Furious doomsday believers demand to know what went wrong

December 22, 2012 in Best Of, Humor, Religion


As small pockets of civilization around the world celebrated their survival of the Dec. 21 Mayan apocalypse, the vast majority of normal people have angrily demanded to know how things could have possibly gone so wrong.

The world as we knew it was supposed to end at precisely 10:11pm (Australia Eastern Standard Time) on Friday, Dec. 21, 2012. Earth was supposed to be struck by another planet or an asteroid. Aliens (or apes) were supposed to attack. Time was supposed to stop, or the universe was simply meant to stop existing.

But instead, as the clock struck 10:12pm and everything remained as it had been at 10:10pm, anticipation turned to disbelief. And as the hours passed, disbelief turned to disappointment, before finally erupting into fury.

“What the hell? We were supposed to be teleported into another dimension!” said Francois Ancel, 54, who had camped out at the southern French town of Bugarach for the past six weeks. Ancel and his family of seven had heard about the town’s curious “upside down” mountain and had expected to be beamed into another world by sitting in a hole on the summit at the exact moment it was supposed to end for everyone else.

Unlike some of his fellow campers, who have left the hole in tears, Ancel said he has not given up hope and will remain in the hole for as long as it takes, noting that the Mayans may have miscalculated the precise moment of the apocalypse.

“The Mayans didn’t have smartphones, computers or even abacuses back in those days,” agreed Professor Chris Copeland from the New York Calculator Institute, who has urged everyone to remain calm and continue waiting. “A margin of error of three to five years is not unreasonable under the circumstances. I will give them the benefit of the doubt this time.”

Copeland also ridiculed Russian president Vladimir Putin’s “guess” that the world won’t end for another 4.5 billion years, based on the life expectancy of the sun. “There is no scientific basis for that claim whatsoever,” Copeland said.

However, Copeland’s assurance that “it could end at any moment between now and Dec. 21, 2017” has failed to quell the rage of former-believers, who have vowed to commence an anti-Mayan movement across the globe, beginning with the boycott of  the now-half-priced Mayan calendars. Inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement, a small group of protesters have also reportedly initiated “Occupy Machu Picchu” at the ancient Inca site in Peru.

“We’re not going anywhere until the Mayans come down and give us an explanation, face to face,” said protester Geri Jingleberry, 34, from Texas. “They can tell me what to do with the 21,000 cans of baked beans in my basement bunker.”

In China, reactions were more subdued, as the majority of believers have disappeared after being rounded up by the Chinese government well before Friday.

“This hoax has rekindled my faith in the Communist Party,” said Kai Wanxiao, 29, who lives in the southwestern metropolis of Chongqing. “The party said the world wouldn’t end and the party was right. Long live the Communist Party!”

There were, however, reports in the eastern coastal provinces of Shandong, Zhejiang, Jiangsu and Liaoning of people asking for their money back after having donated all their assets to charity.

“I gave away everything I had to the less fortunate because I truly believed the world was going to end and everyone was going to die,” said Zheng Congming, 62, from the port city of Dalian. “Now that we have survived I would like my money back, thank you very much.”

The world’s leading Mayan expert and director of Apocalypto, Mel Gibson, said he could sum up why the Mayan prophecy did not come true in one word.

“Jews,” he said.

Contemplating the end of the world

December 17, 2012 in Best Of, Misc

You know you want this to happen

You know you want this to happen

So the world is apparently going to end on December 21.

We’ve had plenty of scares before, be it Y2K or Nostradamus or some loony evangelical pastor in Texas, but this time a lot of people genuinely believe it because it’s supposedly from the Mayans. Chances are most of them have seen Apocalypto and know just how awesome the Mayans are and can never be wrong.

But as always, there are also people telling us everything will be OK. December 21 will just be like any other day, they say. The Mayan calendar actually goes on and on, but they just ran out of walls in that particular cave. D’oh.

NASA has reportedly also confirmed that there are no meteors or asteroids coming our way, so that rules out a Deep Impact (or is that Deep Rising?) or Armageddon scenario.

Not many people have mentioned the possibility of something like The Core happening (you know, that Aaron Eckhart and Hilary Swank movie about how the Earth’s core stops rotating) — apparently the science is a little off in that one.

Unexpected and rapid global warming causing a 2012 or The Day After Tomorrow scenario is still possible, right? Apparently not, or else world leaders would be in hiding already.

So that leaves us with some kind of unforeseen natural disaster (probably an earthquake) — though I understand earthquakes can be predicted to some degree these days and in any case it’s unlikely to affect the entire planet — or an Independence Day, Cloverfield, The Day the Earth Stood Still or War of the Worlds-like alien invasion. I personally believe that if it’s going to be anything it’ll be Godzilla, or better still, Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

All joking aside, all this talk about the end of the world coming has gotten my thinking. If it was really going to be the end, would I have done everything I wanted to do by this point in my life? The answer is of course no.

I have done some (admittedly rough) calculations and I believe I need (without concern for finances and a day-to-day job) a full year to catch up on all the movies I had planned to see, a year to read all the books I planned to read, half a year to watch all the TV series I want to see, half a year to play all the video games I’ve wanted to play, a year each for the two books I want to write, another six months for a screenplay, six months for travel and six more months to get into shape. That’s seven and a half years.

That’s not the time I need to do those things for the rest of my natural life, just the time I need to catch up to where I want to be right now.

Which brings me to the conclusion that if I survive December 21 I’m going to need to get a move on. With everything.

Farewell 2011…but 2012 is going to epic!

January 1, 2012 in Best Of, Blogging, On Writing

I miss Sydney already (Source: cbsnews)

And…we’re back to our regular programming.

2011 was a massive year for me.  I made WordPress.com’s “Freshly Pressed” list (with this post).  I migrated my website from WordPress.com to WordPress.org (and this is how I did it).  I graduated from my masters degree in writing (and this is what I thought of it).  I moved from one country to another (again).  I secured my first major piece of freelance work.  I scored a full-time job in writing and editing.  And most of all, I became a dad (and this is how it happened)!

As for this blog, since making the move in September 2011, traffic has slowed down significantly without flow from WordPress.com channels.  Instead of an average of 1,000-1,500 hits a day, my stats dropped down to around 400-600 a day.  Was it worth it though?  Err…yes!  Less hits but more freedom, and it’s prettier!

For the year, I racked up 346,525 hits, with 289,807 coming from before the move and just 56,718 from after.  Unless the new address takes off, and given that I’m about to have a lot less time on my hands to post, chances are this will be the most hits I see for a very very long time.

So that’s my 2011 in a nutshell. It was great, but I have a feeling 2012 is going to be EPIC!  New apartment, new country, new job and new baby!  Oh, and the NBA is back, baby!  Will Pacquiao and Mayweather finally get it on (after Mayweather gets out of prison)?

And my goodness, the movies that are scheduled to come out: The Hobbit (Part I), The Dark Knight Rises, The Avengers (holy crap I think I just sprayed my shorts), just to name a few.  And yeah, the final Twilight movie (more reason to celebrate?).  I wonder what awesome books are coming out next, sorry, I mean THIS year too.

Of course, this is all contingent on the world not ending in 2012.  I dunno, but I tend to believe in crap like this.  While I don’t expect the world to end (per se), I wouldn’t be surprised if there is some seismic event that changes the world (as we know it) forever.  Maybe it will make me work harder to finish writing my books.

Book Review: ‘The Nostradamus Prophecies’ by Mario Reading

May 15, 2010 in Book Reviews

After struggling through the life of Madame Bovary, I needed something light and easy for my next book.  Enter The Nostradamus Prophecies by Mario Reading (not to be confused with The Nostradamus Prophecy by John S Powell or Theresa Breslin), one of the bargain books I picked up whilst travelling in Taiwan.

Now I will preface my review with the statement that I have nothing against Mario Reading.  I think he’s a good writer and very knowledgeable when it comes to Nostradamus.  I also read his blog and it’s actually great, and he seems like a nice guy.

But I have to call it like it is and say that The Nostradamus Prophecies was ultimately a disappointment.

I was initially drawn to the book because it looked like one of those Dan Brown-esque action thrillers with some interesting, semi-factual context thrown in (eg on the cover it says “An Ancient Secret; A Deadly Conspiracy); that and because I have always been deeply fascinated by Nostradamus and his prophecies.

It tells the story of a man called Adam Sabir, a writer who also happens to be a Nostradamus expert (and appears to be very closely based on Mario Reading himself).  Sabir responds to an advertisement that suggests someone has in his possession missing verses from Nostradamus’ prophecies, but ends up being framed for a crime and having both the French police and the henchman of a clandestine cult on his trail.  Doesn’t sound like the most original of plots, but I wasn’t exactly expecting one when I bought it.

The Nostradamus Prophecies had all the elements to be great.  An fascinating premise based around a legendary figure with a cult-like following around the world and prophecies that foretell the end of days.  An intellectual protagonist on the run.  A few interesting secondary and minor characters.  A dangerous, shadowy antagonist who will stop at nothing.

But somehow, none of those elements came together in the book.  My biggest gripe with The Nostradamus Prophecies is that Nostradamus and his prophecies don’t drive the storyline.  They become almost an afterthought during the tussle between Sabir and his chasers.  We don’t learn much about the life of Nostradamus, how he came to write these prophecies, or what they may contain (until the last couple of pages).  The Nostradamus prophecies become merely a plot device to get the ball rolling — there are perhaps one or two little riddles, but at no time do we feel like we are drawn into some deep mystery or that finding the prophecies would lead to some marvellous revelation.  And that’s a shame because it felt like there was enough there to make it a truly explosive and intelligent adventure in the vein of The Da Vinci Code.

As a result, The Nostradamus Prophecies runs through to the end never having that “wow” factor or that unputdownable feeling.  Yes, most of the short chapters end on a minor cliffhanger, but the tension just isn’t there.  I kept waiting for that moment where I would really get into it and want to keep reading deep into the night, but unfortunately it never came.

A big part of the problem lies with the antagonist, who has the silly nickname of the “eye-man”.  He is no doubt a dangerous and violent villain, but for some strange reason he instilled little fear in me.  Perhaps it was because his intelligence or craftiness never shone through.

The most fascinating part of The Nostradamus Prophecies ended up being the things we learn about France’s gypsies.  It’s an amazing world, an oft-misunderstood culture that most people would have trouble believing still exists today.  The story’s two main gypsy characters, Yola and Alexi, turn out to be the most interesting in the book.  So from that perspective at least, I can say the book did very well, but I wanted to read the book because of what I might learn about Nostradamus, not gypsies!

However, to be fair, I don’t think the misleading title or blurb is entirely Reading’s fault.  The original title was The 52, but it was changed for promotional purposes to reign in readers with a fascination for Nostradamus.  Sadly, if the novel was advertised as a story about gypsy culture, I don’t think it would be the international bestseller is has become today.

Reading The Nostradamus Prophecies gave me a new appreciation for The Da Vinci Code.  For all the criticism Dan Brown’s writing as received, he is a master at blending fact and fiction into an exciting story with break-neck pace.  So many people out there think it’s an easy thing to do and requires no great skill, but as the plethora of similar books in recent years has proven, it’s much harder than it looks.

So maybe I am being too harsh on The Nostradamus Prophecies.  After all, a poor book wouldn’t be translated into multiple languages and sell more than 150,000 copies (and rapidly increasing).  I just found out that The Nostradamus Prophecies is the first book in a Nostradamus “trilogy”, and the second book is being released in the UK in August 2010.  I hope this one will focus more on Nostradamus and really make us think about what his prophecies mean for the world in the next few years.

I think Reading’s biggest obstacle stems from the fact that he is such a knowledgeable expert on Nostradamus that it becomes hard for him to distill that knowledge into a story that is both educational and exciting for the casual reader.  Make us believe in the prophecies.  Teach us more about Nostradamus and the third Antichrist he foretells.  If he can do that then the second book could be a ripper.

I sincerely hope he succeeds.

2.5 stars out of 5!

Movie Review: 2012 (2009)

November 14, 2009 in Movie Reviews


2012 (the movie not the year) is pretty much what you would expect from a US$200 million blockbuster about the end of the world directed by Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow).  Eye-popping special effects, an epic storyline, a multitude of characters, cliched dialogue, bad jokes, cringe-worthy moments and cheesy one-liners.

And yet, for all its flaws, 2012 is surprisingly absorbing.  It is somewhat overlong at a whopping 158 minutes, but it’s never easy for such films to be short these days.

The plot – well, pretty self-explanatory.  Do I really need to say anything?  I am glad to say that they didn’t try to milk the whole Mayan calendar thing.  It was not much more than a passing reference in the end.

The science of it all was sketchy in my opinion, but I’m not sure they really cared.  As the film rolled along, it became clear that suspension of disbelief was imperative to an enjoyable experience.  Too many things were either implausible or impossible or simply didn’t make sense.  The sooner you realised that this was going to be the norm the better.

Of course, epic movies like 2012 require a lot of characters.  Sure, most of them were cliched and cardboard stereotypes (especially the minor ones), but what I liked about it was that they were all linked in one way or another.  It wasn’t just a random bunch of people who had nothing to do with each other.

The characters were portrayed by a great ensemble cast led by Chiwetel Ejiofor and John Cusack, together with Amanda Peet, Thandie Newton, Oliver Platt, and a bizarre appearance by Woody Harrelson.  The only notable weakness was Danny Glover as the President of the United States.  It was just a laughable performance.  Think of an old and tired Barack Obama who has lost his voice and charm after being disillusioned with being in office for 30 years straight.

Although entirely predictable, sentimental and silly, 2012 still managed to eke out some thrills and excitement.  As I said before, if you can suspend disbelief and just go along for the ride, the film is pure pop-corn fun.  Even if you can’t, there’s at least the special effects to enjoy.  More impressive than Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow, Deep Impact, Armageddon, The War of the Worlds and The Day the Earth Stood Still, the visuals in 2012 are the most spectacular I’ve ever seen.  If 2012 (the movie) turns out to be prophetic, none of us will have the time or mood to witness the destruction of the earth, so this film is the best opportunity we have.

3.5 stars out of 5!