Archive for June, 2006

where the hell is matt?

Laur just pointed me to this guy’s video, which has him goofily dancing in freaking loads of different countries, including Antarctica! Fantastic stuff and very inspiring, especially for people with repressed wanderlust like yours truly.

Then again, I’ll have to serve out my bond first before I can do something as long-term as this. As Willy and I were saying just now, even Germany 2008 seems to be off already.


end of days

Just saw a fantastic simulation of what’ll happen if a meteor collides with Earth. Its in Japanese, with translation provided.

The naked sea bed is relentlessly exposed to the intense heat and melted down like lava. The sea of 4000m in average depth has disappeared one month after the collision of the meteorite. At this point, the earth becomes a star where the living thing cannot live. Thus, the earth turned into the star of the death….

Yes, the translation’s a little off, but still quite harrowing. If you look closely at the end, you can barely see Singapore at the tip of the Malayan Peninsula.

25 Down, 27 Left (52 Weeks, 52 Books)

Gregor Samsa is the dutiful son, working hard as a travelling salesman to financially support his ailing parents and young sister. One morning, he inexplicably wakes up as a giant cockroach. Gregor is mostly unperturbed, and half-heartedly worries about mundanities like keeping his job and getting to work on time.

Obviously, he can’t even leave his bedroom. Soon, he starts crawling around and eating garbage, getting gradually more insect-like. His parents, horrified, want nothing more to do with him, while his sister tries to continue taking care of him.

One day, Gregor escapes into the living room, unintentionally terrorising his family. His father throws apples at him, one of which becomes embedded in his back. Eventually, Gregor dies when the apple rots in his back, infecting him as well.

And in case you missed it – he wakes up as a giant cockroach. OK, its never said that he’s a cockroach, but I dare you to imagine a better type of vermin.

Metamorphosis is a much studied text by a well-known author, so I won’t really waste your time with an academic perspective on the book. Just google it yourself if you want.

What’s interesting to me is how my reading of the book has changed since I last read it, which was close to a decade ago. I was in Jurong Junior College, in my first year, and was determined to stop reading G.I.Joe novels and start on some really academic classic type books. As most angsty Smiths-loving teenagers are wont to do, I chose a Kafka novel as the first step to my future as a very serious adult.

I remember being suitably impressed by the affected darkness and gloom of the novel, reading the study notes religiously, and sagely agreeing with all the psychoanalytic and political interpretations of the plot. I must have been thinking, “I’m totally like Gregor, I’m a giant cockroach and nobody loves me!” Or something else to that effect…

This time around, Metamorphosis reads like a slapstick comedy ala The Three Stooges. Check out this passage where Gregor tries to escape his enraged father:

Nothing would stop Gregor’s father as he drove him back, making hissing noises at him like a wild man. Gregor had never had any practice in moving backwards and was only able to go very slowly. If Gregor had only been allowed to turn round he would have been back in his room straight away, but he was afraid that if he took the time to do that his father would become impatient, and there was the threat of a lethal blow to his back or head from the stick in his father’s hand any moment.

Eventually, though, Gregor realised that he had no choice as he saw, to his disgust, that he was quite incapable of going backwards in a straight line; so he began, as quickly as possible and with frequent anxious glances at his father, to turn himself round. It went very slowly, but perhaps his father was able to see his good intentions as he did nothing to hinder him, in fact now and then he used the tip of his stick to give directions from a distance as to which way to turn.

If only his father would stop that unbearable hissing! It was making Gregor quite confused. When he had nearly finished turning round, still listening to that hissing, he made a mistake and turned himself back a little the way he had just come.

That’s like comedy gold, man. I can totally envision a Stephen Chow adaptation of the novel, with Chow in a giant cockroach suit. I suppose my added years and consequent freedom from angst are helping me better perceive Kafka’s black humour.

Guess my current capacity for levity is linked to maturity, or the obvious flipside, that my angst and adolescence were pretty much inseparable. Ah, me and my irretrievable teenage wasteland. What a cock.

(ISBN No: 0553213695) Check NLB Catalogue for item availability.

My next book will be Tibor Fischer’s Under The Frog.

the end is the beginning is the end is the beginning

Well, my dad's finally been discharged, exactly a month and a day after checking in.

He's still weak as a kitten, but doing pretty well compared to his last surgery 9 years back. We went to get his hair washed at a salon on the way back. He couldn't make it 10 metres without stopping for 5 minutes. The exertion immediately brought on a fever when we got home. He'll get stronger, but we need to be careful.

The remaining kidney's not totally gone, still got 11% functionality. But cut-off point is 15%, which means regular dialysis anyway. Good thing is he only needs to go twice a week, which is massively different from three times, in terms of financial cost and quality of life. Not as bad as we thought, but not much consolation either. Kidney failure was a complication that really had no business happening in a monitored environment.

Got to go back to meet the doctor to talk about the aortic aneurysm and the stent. There's still a leak, and things still need to be fixed. Blood's still being supplied through his false lumen and feeding his spine, legs and kidney remnant. So if they plug the leak, we still got a bunch of shit to worry about, such as stroke, paralysis, and heavier dialysis. Not sure if we'll go through with it.

Despite all the gloom, I have to say I rather enjoyed – and will continue to enjoy – my role as my dad's nurse and medical adminstrator. Learning the right way to physically move a patient and handling all the logistics of medicine and appointments. I'm actually feeling a bit of guilty pleasure from being somewhat familiar with the medical jargon. I'm sure there're less depressing ways of learning this stuff, but I doubt I'd have been as motivated.

Also been good to connect again with relatives outside of the regular CNY gatherings. My dad's the oldest among 10 siblings, so that's alot of relatives. Not to mention a couple of elders and my mum's side. It's been made painfully obvious who really gives a shit and who doesn't. Also great to have met some of my dad's colleagues and old friends.

Of greatest note was when my dad's two Indian warehouse helpers came to visit him really late at night, about 8pm – even though it was in Clementi and they lived in freaking Serangoon – staying past 10pm. According to my dad, about a year back when my mum was in hospital, one of them gave my dad $200 out of his $300 monthly salary, so we might have enough for medicine. My dad gave it back, of course. My brother and I were quite stunned by the sheer generosity of the gesture, and we still are.

Needless to say, my dad is a well-loved man, so the karmic inequalities of what happened is fucked up on a number of levels. Still, he's back, his spirits are rising, and he's pretty much ok. I can't really ask for much more.

Thanks to everyone who dropped me a comment or sms. I really appreciated hearing from all of you.

elephant stone

Today was a good day. All 6 of us actually had a good bit of a laugh in the ward today.

This sounds like how I’m feeling.

24 Down, 28 Left (52 Weeks, 52 Books)

a fall of moondust

To be succinct, this book is Apollo 13 on a high-tech tour bus, trapped in quicksand, on the moon.

I’d say Arthur C. Clarke’s A Fall Of Moondust is just as enjoyable as the Ron Howard movie, except Sir Clarke tends to be a little quaint with regards to what one might consider interesting.

Among the first things the passengers decide to do when stranded are book discussions and funny little skits to combat boredom. I mean, its made clear there’s nothing they can do but wait for rescue, but the idea of getting riled up about pulp romances when trapped under 20 tons of lunar dust seems faintly ridiculous to me.

Also, keeping in mind this was written in 1960 – a couple years before the women’s rights movement – Sir Clarke is a tad chauvinistic when it comes to his women characters, who are either stewardess, ex-strippers, or old prudes. Sure, the stewardess is spunky and all can-do spirit, but it doesn’t make his tone any less condescending.

But once you get past all that, the book is really quite gripping. For me, the best part of Apollo 13 is the cool troubleshooting by the engineers back in Houston, and Moondust has its fair share of dorky inventor moments as well. As pop sci-fi goes, this book is great for some quick brain candy.

A Fall Of Moondust
(ISBN No: 0575073179) Check NLB Catalogue for item availability.

My next book will be Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis.

schweat schtains

Macbook owners are reporting a new problem with the good-looking notebook:

…most commonly, yellowish-redish spots appear on the plastic where the palm rests, and on the trackpad button. These spots cannot be removed by any cleaning solution, and seem to only get worse over time.

I was planning to get the white MacBook to not have to pay the ridiculous $340 premium for a black finish… but freaking sweat stains? As Aaron might so elegantly put it – grosst.

look at the size of that thing!

Gnarls Barkley performing Crazy at the MTV Movie Awards 2006. Cee-Lo looks like the love child of a Sith Lord and a Hutt. That’s actually more badass than it sounds. Check out the video here.

I especially enjoy the backup singers dressed as X-Wing pilots.

More Gnarls Barkley cosplay madness here!

watch it for free

I may not be a football fan, but it still gives me a kick to point you football fanatics to this article at Wired.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way, of course., for one, offers a workaround using public proxies to fool the BBC into thinking you’re in the U.K. Caveat: Wired News didn’t test this, so if you try it you’re on your own.

Also it should be pointed out that FIFA frowns upon this sort of thing, but whether or not it is illegal here in the United States is a gray area.

Who needs RTM1?

23 Down, 29 Left (52 Weeks, 52 Books)

Foe is J.M. Coetzee’s postmodern retelling of Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe through the eyes of Susan Barton (who was never in the original story), she travels to Brazil in search of her missing daughter, eventually gives up to return to England, but ends up a woman castaway when there’s a mutiny on her ship. She arrives on the island to find Cruso, a once proud man reduced to a stoic husk, content to reign over his empty island with a mutilated Friday as servant, neither interested in escape nor improving their way of life.

However, the island only serves as setting for a while, as the 3 castaways are quickly rescued and shipped to England, only to have Cruso die just before reaching port. Destitute, Susan searches for a writer to whom she can tell the story of Cruso, Friday and the island, in the hopes that she will be paid for her tale. She finds Daniel Foe, who hears part of her story, gives her some money and promptly disappears.

With Friday in tow, Susan searches for Foe to finish her story, on the way encountering a young girl claiming to be her long-lost daughter. When Susan does eventually track Daniel Foe down, he is more interested in her own personal story as opposed to the account of Cruso, Friday and the island. Much of the book is spent with Susan’s urgent need to tell Cruso’s story but she’s confounded with her inability. Friday is the only one in possession of the full story – and himself a great source of fascination to Susan – but he cannot reveal anything having had his tongue severed and his personality reduced by years of servitude and muteness to a state of near-catatonia.

At odds entirely with the archetypal adventure novel, Foe is devoid of romanticism and told entirely from a woman’s point of view. All the men in the novel are either emotionless, victimised, mute or totally absent. Almost all the endeavours that are begun are futile from the start. Cruso’s barren terraces, Susan’s doomed search, and Foe’s ultimately embellished novel. The concluding chapter takes a surreal turn into a dreamscape of Cruso and Friday’s shipwreck, arguably the start of all events and the source of the real truth, but still nothing is revealed.

Admittedly, this book pretty much went over my head. Written in a time of apartheid, I believe the portrayal of Friday must represent black Africa in some way, while Susan Barton is an answer to the lack of female identity in Defoe’s original story. Daniel Foe appears to exist as a template for writers and their need for embellishing the truth. I’m sure the relationships between the characters somehow hang together as allegory for a great manner of things but it’ll probably help to read Robinson Crusoe again before I can get my mind around it all.

Densely fraught with themes of race, gender, language and narrative, Foe strikes me as a difficult piece of metafiction which works on multiple levels. It will take some research, a second reading and a fair bit of effort to try to pick it apart properly. I can’t say I really enjoyed the book this time around but I’ll try to revisit it again after reading the source text.

(ISBN No: 014029953X) Check NLB Catalogue for item availability.

My next book is Arthur C. Clarke’s A Fall of Moondust.