Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Alice in Dopeland

Have you ever sat and watched an animated movie you've seen a million times and thought you knew it all by heart, to suddenly watch it years later and discover a whole new level of meaning to it? Disney's Alice in Wonderland did exactly that for me.

Technically, 'Alice in Wonderland' is not the intellectual property of Disney of course; it was written in 1865 by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll. What I would really love to know is, how was he inspired to write this amusing novel! His real name alone is rather 'dodgy'!

Have you ever noticed how 'Alice' wanders off into a wondrous land where she seems to be hallucinating, seeing things, hearing things, etc.? The only way she could get from one place to another, or one size to another, is through eating some sort of magic mushroom and various other questionable objects.

My favourite character has to be the bong smoking caterpillar, who is so insistent on his pronunciation and adamant that Alice pronounces words ek-zac-t-ly correctly! The Cheshire Cat of course, who 'isn't all there', is another character made infamous through this animated version. The 'Mad Hatter' who has taught us that you could always take more but could never take less, not to mention that it's always all right to celebrate your unbirthday everyday. Or the mad queen and her army of cards; or the numerous characters that seem to be smoking all the time; the symbolism is endless. Seriously, if this movie isn't about how becoming a druggie is grand, then I don't know what would be a better way of portraying it!

Is it a coincidence that one of the synonyms of the meaning of 'Alice' is 'to be high'?

The only character that seems to have both paws on the ground, is the hurried Rabbit, who's constantly late for something, I'm assuming reality!

Friday, 7 August 2009

Isn't it Ironic?!

Alanis Morisette’s lyrics sprung to mind as I was reading a news entry on a news website, about a woman who is suffering from MS and how she won her battle in court for her right-to-die.

Debbie Purdy won her court case and was described as ‘ecstatic’

when she heard the ruling. Her p

hotographs that splashed on the newspapers’ front pages confirmed this, depicting her looking very ‘alive’. As if she had won a right to live.

‘I want to live my life to the full, but I don’t want to suffer at the end of it.’

In case you haven’t picked up on the ironic part yet, it stems from the protagonist of this story herself. Despite her affliction and determination to end her life, this woman has gone many great lengths and jumped through even greater hoops to reach this life defining moment. She might even say, that the moment she heard the ruling, was the best moment in her life. That perhaps she never felt more alive.

Was she ecstatic because of her success or because she was going to die? People aren’t often described as ‘ecstatic’ when they find out they’re about to die.Even those who would have imagined death as a merciful ending would still hang on to dear life. If a genie would grant anyone a wish, it’s very unlikely that anyone would wish to die today! In fact, most would wish to live forever and have an endless supply of granted wishes!

Imagine what Debbie Purdy could achieve with that same sense of determination and perseverance that she displayed in order to reach her ‘dead end’. What if she did the same to achieve something for herself and other MS patients in the world? A cure perhaps. After all, she just proved if you want something bad enough, you’ll get it!

Sift through more stories of the day on the news, and you’ll come across a poignant story about an admirable brave young mother of 2, suffering from Locked-In syndrome. Michelle Wheatley is photographed between her two beautiful happy children whom she has not failed to nurture and care for despite her illness. Entombed in her own body, yet she found the will and the way to communicate with those around her for the sake of her children and her beloved supportive husband, and has managed to be very much a lively and significant part of their lives. The only muscles she is able to move, are her eye muscles.

Flip again a few stories back in June of this year, and read the story of the Putticks’ fatal suicide jump from a Dover cliff after reportedly being overwhelmed with grief and agony at the death of their 5 year old son Sam, who died after a long struggle with paralysis, meningitis, and finally lost his battle with pneumonia. By the mere age of 5, this child had suffered more than most of us suffer in a lifetime, yet all his photos depict a beautiful, smiling, hopeful mesmirising boy the world would have idolised in admiration.

At the tiny age of 18 months, Sam was involved in a car accident that left him paralysed from the neck down. His parents quit their jobs and dedicated their lives to supporting him full time and raising money to buy him the equipment and medication he needed. His feeble body was an easy prey to meningitis, then pneumonia at which point he couldn’t fight any longer. But he died with the dignity of a soldier who stood bravely in the face of battles. Ironically, his parents couldn’t display such bravery. They packed his corpse along with his favourite toys in their rucksack and leapt to their deaths a couple of days after he died.

As compassionate human beings, we could only begin to imagine the magnitude of their sorrow. But how different the outcome could have been if they had chosen to live. How much power they would have had to help ease the pain of many other Sams in the world who suffered from spinal injuries. If they had devoted their lives to continuing what they were doing to help other children in his memory; Sam’s memory as well as theirs would have lived on forever. I cannot help but feel that Sam’s enchanting smile has been lost; that his purpose in his short yet precious life has been extinguished by his own parents; and all his suffering and theirs has gone to waste.

It is true that we come to this world involuntarily, but the second we arrive we clutch our fingers into fists as if to capture everything around us. Ironically, in our final hour, we lay on our death beds with open palms, letting go of everything we ever owned and everything we ever fought for, yet with no regrets (hopefully!).

Life is precious and fragile. Observe its fragility in a blossoming rose that dies hours later, and observe its preciousness in how that same single rose can symbolise how much one life means to another, whether it’s placed in their hands or on their tombstone.

We write our own life stories, and unfortunately we write them in pen. Therefore, it takes a high degree of bravery and faith to take risks, commit to responsibilities and dedicate ourselves to hope. To lose hope is to fail as humans; we fail ourselves and those around us by doing so.

We must learn from Sam how to find the courage within us to continue our battles in life even when the battle gets ugly; learn from Michelle to continue living even if we’re hanging on to life by a thread; and learn from Debbie Purdy that with determination and perseverance we can achieve anything.

And as Alanis Morisette delicately yet shredly puts it:

And well, life has a funny way of sneaking up on you

And life has a funny, funny way of helpin’ you out

Helpin’ you out.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

A Book Review - The Gargoyle

Not usually the kind of book that would entice me, eyeing me from a bookshelf, but let's just say, it was 'an act of fate' that I came across it, purchased it, and took it home.

This is Andrew Davidson's first novel which made an intriguing and compelling read right from the start. It's quite unlike anything I've read before and the subject matter reflects a mind that appreciates the diversity and complexity of the universe. Davidson is clearly au fait with the literatures of the world which has helped him develop a new fusion of narrative that coalesces the Persian Shahrazad's 1001 nights seductive story telling with the medievalist European chronicles. I realised when I finished the novel that I didn't even learn the main character's name, even though he was the narrator! Surely I couldn't have been that absent minded that I missed it!

As the tale unfolded, I admired how Davidson attempted to convince his reader that this could have possibly happened; however, the plot-holes were easy to pick out and that rapidly killed the novel for me. But the Persian-like romantic mini-stories that were told in the tongue of Marrienne to entertain her lover were the sweet fruit of the novel. Nonetheless the romance between Marienne and her lover left much for the romantic heart to desire; albeit the single romantic paragraph towards the end of the novel.

Having been fortunate enough to have read most of The Arabian 1001 Nights  in Arabic, I felt a sweet familiarity when reading the mini-stories provided by Marienne albeit the huge difference in the craftsmanship. For those who are romantic suckers like myself and don't mind the cheesiness or corniness, you will want to race through the book just to enjoy Marienne's tantilsing tales.

Despite the disappointing resolution, the plot-holes, and the darkness of the narrator's soul, I enjoyed reading the novel, particularly that it introduced me to a whole new world I wasn't familiar with but had been curious about; namely Hell. I would happily recommend it to anyone who wants to read something quite dark and different. But be warned: like eating a sausage roll with low-fat mayonnaise, you will not be completely satisfied, and you'll be left with a burning, yet disturbing, desire to read Inferno