Saturday, December 19, 2009

Paradise Falls - Adventure is Out There

Adventure. What a wonderful word. Adventure is often associated with travel, a journey, although that need not necessarily be so. And journeys are often seen as a metaphor for growth, for life.

I'm revisiting Up! (see older post) because this film hits me at so many levels. And because it's the year end, when most human beings take a turn towards being more thoughtful and reflective.

This time, I'm focusing on one of the non-human characters in the film. Paradise Falls. Nestled deep within, and at the top of the Lost World.The real inspiration for Paradise Falls is the Angel Falls in Venezuela. It's nearly a thousand meters of unbroken free-fall, and thanks to the great height, much of the water never reaches the ground as part of a stream. Instead, it's vaporised, carried away by the winds before it reaches the base, and according to Wikipedia, the mist can be felt "a mile away".

My earliest memory of the Angel Falls is a photo, in an old children's encyclopedia (Lands & Peoples, from Grolier ..... I think). The photo, in black and white, features the falls in portrait mode, with a small aircraft flying in front of it. I've done a search on google images for this picture, but no luck finding it yet.

More recently, the Angel Falls was featured in the Freshwater segment of David Attenborough's incredible documentary series, "Planet Earth". The camera follows the streams that flow atop Auyantepui, over the edge, then turns backwards so we see more and more of the falls as the camera continues it's flight path away from the tepui. Throughout the series, Attenborough presents Earth as a system that is built up around and driven by the flow of energy, a system made up of living things and the physical aspects of the planet, and fed by the solar radiation it receives. Having this at the back of one's mind makes the viewing of the camera work, of the water plunging down through open space in the bright sunlight all the more exhilarating. That's a huge amount of potential and kinetic energy at work there.

In an enjoyable blog post by Eric Salituro (at, the writer points out that when studying a map, you'll notice that the falls clearly drain into a river at the base (Kerep), but strangely, there is no corresponding stream at the top of the Tepui. The water supplying the falls is the result of moisture from the clouds that enshroud the tepui, and there is well enough of it to generate it's spectacular result.
There's so much to learn, to discover, to see, to experience, to stir the heart. Adventure is out there. And inside.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

The Sandman - King of Dreams

Picked up this book (hardcover) by Alisa Kwitney from the National Library (call reference 741.5-973). It's something of a broad sweep of Gaiman's work on the monthly series, which ran from 1988 till 1996, and contains cover art, pages, quotes and a little bit of "behind the scenes" and "did you know" type information in the text.

Kwitney writes well. Good amount of wit, and a published author herself, she was one of several assistant editors at Vertigo who worked closely with Gaiman on the title. In Gaiman's introduction, he mentions that Kwitney's father is Robert Sheckley, an author of short sci-fi stories I remember enjoying greatly. Sheckley's stories had all the necessary trappings of sci-fi, but were infused with a relaxed style of intelligent humor, and the stories I remember best had a compelling build up of a problem that seemed impossible to solve, and then a clever resolution right at the end. I've not seen Sheckley's collection in the book stores in ages, but if you do find a copy, it'll be worth your while to pick one up. (and then mail to me as a gift)

Reading Kwitney's "King of Dreams" reminds me of how wonderfully enjoyable the sandman run was. I'm picking up new insights I missed in earlier reads - like when Morpheus dismisses Lyta Hall carelessly (after dismissing her "ghost" of a husband - the odd character Kirby did a few issues of) her posture is one of giving birth - and in this case, it's the foreshadowed birth not just of Daniel, but also a hatred that would lead her to the Furies in "the Kindly Ones".

I also found a quote by Death that I've been looking for. I thought I read it in one of the "Books of Magic", but here it was, in the one issue story "Facade":
When the first living thing existed, I was there, waiting.
When the last living thing dies, my job will be finished.
I'll put the chairs on the tables, turn out the lights and lock the universe behind me when I leave.
Another nice snippet of info was that one of Gaiman's early proposals to DC was to work on the Phantom Stranger, which was turned down and this resulted in the proposal for Sandman instead. My head is buzzing at what Gaiman was planning for Phantom Stranger - my first serious attempt at comic collecting began with the Phantom Stranger (by David Micheline), unfortunately just before the series was to be cancelled. The back up feature in that book was Black Orchid - which interestingly was the first work Gaiman (with Dave McKean) did for DC. While we're on the topic of the Phantom Stranger - look up Moore's take on the Stranger's origin.

This would be a good time to pen down a few "Top" Lists:

Favourite Individual Stories:
1-Midsummer Night's Dream
2-The Sound of Her Wings
3-Three Septembers and a January

Favourite Story Arcs:
1-Season of Mists
2-World's End
3-The Wake

Favourite Spin-Offs:
1-Death - the High Cost of Living
2-The Dream Hunters (illustrated version by Charles Vess)
3-Death - the Time of Your Life

I'm closing this post with a quote from Destruction, in a story within a story within a story (lost count of the recursiveness) - Petrefax's tale of the Necropolis Litharge tale from the inn at World's End. (which nicely recalls Douglas Adam's Restaurant at the End of the Universe)
It's important to have places like this. Once the spirit's flown and the spark of life has gone, then the rituals of farewell are needed. All the rituals we go through to help us say goodbye. You HAVE to say goodbye.
This quote makes me think of Departures. And on an almost cold december night in Singapore, with the ground soaked and the braddell insects singing over the drone of distant traffic on wet roads, this is perhaps a very appropriate thought.