Sunday, 28 November 2010

Sanderson's toh and other open items

Now that I've reread the Towers of Midnight and skimmed through some of the earlier volumes - all except The Great Hunt and The Path of Daggers, it occurs to me that the final book will still have to be enormous, for there are still several dangling plot threads. Reading ToM again also makes certain issues with the writing and characterization more visible.

First, the problems. Sanderson needed a good proof reader. The number of spelling mistakes, typos and punctuation errors are way higher than they should be for a published novel, especially one that has a critical fanbase.

The second problem is one of timelines. The Gathering Storm and Towers of midnight mostly cover parallel plots, except for those of Rand and Egwene, which means that the Perrin plot is way behind. That leads to some confusion – as Rand had his moment on the mount by the first chapter of ToM, but Tam leaves Perrin to go to Rand several chapters later.

The other thing is that the book has to zip from plot point to plot point, without pausing for breath. While plot advancement is absolutely vital at this point, there are sections where things drag. Elayne’s jockeying for stability in Andor and the throne of Cairhean could have been cut by several pages. Egwene confronting secret meetings of the sisters was unnecessary, except maybe to tell readers of her total MarySuedom. {Oh, how I despise Egwene}

The other thing is that there a few things off. Setalle Anan's conversation with Mat in the Boots chapter is terrible, as is Mat’s speech about boots. Then there is the fact that Setalle Anan doesn’t seem to know that Elayne is the queen of Andor, or know Elayne at all, despite being “the one who is no longer” who grabbed Elayne and Nynaeve by the ear to the Kin in aCoS. And Mat tells Moiraine that Morgase is dead, even though he met Perrin who described his adventures until they arrived at Caemlyn.

One other worry I have is the sheer number of things that can be covered in aMoL   

  • The Fields of Merrilor confrontation between Egwene and Rand
  • Olver, Talmanes and the battle for Caemlyn
  • The Seanchan attack on Tar Valon
  • The Loghain/Taim face off/ the black tower storyline
  • Lan and the Malkieri in Tarwin’s Gap
  • The red veiled killers
  • Padan Fain and the dark prophecy
  • Aviendha and the Aiel future
  • Cynfear in Tel’aran’rhiod
  • Dealing with Slayer
  • Breaking open the seals (or whatever it is that Moiriane has to do to make Rand victorious)
  • The last battle itself

Over and above this, I would like to see Rand’s reaction to Moiraine’s reappearance – and Nynaeve’s too, for that matter. I want to see the 13x13 trick and how its handled. I want to see the Mat/Tuon reunion. I want to see how the damane and adam are handled after TG. And what Avi does to prevent the destruction of the Aiel future.

Of course, it would be nice if Egs gets her butt kicked, but that would be asking for too much.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Mixed Up Music Log

Sometime in the mid 1970s, my father bought a Philips record player. It was the size of a small suitcase, with a single speaker that worked as the turntable cover. The first thing I heard on it was Rajaji’s voice, a commentary to M.S’s Bhaja Govindam. This was the beginning of something like a ritual. At 6:00 pm, my mother would switch on the courtyard lights and my sister would put a new record on the turntable. Agarbattis would be lit and the faint scent of sandalwood would waft thrugh the hall. All the stuff we played was devotional. There was Baja Govindam, Lata Mangeshkar singing the Geeta and Meera Bhajans, the Vishnu Sahasranamam and my favourite, Kurai Ondrum Illai – the last two sung by M.S again.

Kurai Ondrum Illai was a piece composed by Rajaji, and I still get goosepimples when I hear M.S singing it. I have never been able to get Carnatic music, I can never identify a raga or a tala. But MS singing Kurai Ondrum Illai can still make the tears flow.

That summer, my aunt and her son brought with them a bunch of records of English songs. The only other “English” music I had heard was an LP record of nursery rhymes, eminently forgettable. This was different. The first record she played for my sister and me was something called “Usha Sings for  You” by a woman called Usha Uthup. I thought it was horrible. There was a song called “Oh Sinner Man”. There was another called “Brown Girl in the Ring” and when she sang the line “show me your motion”, we would all crack up with laughter. There was another group called Abba that we all liked. Athai had two discs – one was called Arrival and the other was just called “Abba”. My sister, the resident “Western Music” expert, told us that Abba was named after the two guys and the two girls in the band. Two of them are married, but the other two, she said, with a dramatic pause, are living together. I think she was disappointed with the lack of reaction from us.

So, anyway – it was these guys for a while.

Technology was moving on as well, and we bought our first casette tape player, a blue and white Grundig sometime in the early eighties.

I started off trying to make tapes of my favourite movie songs, and one of the first I recorded was this one

A time when the hero could smoke and no one bothered

And how can anyone who has lived in Madras in the 70s and Eighties forget this number…

Kamal sings, Rajni trips and is that my school principal's husband next to Srividya?

And the smokers anthem

Jagame thanthiram, sugame mandhiram

That was the time when one of my cousins went abroad – the first member of our family to do so. It wasn’t the US. It was the gulf. Saudi. His job was not a demanding one, but it paid a great deal.

Gospel

I used to hero worship Ravi. He knew movies and  music. The movies I had seen up to that summer of 81 were very general – movies that the school organized – like Benji and Treasure Island (the Robert Newton version). Ravi took me to “The 36th Chamber of Shaolin” and “Mackenna’s Gold” and “The Spy Who Loved Me”. He would talk about Alistair Maclean and Arthur Hailey and Ian Fleming, sitting on the roof of his house, where all the teens of that street would gather to talk about girls or fly kites. Ravi brought back hundreds of cassettes. Boney M, Blondie, The Police, groups I had never heard of before. He knew all kinds of things as well. He would tell me who Rasputin was, as the song played in the background. He would talk about the Bible, and what the song “Rivers of Babylon” was about. He was the one who told me that the singer for Blondie had been in Playboy. When that didn’t mean anything to me, he told me about Playboy.

So Cool

In 1983, I moved from the junior school to the main school. A week before school began, students were expected to turn up to pick up the textbooks, notebooks and registers for the year. On that day, I saw a class XII student wearing strange earmuffs. I learnt that it was a tape player, called the walkman. I managed to get a listen to it. The sound was stunning, like someone playing music in my head. I wanted one. Badly.

The eighties were beginning to kick off.  The market for Western pop was soaring. There was a magazine called Sun that carries  mini posters of pop stars – maybe they modeled it after Smash Hits or

I used to take my father’s transistor radio and sit on our roof in the evening. Every Thursday at 5:00 Ray McDonnell  would count down the US top ten singles and albums.  Then, at 5:45 pm was the UK top twenty countdown on  BBC World Service. The Beeb was always cooler than boring old VoA. Their top twenty countdown did not play full songs, just snatches, except for the weeks Number 1 record. But there were many songs, one hit wonders, lesser known groups that stuck in my mind. There was this

A good song by an ugly guy - was the way I remember this being described

and this

I think Laurence Olivier had something to with this

and who can forget this song’s nine week run as the UK number 1.

I kept wondering who the black cat was

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Odds and Ends

I love this. Its been on Xbox Live, but this is the first time I really noticed.

Season 3 Music Video

And it’s been plugged by the Jossman himself – who says that they were primary influences on Dr. Horrible

And there’s this

Season 4 Music Video

Just finished reading the new Percy Jacksonverse book by Rick Riordan. “Heroes of Olympus The Lost Hero”. Quite nice, combination Bourne Identity and Greek Myth. It tracks an amnesiac demigod called Jason, with his friends, Piper and Leo as they try to save Hera/Juno from her kidnapper and prevent the rising of the giants. Good fun.

Friday, 12 November 2010

More WoT the F**k happens?

Further thoughts on Towers of Midnight.

The Shadow Prophecy

Lo, it shall come upon the world that the prison of the Greatest One shall grow weak, like the limbs of those who crafted it. Once again, His glorious cloak shall smother the Pattern of all things, and the Great Lord shall stretch forth His hand to claim what is His. The rebellious nations shall be laid barren, their children caused to weep. There shall be none but Him, and those who have turned their eyes to His majesty.

In that day, when the One-Eyed Fool travels the halls of mourning, and the First Among Vermin lifts his hand to bring freedom to Him who will Destroy, the last days of the Fallen Blacksmith's pride shall come. Yea, and the Broken Wolf, the one whom Death has known, shall fall and be consumed by the Midnight Towers. And his destruction shall bring fear and sorrow to the hearts of men, and shall shake their very will itself.

And then, shall the Lord of the Evening come. And He shall take our eyes, for our souls shall bow before Him, and He shall take our skin, for our flesh shall serve Him, and He shall take our lips, for only Him will we praise. And the Lord of the Evening shall face the Broken Champion, and shall spill his blood and bring us the Darkness so beautiful. Let the screams begin, O followers of the Shadow. Beg for your destruction!

-from The Prophecies of the Shadow

OK, the first paragraph is general gloom and doom. The nations already lie barren, except around Rand. Their kids already weep.

The second paragraph is where the meat begins.

Mat with Ashendarai and Hat

The One Eyed Fool is obviously Mat. Travelling the Halls of Mourning could be the Tower of Ghenjei - and probably is, but you cant really be certain.

There's been speculation that the First Among Vermin is Ishidin, but my money is on Fain. He fits the vermin tag better. But, the First Among Vermin "lifts his hand to free "him Who will Destroy" - so does that mean that Fain destroys the remaining seals, thereby forcing Rand's hand? Does Fain prevent fighting between Rand and Egwene? Ta'averenosity making Fain do this? There’s another school that believes Rand is the “First Among Vermin”, echoing Lews Therin being the “First of Servants”. My bet is Fain, however.

Perrin and Egwene, fleeing from the Ravens Fain with ruby dagger

The Last Days of the Fallen Blacksmith’s Pride.  The Blacksmith is Perrin, but the “Fallen” bit could be anything. It could be his “Fallen Pride” – and a reference to Perrin’s refusal to consider himself anything other than a blacksmith. It could refer to the wolves that travel with him – though its a pack that travels with him, not a pride. It could be Morgase, Lini, Tallanvor and Galad – all Andorans.

The broken wolf- multiple possibilities here. One is Hopper – who is broken – killed in tEoTW, thus becoming “One who Death has known”. But its unlikely that Hopper’s death will cause “fear and sorrow to the hearts of men”. Only Perrin grieves for Hopper. The next possibility is Rodel Ituralde. Great captain, nicknamed “The Wolf”. His death would mean that a number of Domani would grieve, even Bashere’s Saldeans.

And there is  Lan. The first Badass we see in the series. All round cool guy. “The Golden Crane flies for Tarmon Gai’don”. And “I may be a king without a land, but I am still a king”.  Nyn’s husband, Rand’s tutor, Moinraine’s warder, Dai’shan. His death would cause all around grieving and tie in nicely with Min’s vision of Nynaeve weeping over a grave. It would also tie in nicely with the vision of two men lying dead surrounded by ranks and ranks of Trolloc corpses.However, the  “shall fall and be consumed by the midnight towers” part is a bit iffy. I can’t find anything that clearly ties Lan as being the “One who Death has known”. The only ones whom “Death has known” are Mat, Aviendha and the late Master Natael. Unless of course, it’s not Lan, but Slayer we talk about here. “One that death has known” – check; “Broken Wolf” possible; “Fear and sorrow in the hearts of men”- if they thought Isam was Lan, it is possible. But odds are on it being Lan.

“Fall and be consumed by the Midnight Towers”. Unlikely to be the Seanchan towers of midnight, but the remaining Forsaken – Ishidin, Demandred, Moggy, Graendal and Cynfear. The last is not so likely, given how she figures in “And After” – and my hunch that she goes in for her Heroic Sacrifice. That leaves Ishidin, Demandred, Moggy and Graendal. My guess is that it is Demandred.

The rest of it is straightforward. DO faces Rand, blood is spilled in Shayol Ghul. Bad things happen. But maybe those things happen only to the “followers of Shadow”.


Things to Look Forward to in AMoL:

  • Moiraine meeting Rand
  • The face off on the fields of Merrilor, where the Amyrlin is unable to stop Rand from destroying the seals
  • The Battle for Caemlyn
  • Avi and the Aiel future
  • Lan’s last stand – or the battle for Malkier – however it turns out
  • The Rand/DO face off
  • Demandred’s appearance
  • Taim vs Loghain
  • Mat taking the Horn of Valere  from Tar Valon

 

Things I wish would happen

  • Elayne dies [please please make this happen]
  • Rand, Nyn and Moiraine take on the DO with Callandor
  • Perrin or Mat bag themselves a Forsaken each


The images are taken from Seamas Gallagher's blog

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Gamercards

I was looking through this site – add-ins for Windows Live Writer, the simplest blog editor around – and one of these add-ins was a tool to insert your XBox 360 Gamer Card.

I also found this – a website that will return the details of your gamerscore, given your gamer tag.

Still, it wasn’t enough – I needed a great deal more control – I went through a whole bunch of sites providing leaderboard info – mainly

MyGamerCard.net Provides a bunch of templates for custom Gamercards. Registration required for some templates. Also provides leaderboard information
Glop Similar to myGamerCard.net, but fewer templates
XBox Live Card More templates, but mostly variations of a theme, colours and background images vary
XBox Friends Watch By this guy called Adam Kinney, based on tute samples, also described in his blog

Adam Kinney’s site was useful, but doing the gamercard obviously required a much stronger grounding in Silverlight than I have – or access to Expression Blend, that I don’t have.

Right Now, the easiest thing to do would be to use Duncan Mackenzie’s Webservice – and use the generated Xml Response. 

Let’s see if I can do something with this :)

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

The Towers of Midnight – The Wheel of Time, Book 13

[Spoiler Heavy]

Brandon Sanderson has gained much ji.

Finished reading “The Towers of Midnight”, Brandon Sanderson’s second book in the “Wheel of Time” series and I must say - “Damn. That was good”. 

The trouble with the WoT was, like most long running series, the quality has been variable, trending towards decline. The last few books have been pretty damn bad - “Crossroads of Twilight”, “Path of Daggers” and even “Winter’s Heart” have been abysmal.

Sanderson has made a difference. Story-wise RJ had left copious notes on how he planned to handle TG, but juggling the sheer number of major and minor plot threads couldn’t have been easy. He’s kept the story moving along, zipping along, tying up long standing loose ends and bringing Randland closer to Tarmon Gaidon than ever – in fact it seems that TG has begun by the end of ToM.

So lets see – what’s he  done so far:

  1. Made Rand likeable again, bringing him closer to EoTW Rand.  The transition from jerkass badass to jedimaster badass is actually quite smooth.
  2. Made Nynaeve likeable again, a MUCH harder job. She was one of the characters I despised through the series, but here – oh wow. She ROCKS. Hard. Her AS testing and the speech she gives about who she is, makes you want to cheer.And there's a very funny moment where she begins a tirade at Rand, having returned after three days when no one knew where he was, and Rand calmly completes it for her and tells her that she needs new insults to use on him. "Er. Yes" indeed
  3. Answering the Mesaana question, having Egs face off the Forsaken and turn her to a drooling idiot. (cue Egs fans squee). Egs used to slip in and out of the jerkass squad, and I’ve never really been able to like a person who’s name sounds like Chinese food. She does the same here, good moments and bad moments
  4. Brought Moiraine back. Moiraine was one of the best characters in the series, and in a lot of ways the leading lady.  She is weaker than before and her wish from the Finns sounds quite ridiculous – downright un Moirainey – a goddamn angreal? Not even a sangreal? But there’s a possibility that the angreal, that specific angreal has a part to play. Moiraine was always a deep one.
  5. Reunited the Trakands. Dear God. I thought Morgase would never meet her kids, who still think she’s dead. Well, there’s a reunion here. Uncomfortable, but a reunion just the same.
  6. Ties up the Gawyn/Egs and Morgase/Tallanvor romances.
  7. Kicks off the Galad/Berelain relationship, long foretold.
  8. Changes the balance of the Rand/Cadsuane relationship
  9. Ends Perrin’s “I am not a leader” and “I don’t want to become a wolf” angsting
  10. Kills off Hopper
  11. Shows that Elayne is still the undisputed mistress of the idiot ball
  12. Shows Perrin making a hammer (Verrry cool scene- deals with the fallen blacksmith)
  13. Makes Perrin super powered in Tel’aranrhiod – very matrixy too, stopping balefire(!?!)
  14. Brings Lan, the entire Malkieri nation and several Borderlander nations to the Blight for TG.
  15. Shows the new jedimaster badass Rand saving Rodel Ituralde and destroying a 150,000 strong trolloc army in “a storm of light”
  16. Mat meets up with Perrin finally, and in one of the best moments of the book (Easing the Badger? Easing the Bloody Ashes Badger?)
  17. Matt kills the Gholam
  18. Mat gives up half the light of the world, dealing with the Finns
  19. Taim has been running the 13x13 trick on his Ashaman and some of the visiting Aes Sedai.
  20. Provides Avi with one of the most critical passages she has had in the series, ever
  21. Kills of Balthamel/Arangar for the second time, this time by balefire
  22. Kicks off Tarmon Gaidon

Oh, and most importantly, shouts out to Kate Nepveu, Jason Denzel and other long time fans.

So what more can you expect?

The book also raises a few interesting questions

  1. We still have no clue who and where Demandred is
  2. Who are the red veiled killers in the Aiel waste?
  3. Is Cyndane in Rand’s dream a trap? Or is she for real?
  4. Who is Taim working for?
  5. Who is the murderer on the Seanchan throne? Is he relevant to the story?
  6. Who’s Graendal’s pretty in the Seanchan court in Ebou Dar?
  7. Tuon's Tar Valon attack - how will it pan out?
  8. What happens to the fake foxhead taken from Elayne?
  9. Who saves Caemlyn? Is it Mat, Perrin or Olver, Talmanes and the Band?
  10. Is Avi's vision a probability or a certainty?
  11. What about the Shadow prophecy

Which therefore lead to some wild guessing on how A Memory of Light will go.

  • Demandreds Location: Shara
    Reasons: When Graendal meets Sammael in LoC, they talk about the others - Mesaana, Semirhage and Demandred. Demandred says something about their locations and how long the DL has been planning. Graendahl then talks about her latest pets from the Shara. She implies she doesn't know where Demandred is, but she knows Mesaana is in Tar Valon. And its possible that the who Shara bit was red herring, its also possible it was not.(Tenuous )
    Then there's the fact that both RJ and Sanderson have said Demandred has not appeared in his civilian form yet. The Shara is one of the few places we have heard about, but have seen nothing of. (Tenuous again)
  • The Red Veiled Killers
    Following from above. Veiled faces, teeth filed to points, in the Aiel Waste. Other possibilities are, of course, male Aiel channelers, Fain's creatures - turned Aiel, like undead Trollocs
  • Is the Lanfear dream a trap?
    My take - Cynfear is a trap, but her repentance is genuine - heroic sacrifice ahoy
  • Who is Taim working for?
    The clues all point to Ishidin - the colour choices - red and black, the possession of the second dreamspike (thats obviously what is preventing Travel in the Black Tower. Taim is obviously doing the 13x13 trick, and he's trying to get a set of 13 Ashaman and 13 Aes Sedai as well. So who is he trying to turn? Is he planning a severing?
    Whatever it is, this is probably something that Loghain will handle, not Rand. Rand may do a repeat Ituralde, come in at the last minute, apologize to Loghain and then kick ass.
  • The Seanchan Throne
    Absolutely no idea. Logically, it should have been some DF tool of Semirhage, never shown before, but now, you don't know. Suroth was the only tool Semi had used up till this point - but that doesn't mean much. Ishidin again? Or Demandred? The thing is I'm not sure if there have been any references to Seanchan nobility in Seanchan before. And whether this is relevant to the story or not, I'm not sure. Tuon will have to deal with this person, but whether that is in the scope of MoL is not clear.
  • Who is Graendal's pet in Tuon's court in Ebou Dar
    The most obvious answer is Beslan - given Graen's penchant for pets drawn from the relations of the rich and powerful. Graen also talks of this as a recent development and Beslan has just been raised to the High Blood.Beslan might be thinking that his duplicity is furthering the cause of Ebou Dari independence. There are other possibilities - One dark horse is Abuldar Yulan, married to Riselle of the famous bosom. Riselle being Graendal or one of her proxies. Galgan could be another.
  • Tuon at Tar Valon
    I would like to think that things get settled by then, but thats unlikely. What seems likely is that Tuon gets a'damed and changes her mind about marath'damane. The other thing is that the Amyrlin and her troops are now in Merrilor and the tower is practically undefended.
  • Who Saves Caemlyn?
    It's not Perrin. He is already in the Fields of Merrilor. It's unlikely to be Elayne, there's a contingent of Cairhenian in Merrilor as well. Rand is in Merrilor too. The candidates are Talmanes, Olver and the Band and Mat himself. But Mat is near Ilian, and he needs to travel back to Caemlyn and that depends on Grady being around to open the gateways. My personal take is that this is Olver's moment in the sun, but let's see
  • Aviendha's vision
    It's a possibility, not a certainty. It's fruition depends on the Seanchan. Does Rand bow to Tuon or vice versa? I think its highly unlikely that Rand submits to Tuon. And Avi/Rand relearn the song and they try to get the Aiel back to the Jenn ways. It will be interesting to see how this pans out.

As for the Shadow prophesy, I think I need to reread the series, especially the Great Hunt - which I read ten years ago in Sri Lanka - to look at the other poems of prophecy.A lot more newsgroup scavenging will be required as well...