Saturday, October 30, 2010

Writers are scary

It is October 30. What does that mean?

No, it does not mean that Halloween is tomorrow (though that is true, it's not the point of my asking the question). It means that the day after tomorrow, Nanowrimo starts. I'm starting to get that dreading feeling at the pit of my stomach since as of right now, 4:49pm on October 30th, I still don't know what my Nanowrimo will be about. It's not unlike the feeling that followed me throughout three years of university when I realise the next day I have to hand in a 2000 words essay and I haven't started the research.

Well, maybe not exactly like that. But I still don't know what I will write about. But that's ok, I don't have to do Nano this year. But I was just strolling around the Nanowrio forum and had a sort of epiphany.

Writers are scary.

This realisation has actually been coming on for a while now. But looking around the Reference Desk forum of Nanowrimo, there are some pretty twisted research that writers do.

All in the name of research, you, as a writer, can ask perfect strangers on the internet to tell you things like how they felt when they were raped, how a wife would kill her husband but set it up as a suicide, whether there are ways to get illegal stuff past airport security, how to hide a body or to create a new identity to hide away from the police. And people will reply to your question with posts that are so detailed that they are practically novels themselves.

I swear if a real criminal ever go onto a writers' forum, he seriously would get some foolproof ideas.

Of course, I myself have at certain times Googled things such as how to kill someone with acupuncture, where to stab someone to kill them as painlessly and quickly as possible, and complications in pregnancies.

You know, on the bus stop near where I lived in Sydney, there used to be an ad from the Ministry of National Defence or something, encouraging people to report suspicious going-ons in their neighbourhoods, with hints like if you see your neighbour do suspicious searches on the internet, you should report them. Considering I did do some of these search while I was still in Sydney, I'm glad no one ever thought to check the internet searches of a random international student. As for the last search on pregnancy, however, when you live at home with parents the last one is not something to Google when there is a chance of someone standing behind you reading over your shoulders. 

Friday, October 29, 2010



In summary, the SDSR outlines 8% cuts to the British defence budget with
the Royal Navy reduced by around 5,000 personnel, the British Army by 7,000, the RAF by around 5,000 and civilians reduced by around 25,000. Even the Telegraph admits that the MoD got off lightly in this months round of public sector cuts. RAF Kinloss in Scotland will close and Tornado fighters at Lossiemouth will transfer to the UK in a somewhat half-hearted bid to centralise and consolidate the strategic distribution of airbases around the UK. Other RAF bases may be 'repurposed' for use by the other armed services, and the massive MoD training site proposed for St Athan, Wales, is on permanent hold. All of which means that there will be very little difference to the overall size of the defence estate

Monday, October 25, 2010

Mutant plot bunny and what became of it

There is nothing that could excuse the - ahem - story that is coming up, except lack of sleep and over-indulgence of caffeine. I can only say this, if you are a Twilight fan and happened to stumble on this, I hope you won't be too offended because none was meant. If you have no concept of Twilight references, well, what rock have you been hiding under? :P Anyway, if you really don't get Twilight references, this won't make a whole lot of sense.

Disclaimer: No copyright infringement intended. I'm not making money off this. Xiao Yan Zi and Er Kang belongs to Qiong Yao, Twilight references belong to Stephenie Meyer and the utter pointlessness of this piece belongs to me.

~*~

Everything around her smelled like freesia. Or maybe it was lavender. It made her mouth water.

About three things Xiao Yan Zi was absolutely positive.

First, there was no way flowery smells could make one's mouth water. Flowers were not food, no matter how it sounded like flour. Even then, flour on its own wasn't particularly appetising either.

Second, no one could confuse the smell of lavender with freesia. They were two completely different scents.

And third, she wasn't unconditionally and irrevocably in love with a vampire.

But as it was, this wasn't reality, therefore, the world smelled like lavender. Or freesia. And it made her mouth water. As for the vampire? Well, she was pretty sure they didn't exist, even in a world where freesia and lavender smelled the same.

She was seated the front seat of a shiny silver Volvo, though she was not sure how she knew that, considering she was inside the car and normally wouldn't be able to tell the make of one car from another to save her life. She was not sure who was driving, but the car was moving ridiculously fast, going over hundreds of miles an hour. Logic would dictate that it was impossible for a car to move that fast on a Beijing road, but apparently, the driver (whoever they were) were just that good of a driver and had awesome reflexes. Of course, logic would also dictate that it didn't matter how awesome a driver was and how fast his reflexes were, no car could possibly move faster than the car in front of them on a straight road without eventually causing an accident. Still, the car and its driver defied logic.

Xiao Yan Zi looked over just to see who the driver was, and for a moment, all she could do was blink. It was not the sunlight shining through the window that was stopping her from seeing. She was temporarily blinded by the way the driver's skin sparkled, literally sparkled, like thousands of tiny diamonds were embedded in the surface.

As her eyes adjusted to the impossible refractions of light from smooth skin, she recognised who was sitting beside her in the car. It was Er Kang. She supposed in that halo-like glow of sun and sparkles around him, she should think he was some kind of god, an angel, too glorious to be beside her. But the only thing she could think of doing was laugh hysterically at the idea of Er Kang sparkling in the sunlight like he just poured a bucket of body glitter over his head. She bit her bottom lip to stop herself from laughing, hoping his hearing was not too acute to detect the laugh still bubbling up from her lungs, and that he could not read her mind.

He drove silently, not looking at her. She, on the other hand, could not seem to keep her eyes off him. Perhaps it was because he sat so perfectly still, like a sculpted statue, despite the fact that he was driving at break-neck speed. Or maybe it was because his scintillating arms were totally bare, glinting in the sunlight, as they stretched to grip the steering wheel. Still, they didn't speak to each other. She supposed usually neither of them were particularly verbose. Was that the right word, verbose? Didn't that mean that a person had the tendency to use unnecessary long, complicated words? She wished she had a dictionary to check, because if that was what verbose meant, it wasn't the word she was looking for. She actually was looking for a word that meant talkative. Well, why couldn't she use talkative then? Yes. Neither of them were talkative to each other, normally.

Xiao Yan Zi didn't know how long they drove with that impossible speed, but the next thing she knew, they stopped at the edge of a forest.

Wait. Forest? In Beijing? Huh?

Had they gone out of Beijing, already? Even then, this didn't look like anything anywhere near Beijing. She was chagrined. But could she deny the unfamiliar forest that was sprawling in front of her eyes? No, it looked too green to someone so used to the bustling city. An alien sight, impossible to ignore.

Despite the fact that she was now out of the car, the world still smelled of lavender. Or freesia. She still couldn't decide. And did she eat anything that morning? Because for some reason, the scent of flowers still made her mouth water!

Er Kang was out of the car too, sparkling more gloriously than ever now, so that Xiao Yan Zi had to squint to look at him. A normal Xiao Yan Zi would wonder why she was standing in the middle of nowhere alone, beside a car she didn't recognise, with Er Kang. Not that there was anything wrong or untrustworthy about him, really. No, on contrary, she knew she could trust Er Kang to keep her safe anywhere, but to actually be out alone with him was just...bizarre.

He grabbed her hand and pulled, nearly dragged, her with him into the forest.

Think: Fu Er Kang was dragging her into a deserted forest that she didn't even realise existed.

With chagrin, she wondered to herself why she didn't feel any panic. He was moving way too fast, and she could not keep up, but it didn't matter, because a moment later, Xiao Yan Zi realised that he was actually carrying her on his back, while running at break-neck speed. She felt like a monkey on his back, gripping his shoulders with all ther fingers spread out like spider legs. But that was the only way she could ever keep up with his awesome, unbelievable and godlike speed and strength. She wondered how it was possible that she was moving at the speed of a charging bullet and somehow didn't hit her face on anything in the dense forest, or even more likely, go deaf from the pressure pushing in and the wind whislting in her ears.

Finally, they reached the top of the mountain (what mountain?) so that now the sun was shining fully on them, and Er Kang's face glittered even more blindingly than ever. He turned to her, with an expression that she thought was meant to be menacing and fierce and brooding like that of a Byronic hero. But because this was a face that was glittering like diamonds in the sunlight, Er Kang's expression only made Xiao Yan Zi wonder whether he was just depressed. Then again, if he was, she could hardly blame him, a man as he was, sparkling as he was. 

Then he said to her, in a voice that was meant to be self-loathing, but just sounded bored and depressed, "You should stay away from me."

Xiao Yan Zi thought this was an odd thing to say, considering he had dragged her here, and told him so. He, however, ignored her and continued as if she had not spoken. "You are my life now. But you should stay away from me. Do you see this? THIS IS THE SKIN OF A KILLER!"

For a moment, Xiao Yan Zi could only stare at him. Yeah, sure, so he was working in law enforcement, but as far as she knew, Er Kang had never actually killed anyone. So what was he on about? And since when was she his life?

"What are you talking about?" she asked.

Before the last words had quite made it out of her mouth, Er Kang had grabbed her by the shoulders and pulled her closer to him. His grip was like steel, so it was a wonder that every bone in her arms wasn't crushed, and he held her so that their faces were almost touching.

"I love you," Er Kang finally murmured.

Xiao Yan Zi gasped and struggled out of his grip, and shouted, "Are you on drug?"

"No, I've imprinted on you, and the impriting magic in me tells me to choose the best partner to carry on my genes and that's you, so now I'm in love with you. It doesn't matter that I've been in a relationship with your best friend and sworn sister for the last two years and I was going to marry her! I love you now. Because it's magic! Why are you not saying you love me back? Why are you not submitting to me?"

The last bit came out like a wolfish howl.

Xiao Yan Zi was terrified now, because Er Kang looked livid. He claimed to love her and yet at her rejection, he looked livid, demanding that she submit to him. That was enough reason for her to want to avoid him like a vampire now, since no decent guy would be angry at a rejection. Disappointed, sad, yes. Angry, not. But it didn't matter, because for Xiao Yan Zi there could only be one answer. If Er Kang said it was magic, then he was the one under a spell, not her.

"I will never love you," she shouted.

Er Kang howled even louder, and sudddenly, there was an explosion of fur. The next thing Xiao Yan Zi knew, sharp claws flew at her; she tasted blood, and then everything faded to black.

~*~

Let's face it, it's a Twilight reference galore so if you haven't read the Twilight series, most of this will just sound like a really badly written short story. I just want to explain use of characters in this "crossover fanfiction".

Xiao Yan Zi and Er Kang are characters from a Chinese TV show called Huan Zhu Ge Ge, which was very popular in Asia about ten years ago. It created a mania all over Asia, not unlike the phenonmenon that are the Harry Potter and Twilight series today. And now, ten years after I first watched the series on Vietnamese television, I am still writing fanfiction for HZGG (and apparently, people are still reading them).

So what does all this have anything to do with Twilight, you ask.

Well, nothing.

HZGG is set in China during the Qing dynasty, in the 1700s. So in terms of timeline, it has no relation to Bella, Edward, Emily, Sam and Leah. However, as I write fanfic, at times I find myself bored and/or stuck with the period setting, so I started writing a modern day version of HZGG, where instead of shooting her with an arrow, Yong Qi nearly runs Xiao Yan Zi over with his car. And because Xiao Yan Zi now lives in the 21st century, she naturally reads Twilight after being persuaded by Yong Qi's little sister. Being a history major, she is appalled at the historical inaccuracies in the Twilight series (rich banker in America in the 1930s, anyone?) and promptly goes into a rant. I started writing a chapter where Xiao Yan complains to Yong Qi about Twilight, but it soon became like an anti-Twilight rant disguised as HZGG fanfiction, so I scraped that chapter. But then this mutant plot bunny came into my head instead, begging me to write it and here it is. It is a collection of some of the things that made me laugh in Twilight, for all the wrong reasons, and the end is what I think Emily should have done, but probably what would happen to her if she continued to refuse Sam. 

And I'm sorry, Er Kang, you're not my favourite character in the world, but you don't deserve this. Please don't hold me responsible for this.  The mutant bunny made me do it.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

“Phuong” was hard enough, how the heck is a foreigner supposed to pronounce “Fwong”?

In Vietnamese, there is a colloquial (and rather slangy and offensive) saying, “ngu rồi còn tỏ ra nguy hiểm”, which literally means someone who is stupid but pretending to be dangerous. It refers to somebody who talks about a matter that he absolutely does not understand in a way that is supposed to show off his knowledge on the subject but in reality just shows how ignorant he is. I have rarely seen anything that deserves that above title more than this article (it’s in Vietnamese).

This was originally published on Dan Tri, a web portal positioned towards increasing education in the population. Ironically, this is a portal that frequently publishes articles with grammatical errors, so I wasn’t too surprised that it actually published something so incredibly…stupid. But that’s another story. This above article just gets on my nerves because it shows how the author doesn’t understand both the Vietnamese language and Latin-based languages.
                                                                                                         
The general point of the article was calling for a revision and revolution of the whole Vietnamese alphabet and spelling system because the current system is “too complicated for nothing”.

The author claims that the current Vietnamese alphabet with letters that do not exist in the English alphabet (for example, đ, ư) makes it harder for Vietnam to integrate with the world. Yeah, say that to the Chinese and the Russian.

He also claims that the Vietnamese language is “wasting” letters F, J, W, and Z by using “PH”, “GI”, “Ư” and “D” respectively to represent sounds created by the former letters. He also claims that we are messing up “D”, which is normally pronounced “Z” in (standard) Vietnamese (“French/English D” is actually written as “Đ” in Vietnamese) while as a mathematical notation, “D” is still pronounced the “French way”.  Ok, so I will give him that it can be baffling to understand why the rest of the world pronounce D one way and we Vietnamese pronounce it in a completely different way and invent another letter to represent the sound the rest of the world uses for D.  However, just because it doesn't necessarily conform to the rest of the world, does it mean we have to change it? Where’s the cultural distinction in language then? Why don’t we just turn around and speak and write English if we want to pronounce it their way? (For the record, the French pronounces “I” as “ee” which is the letter “E” in English, so who’s wrong? Hehe.)

He also claims the lack of F, J, W, Z in Vietnamese can make it confusing for students learning maths and natural sciences which do use these letters. So? How is that different from learning to write squiggly Greek sigma, omega, mu, nu, which are, in fact, even harder to write properly than F, J, W, Z (theta, not so much)? Should the rest of the world incorporate these Greek letters into their alphabets now to cater to the maths language?

What gets on my nerves most is his suggestion that we replace Ư with W. Why? Because in Vietnamese there is one case where we use W to represent the Vietnamese letter Ư in an abbreviation. One. Oh and because on the Vietkey typing system, you hit the letter W on your keyboard when you want to type Ư.

Erm…dude? W is a consonant. Ư is a vowel. Just think on that for a minute.

If according to his “conversion”, then Phương, a very very common name in Vietnamese, would now be written Fwong. This is hilariously ironic.

Phuong is a very difficult Vietnamese name for many foreigners to pronounce. I have rarely, if ever, heard a foreigner pronounce it right on the first go. They usually pronounce it…wait for it… Fwong. Which is WRONG! That’s not how you pronounce it! I can’t write down phonetically how that name is pronounced, but the English pronunciation of Fwong is absolutely and 100% wrong. And here, this guy is suggesting that we change the spelling of that name to Fwong. Surely, let’s do that and then start to wonder why no one ever pronounces our name right.

I won’t go into how impossible it would be to place Vietnamese accent marks on a W.

The author of the article also has a vendetta against the letter combinations “GH”, which in Vietnamese is pronounced the same way as “G” and “NGH” which is pronounced the same way as “NG”. The use of these “silent H” combinations depends on some very simple grammar rules that you learn in about…grade 2, if not younger (I learnt it and I only went to Vietnamese school until grade 3). The author proposes we eliminate the “GH” and “NGH” combinations. I may consider the idea properly if he actually had a decent reason for this proposal. Instead, his reason is “so we don’t have to confuse for no reason over whether to write “ngành ngề” or “nghành nghề” or “nghành ngề” or “ngành nghề” .

FYI, it’s “ngành nghề” (career).

Basically, his reason is that it requires him to think and so it’s not worth it. Yeah. Just announce to the world that you can’t grasp basic, primary school grammar, why don’t you.

His conclusion is we don’t need to make our language “complicated in a stupid way”. The way this guy writes this, he apparently thinks other languages is written so simply and exactly as it sounds. He fails to realise that Vietnamese is one of the least complicated languages in terms of spelling and grammar. Once you grasp the rules of spelling, you can pretty much spell almost anything. By the time you are in grade 3, you should be able to spell perfectly, even if you have no idea what you’re spelling means. There are no such thing as “spelling bees” in Vietnamese because the sound you produce when you speak is exactly what you put down on the page. Spelling, in Vietnamese, in a concept for very young primary school students. In fact, Vietnamese, with all its “redudant” letters, is a language where if you know how to pronounce a word, you will 99% of the time spell it correctly (or at least you will spell it as you speak it, so if you mispronounce, you will also misspell). Unlike English. Colour, anyone?

The thing is, Vietnamese teenagers today need no help from this guy in corrupting our language.  The Vietnamese brand of textspeak already contorts the written language so that it almost becomes a code, already doing what this guy suggests and eliminating the “GH” and “NGH” and replacing letters with “F” etc. The result is that eventually they will carry those textspeak habits over to their academic writing, and heaven forbid, one day, my friends will be called “Fuong” instead of “Phuong”. Kind of like how “thru” is making its way to be a legit word in the English language.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The rainy season is here...

I like rain, if I can be inside and listen to the rain pattering against the window and feel the cool air through said window if it doesn't rain hard enough to have to close the window. But when it rains in Hanoi, I begin to miss Sydney roads. Water may come up to my ankle on the UNSW Main Walkway and the wind will render any umbrella useless, but at least it's just water and it's clean. I don't think there's anywhere you can go in Hanoi in the rain that will not result in mud covering your shoes. (Future reference to self, new Converses do not make good shoes in the rain.) Seriously, where is all this dust coming from that the moment it rain, it has to become a mudslide on the road?

There's a principle to riding a motorbike in the rain in Hanoi, that if you are riding next to a car (or even just another bike) you might as well go straight into a puddle yourself. If you go into the puddle, and you go slowly enough, you can probably avoid getting splashed. If you avoid the puddle, the vehicle next to you will splash you, no matter what. 

I'm not sure what it is that other people get to eat that I don't, but there are apparently some obvious facts about traffic that just escape some Hanoians.

1. If you are stuck in traffic on a two way street, going into the lane going in the opposite direction will not solve the problem, it's only going to make the traffic jam worst.

2. If you are stuck in traffic, blowing the honrn non-stop will not help. It will only give people around you a headache. 

The mentality behind some people's inability to grasp the second fact, especially, just baffles me. To avoid a rant, I will just say this: Vehicle horns should be banned on the streets of Hanoi. Whoever invented this thing obviousy didn't consider people's ability to abuse it.

My boss tells me I'm the only Vietnamese he knows that can't ride a motorbike. Sometimes looking at the roads I travel on everyday, I don't have to wonder why. Bleh.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

New Huan Zhu Ge Ge - *Facepalm* plot points that will ruin the remake for me

Ever since Qiong Yao announced the remake of Huan Zhu Ge Ge, I've angsted enough over the wtf were they thinking inappropriate casting, the ugly poor costuming and make up, non-existent lacking chemistry and the fact that there is a remake at all. By now I've pretty resigned to the cast et al, and if it ever comes out in Viet-sub or Viet-dub I will probably still end up watching it just for the laugh, but I know I won't enjoy it. Just what I know of the plot at this moment is already enough for me to headdesk so many times that it's a wonder I don't have a massive bruise on my forehead.

DISCLAIMER: This post is only correct as far as with the information I had at the moment of writing this. New information of the remake had since come out, though it does alleviate certain fears, it doesn't make the remake sound any more attractive to me.


1997 vs 2010


(Of course, a lot of this is speculations building on just hints of the plot, but Qiong Yao plots aren't that hard to guess...)

1. Benjamin

Let's get some facts straight here. HZGG takes place in Qian Long's court in the 1700s. Qian Long was notoriously famous for his attitude towards foreigners. He thought China was the centre of the universe and all other countries, especially those "barbarians" in the West, were inferior. So there is no way in hell that there will be a Western painter in his court, much less that said painter (Benjamin) would be allowed to hang around the palace often enough to become best friends with Yong Qi, Qian Long's favourite son (which was also a fact, not something that Qiong Yao made up!) and chatting up his daughters. (Oh, let's stick a Caucasian guy playing the violin the middle of Qian Long's court!)

Yo, baby, you wanna go out with me?

I could pass off Benjamin's existence in this remake under artistic suspension of disbelief, but Qiong Yao practically ruined that chance with a blog entry announcing her reasons for including this Benjamin character. It was because she met the actor who played him at a party and was so astounded at his ability to speak Chinese fluently that she decided to write him a part in the remake. 

Yeah. That's a stupid reason, as far as I'm concerned. It's like the writers of Ly Cong Uan - Road to Thang Long writing in a part for Joe Ruelle just because he speaks good Vietnamese. Ok, the comparison is a little unbalanced, considering Road to Thang Long is a more serious production than HZGG, but still. The reason for Benjamin's existence is still stupid. 

There's a rumour somewhere that Xiao Yan Zi speaks English in this remake as a result of Benjamin being there. Please, no. Just, no. She can't even speak Mandarin "properly", why would she learn English? Wouldn't she be better off learning Manchurian anyway? 

2. Xin Rong 

Apparently Qiong Yao is determined to make me hate Yong Qi and Xiao Yan Zi. Why? Because she invented this Xin Rong Ge Ge out of nowhere. And according to released information, Xin Rong is a typical lady of the court, a favourite with both Yong Qi's mother and grandmother. Yong Qi's mother also arranged a marrige between the two of them since they were children.

That's right. Yong Qi is engaged. Yong Qi is engaged to Xin Rong, and in comes Xiao Yan Zi. 

Somehow, somehow, Yong Qi and Xiao Yan Zi will end up together, regardless of Xin Rong. And I'm pretty sure with Qiong Yao writing this, Xin Rong won't simply back off just because Yong Qi is in love with Xiao Yan Zi. Oh no, it will be love triangle galore a la Qiong Yao. 

If they stayed true to character, this triangle would then be impossible. 

(1) Yong Qi has to know he has an arranged marriage to Xin Rong

(2) If he knows this and still makes a move for Xiao Yan Zi then he's a jerk, thus out of character. (If he knows this, falls in love with Xiao Yan Zi and angsts silently but doesn't take action then Qiong Yao is wasting her time because the plot will then not move.)

(3) If he makes a move for Xiao Yan Zi and fails to mention Xin Rong and the arranged marriage then he is even a bigger jerk. And when Xiao Yan Zi finds out she should have no problem dumping him. 

(4) If he makes a move for Xiao Yan Zi and does mention Xin Rong then there is no way Xiao Yan Zi, in her right mind, would accept his feelings, let alone return them. A more appriopriate reaction (that is, if she was in character) would be to slap him and tell him to shod off. No, Xiao Yan Zi will not care he is a prince.  

But seeing how we know that Yong Qi and Xiao Yan Zi will end up together, we know that (1) and (2) will happen and (3) and (4) probably will not. So now we have a love triangle of Xiao Yan Zi-Yong Qi-Xin Rong. Woohoo. Not.

 It doesn't help that the actress who plays Xin Rong is a lot prettier than Li Sheng who plays Xiao Yan Zi. Haizzz

I have written love triangles with Yong Qi and Xiao Yan Zi in fanfic before but both times it was in reaction to the way Qiong Yao writes them in HZGGIII. As far as I'm concerned, Yong Qi and Xiao Yan Zi have enough problem without love triangles getting in the way. The difference in their social positions, upbringings and character alone creates a myriad of problems enough to last a lifetime, even before you pull in the whole Romeo-Juliet factor of her father opposing the Emperor and thus was executed for treason. 

I don't need Yong Qi to prove anything by giving up Xin Rong to be with Xiao Yan Zi. He already proved that he would give up the throne for her, how would Xin Rong compare to that? I don't need Xiao Yan Zi to prove anything by choosing to be with Yong Qi despite of Xin Rong. I don't need a love triangle to believe in their love story, to believe that their love is real. Why can't Qiong Yao realise that it was Yong Qi and Xiao Yan Zi themselves that charmed her fans all those years ago, to the point that we still care enough today, thirteen years later, to feel outraged at this sudden development? 

Not to mention, if Yong Qi has a prior engagement, that means Xiao Yan Zi is "the other woman". This is the 18th century, people. Engaged = practically married. I am not watching HZGG to see Xiao Yan Zi waltz in and steal someone's husband. 

And I will bet anything that somehow along with all this, Xin Rong will be portrayed as evil/the antagonist. It doesn't matter that she was there first, it doesn't matter that she's only going to try to take back what was hers to begin with, she will somehow come up with crazy schemes to win Yong Qi back and that will be considered evil. Why? Because Xiao Yan Zi is the title and main character of course.  

If she doesn't do anything to win Yong Qi back she will end up this pathetic, pitiful girl who is weak and then shoved together with some random guy who just happens to hang around in a contrived romance to get her off Yong Qi's hands. 

I'm not sure which would be more painful to watch. Both scenarios would be so typical Qiong Yao.

And then there's a rumour that Xin Rong hangs herself. If that happens, I will cry. If that happens, I will want to kill Yong Qi. But I don't think even Qiong Yao could make that happen (touch wood). Still, the end result will probably be like a combination of Elinor Dashwood-Edward Ferrars-Lucy Steele and Leah Clearwater-Sam Uley-Emily. I can only hope somehow Yong Qi and Xiao Yan Zi will retain some of Elinor and Edward's dedency. Either way, Xin Rong will end up with the most pain, which will make me hate Xiao Yan Zi and Yong Qi anyway. Thanks, Auntie Qiong Yao, for ruining your two best characters for me. 

3. Love Triangles

Even more love triangles. Or polygon. Or something. 

You would think that love triangle up there with Xin Rong is complicated enough, but Benjamin has to be in love/has a crush on Xiao Yan Zi too. Huh?

Seriously, do either of these guys look like they're in love, or is one just leering at her, and other just staring off into space? If they're this unconvincing in a photo, how painful will it be to watch in motion?

My biggest question is, What's the point?!

Qiong Yao proclaim to have changed 70% of the plot but she can't very well change the established relationships, not if she wants to keep viewers. We know all Xiao Yan Zi will do is act like her normal clueless self and somehow lead poor Benjamin on but will end up with Yong Qi anyway. 

Huan Zhu Ge Ge is not a love story. Let me repeat that, Huan Zhu Ge Ge is not a love story!

It's a story about Zi Wei looking for her father and all the complications along the way, which just happens to include both her and Xiao Yan Zi falling in love. The point of it is not romance. And that's what made HZGG so successful, that's why people still talk about it today, when all other Qiong Yao work has sunk into the backdrop. It's about more than just Qiong Yao's normal melodramatic, over-the-top, it-doesn't-matter-if-the-whole-world-is-falling-apart romances. 

4. Yong Qi's mother

When I heard that Lin Xin Ru was playing Yu He, mother of Zi Wei (the character Xin Ru herself played in the old version), I laughed and wondered what on earth she was thinking. Does she want to be associated with HZGG for the rest of her career? (That is already happenning anyway, but wouldn't the normal course of action would then be to try to get out of that typecast?)

When I heard that Qin Lan was playing Xiao Yan Zi's mother, I headdesked because of the bizarre and baffling casting choice. I think it's totally inappropriate that the actress who played Xiao Yan Zi's love rival in Part III of the old version should turn around to play her mother in the remake. But I could live with it, since it was only a guest role. And guest role usually meant walk on, do a scene, walk off. 

But then they casted Yong Qi's mother, Yu Fei. I don't know the actress. But my problem was not with the actress. It's with the fact that Yong Qi has a mother at all.

In the old version, Qiong Yao killed Yong Qi's mother off while in history she really lived to be 79 years old. Ok, so now she's alive and it's historically correct. But does that mean that Qiong Yao will be able to really kill Yong Qi off at age 25 too to keep it totally historically correct? 

We all know what happened at the end of HZGGIII. Yong Qi left his family, the palace, his title, the throne to live as a normal person outside the palace with Xiao Yan Zi. Already, as it was at the end of HZGGIII, I have major problems with this decision. Looking beyond the romantic gesture, he's abandoning a lot. His father, his son, his responsibility, his people. There's more to being an Emperor than just getting a huge inheritence of money, there's a chance to do something good for the country and he's giving that up. But ok, I get it, Qiong Yao was restricted by the historical fact that real, historical Yong Qi died at age 25, so in fiction, she has to make him leave so that the palace could announce his "death". 

But now add his mother to the list of things he's abandoning. The decision suddenly becomes 100 times worst. 

Qian Long has a lot of sons (well, not really, by that time he doesn't have that many left alive). But still, without Yong Qi, he still has his choices of sucessors. But Yu Fei only has one child. Yong Qi.

Qian Long doesn't like Yu Fei, however Yong Qi is his favourite son. Her only source of comfort and protection in the palace therefore is her son, Yong Qi. 

And what does he do? He falls in love and runs off with Xiao Yan Zi. Yu Fei must accept what the rest of the world is led to believe, that he "died". And we wonder why Yu Fei might not like Xiao Yan Zi?

I don't care if it's true love. I don't care how bad it was in the palace for Xiao Yan Zi. If Yong Qi does this, I will cry. Again. 

I would like to think that Qiong Yao would not make Yong Qi so heartless as to leave his mother in the end. But the fact that Qiong Yao already let Yong Qi leave his own son at the end of HZGGIII does not assure me. 

This is where I hope desperately that the 70% that Qiong Yao decides to change of the plot includes how she will "finish off" Yong Qi in the end. Like maybe kill him off for real. I really would rather he dies for real, and somehow that pulls Xiao Yan Zi and Yu Fei closer together or something, than that he leaves the palace for Xiao Yan Zi, abandoning Yu Fei (and Xin Rong...and who knows who else too?). I mean, seriously, there has to be a way for Yong Qi to love Xiao Yan Zi and not be totally bất hiếu (bu xiao) in the process! 

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I guess after all this rambling, the point is that Qiong Yao is falling way, way, way back into her zone of comfort. That is, melodramatic, saccharine, shiver-inducing sweet romances with lots of tears, love triangles, jealousy and implausibility, where romantic love is the only thing that matters in life and should triumph over everything, literally. She even admits it on her blog, that this will be "the most romantic love story of the Qing dynasty era!" In Qiong Yao talk, that means I won't like it. 

The old version wasn't without flaws. The old HZGG did many times go into Qiong Yao realm of melodrama but still, the cast made it enjoyable. Most of the new cast don't even look convincing in their part, so I don't know what we will end up with when we put them in this new plot. Wait and see, I suppose.

Am I being overly pessimistic about this remake, despite professing myself to be optimistic? Probably. But I won't lie. Half of the success of the old version for me was due to the cast, so with the new cast, it was hard to be convinced in the first place. Then comes the plot summaries. They don't do much to make me curious, just enough to make me cringe. But you never know, someone who has never seen the old version might actually like this version. Either way, lots of people will watch it, whether I like it or not, whether they like it or not, just simply to see what they come up with.

Meanwhile, I am back to hoping that the HZGG Subbing Team will come around to doing English-sub for HZGGII.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Today seems like a good day for Nanowrimo...

...but wait, it's not November yet.

Well, I suppose autumn weather has finally showed its face in Hanoi, when calendar autumn is already half gone. For the first time since early last spring, I suppose, I was cold as I opened the window to check the temperature outside since the wind was blowing the trees every which way.

Well, maybe cold isn't really the right word, even for Hanoi standards. Cool is probably more accurate. It was only cold when you've just got out of bed at 7am in the morning after having gone to bed at midnight the night before (I need my 8 hours and this was one short) on a Friday and ten minutes earlier, you were still in bed contemplating the pros and cons of calling in sick when you've just came back from a one-week leave.

But seeing as I am writing this at work, I did manage to drag myself out of bed and get to work.

Still, standing on the bus, it occured to me that today would probably a good day for Nanowrimo. That is, a day of not wanting to go to work, sleeping in, getting up, turning on the computer, starhng at computer, doing various other forms of procrastination like cleaning up the closet, reorganising computer folders, checking mail and various other things that may or may not need to be checked on the internet. And I suppose in the middle of all that, some writing would get done.

It's such a perfect Nanowrimo day. The sky is gloomy outside, it's going to rain any moment, it's much warmer inside curled up with a cup of tea.

But it's not November yet. And work awaits. More's the pity.

I wonder if I can still blog in English?

I used to blog. That was back in...what, 2008? Yup, that sounds about right. I don't remember any proper blog entries that exist after uni first year, first semester Accounting exam. Which, for the record, was a disaster. But I l already told that story and you missed it.

Right now, I can't remember off the top of my head why I deleted that blog on Xanga. Could be a combination of things. Considering that blog spanned my last two years of high school and first year of uni, I suppose one good reason could be that I just got sick of myself complaining about IB and school in general. Venting was good. But venting about school exclusively on a blog bored both myself and people unfortunate enough to stumble on said blog.

Considering nowadays I blog (or write entries/diary) all over the place, including but not limited to Facebook notes, DAN, emails to myself, Word documents that eventually end up in the Trash, it suddenly felt like a good idea to have a blog again. Besides, Nano is coming up. This may come in useful as I attempt (or not) to win Nanowrimo again this year.

Will anyone read this? Probably not. Then again, what's new about that? It's not as if anyone ever looks at the Word documents I send to the Trash.

Nowadays, I write those entries mostly in Vietnamese. This is a slightly weird phenomenon because...well, for a variety of reasons. Being the TCK that I am, I think in English, at (most) times find myself expressing myself better in English, and don't consider myself to be as fluent as I should be in Vietnamese (both in writing and speaking). Yes, in case you are going to ask, I am born Vietnamese, live in Vietnam for a large portion of my life, but English schooling and nurture does do a lot to affect your language instincts.

I write 100k-word fanfictions in English but the idea of writing the same in Vietnamese is impossible. And yet lately, I blog in other places in Vietnamese. Well, they are not long entries by any means, but when I start typing, it's Vietnamese that comes out, slightly unconsciously. Is it just because I was posting these entries on a Vietnamese forum? Perhaps.

Whatever the reason, I miss blogging in English.

And here's another sign that I should probably start blogging again. I've been IMing too much, because as I'm writing all this, I find myself missing Yahoo emoticons. I should be able to express myself without them, darn it!