiangMai, Ah Jun and I went to the Gecko Second-hand Bookstore to grab some books. With Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code gaining so much sensation these days, I decided to read this book for myself and see what the hype is all about.

My loupo told me nowadays SPM English is quite difficult, and students are given assignment to write a synopsis of famous English novels... Robinson Crusoe, Animal Farm, Jungle Book etc. Here's my very brief synopsis of the Code, for those who have yet to read the book.

The theme surrounds two forces which have been in conflict since the days of Christ. On one side, the Church, particularly the Roman Catholic church. On the other, a secret society which goes by the name Priory of Sion, which holds an age-old secret that is so powerful that it could rewrite Christian history and bring the whole Christian church to collapse; the secret is summed up in two words: Holy Grail.

Our hero, Robert Langdon a Harvard professor of symbology, and his heroine FBI agent Sophie Neveu entered the story when the Grand Master of the Priory of Sion, who happened to be Sophie's grandfather, the last person who knew where the Holy Grail lies, was brutally murdered in a renowned art museum in Paris. Before he died, he managed to pass them the secret in a string of codes and riddles, beginning from hidden meanings in Leornado Da Vinci's famous paintings. Unfortunately, an overzealous French FBI agent boss named Fache assumed those guys killed the old man, and went after their heads. And so it began a series of cat and mouse chase, with more riddles along the way as our hero and heroine race against time to discover the truth of the Holy Grail. The plot thickens with assumptions that Christianity was a man-made religion, where Jesus was said to be nothing more than a famous leader, whose divinity was decided upon by a political council; and the Christian faith assembled from various pagan beliefs in that era. It tells of how the Church selected only Gospel books and letters that exaggerated Jesus' divinity, compiled them into the Bible that we have today; while eliminating other records of Jesus' very normal human life. The purpose: to gain political power by establishing a Church which dominates every aspect of this new 'faith'. From then on the world was lead astray into becoming a male-dominated world, and the sacred feminity lost it's original dignity. The truth, or the Holy Grail secret, claims that Jesus actually married Mary Magdelene, and they had children, and their bloodline continued till this day and age. Outrageos? Dan Brown doesn't think so. He splattered across his book lots of evidence from ancient till today that supports the Holy Grail secret, including hidden symbols in Leornado Da Vinci's famous paintings... just that we didn't notice them.

Enough for now, lest I spoil your fun of reading the Code.

What makes the book so popular, I believe, is that the story evolves around something close to the heart of the Western society: the Christian faith. Here we have a book which shouts that this faith is just a man-made propoganda, and Jesus nothing more than a famous leader and family man. Adding to that, the author's revelation of various evidences which made it seems that secret may be true after all.

A passage from the book that I particularly like... " ... history is always written by the winners. When two cultures clash, the loser is obliterated, and the winner writes the history books - books which glorify their own cause and disparage the conquered foe. As Napoleon once said,'What is history, but a fable agreed upon?'. By it's very nature, history is always a one-sided account." Sounds very true, looking at the Buku Sejarah that our students read nowadays.

Thank you for reading my English revision assignment. Sorry for the lousy English.

My that Loas trip

While I am catching up on my rest, my friend (a.k.a. Pastor) Jun has got into action and blogged about the highlights of our brief adventure in Laos / North Thailand. Click on his blog name on the right column and read on.

Haha, so I dun need to cerita already lo. Just show the pictures la.

Comparing the pictures that we've taken, I find that between the two of us, despite being on the same route, eating almost the same food, living in the same room and seeing the same things, our attentions were caught on to pretty different things. And so was our intepretations what we encountered. Jun's photos are mainly on scenery and architecture, while mine include more of the people and their culture (hehe coz I have a bigger SD card). Jun made good photos with his Point-&-Shoot Nikon Coolpix S1 digicam.

The Last Communist

I have been reading with much interest and amusement on what has been going around this recent movie/documentary by a Malaysian. I must say, I am thoroughly sickened by the 3rd-class mentality of some of our so-called leaders and YBs.

If you dunno what I am talking about, follow this link, and the comments that follow: Screenshots: Jolly good governance. Stories like this will probably be buried by the mainstream media and their political masters. The alternative media (free media?) in the Net has many stories that will open your eyes to the other side of the issue. Read with discretion and an open mind though.

Being Chinese I was always advised... if it doesn't concern you, dun bother, close both eyes. Yet I dread to think about where our disappointing leadership is heading our country towards. Will there come a day where I am not even allowed to watch my favourite Stephen Chow comedies because they are banned for containing 'foreign elements unsuitable for local culture'? Impossible? Think again.

I don't intend to dwell too much into the Malaysian political scene. Enough to say that I am so proud of what the enlightened Sarawakians have done with their votes recently.

And no I have not seen the movie/documentary myself. Now that it is banned, err... how lah?

* updated 24th May 2006 : The story just got more amusing. Read here. Now we have top government officials who can't differentiate between single political-party decisions and government decisions. Then again, probably they are synonyms, that one political party = government.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Back from Laos / North Thailand

Our Laos trip has been tiring but pretty wonderful. There were some minor hiccups on the schedules, but THANK GOD things fell into place and worked out well in the end. 'Expect the unexpected' is the backpacker's mantra, especially so when travelling in a poorly developed country like Laos.

In summary...
Sat - flew from KL to Bangkok, took night train Bangkok to ...
Sun - ... arrive in NongKhai. Into Laos. Reached Vientianne, on to VangVieng.
Mon - arrived in Luang Prabang.
Tue - walking in Luang Prabang town.
Wed - morning boat-ride to PakOu caves, afternoon dip in KuangSi waterfalls.
Thu - slowboat to PakBeng.
Fri - slowboat to HueyXai.
Sat - into Thailand via ChiangKong. Overland to ChiangRai then ChiangMai.
Sun - morning flight ChiangMai to Bangkok. Afternoon flight Bangkok to KK. Night drive KK to Tenom to see my loupo.
Mon - back to work. On-call lagi. Need to earn money to finance my next trip.

More stories and pictures up soon, after I've catch up on some rest.

* the pic was taken in Lane Xang street in Vientianne (capital of Laos); the nicest road we saw in Laos.