Archive for July, 2006

topgear

Just testing out a youtube embed.

TopGear‘s one of my favourite shows as well. Lots of torrent links here.

30 Down, 22 Left (52 Weeks, 52 Books)

I basically grew up on substantial diet of war novels and documentaries, so it does come as a bit of a surprise to realise that Robert Graves’ Goodbye To All That is the first time I’m reading about the First World War, or the sadly misnamed ‘War to end all Wars‘.

The book deals mostly with Grave’s experiences in the trenches during WWI, bookended with candid accounts of his time growing up in an exclusive boy’s school and his time in Egypt after the war. While the before and after experiences are interesting enough, it’s really Graves’ horrific time in the trenches that are truly gripping and fascinating.

It’s especially interesting reading about the conduct of war during WWI as opposed to the current conflict in Lebanon right now. Graves fought against the Germans in France, where the civilians (whose land and liberation were being fought over) were for the most part, out of the fighting, and targeted only if suspected of billeting British soldiers. Almost all of the time, fighting happens only on the front.

In contrast, Israel says they’re really pinpointing Hezbollah safehouses when they’re decimating residential districts in Lebanon, but if they’re so careful about avoiding civilian casualties and all, why would they bomb a U.N. post and hit ambulances with obvious intent to kill, all the while claiming regret and unintentionality?

Not discounting the obvious terror and horrors of WWI and WWII, but it does seem that at least rules of engagement were more or less honoured in those days. Of course, war crimes might have been just as rampant then, but we’re only more aware of current conflicts due to the immediacy of news coverage and citizen journalism now. In any case, now that we do know, there needs to be greater international pressure on war crime perpetrators, not the ambiguous behaviour being exhibited now by the U.S. and the U.K.

Goodbye To All That
(ISBN No: 0140274200) Check NLB Catalogue for item availability.

My next book will be The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon.

Update:

Here’s a video about the ambulances being hit by Israeli forces in Lebanon.

web 2.0 or star wars

OK, I’m not usually into online quizzes but I really couldn’t resist this one where you test your knowledge of Web 2.0 hype versus Star Wars characters.

I got 38, which is supposed to be pretty sad in terms of the geekery scale, but I’m actually quite pleased.

ipod (or itunes) war!

It’s pretty clear that Grace and I are pretty sad music and tech geeks who spend all our time trying to fill our Gramophone loyalty bonus card and lusting after MacBooks, so it shouldn’t surprise any of my readers (yeah, all 3 of you) that our latest time-killer is iPod War, or in our case, iTunes war.

Here’s a quick description from Kittenpants:

HOW TO PLAY IPOD WAR

The object of the game is to put your music library up against another person’s – find out some secret favorites they have, and hope your guilty pleasures don’t pop up in an embarassing number.

Playing is simple: In the card game WAR, two opponents split a deck of cards. In each “battle,” players would turn over the top card on his or her deck. Whoever had the highest card won the battle and kept the two cards. At the end of the deck, the person with the most cards won the war.

iPod War follows the same guidelines. Two people put their iPods on Shuffle and play music. As each song comes up, whoever has the better song wins the battle. After 10 songs, the person who won the most battles wins the war.

Of course, to decide which song wins, we’d both have to kinda agree. It helps when you more or less listen to the same type of music. Anyways, here’s the post-battle report of our first iTunes war.

1. Pavement – Serpentine War (Grace) vs David Bowie – She’ll Drive the Big Car (Billy)
Billy wins 1-0 . I mean, its David Bowie. Nuff said.

2. The Verve – Lucky Man (G) vs Danger Mouse – 99 Problems (B)
Billy wins 2-0. Richard Ashcroft is powerless against the combined mashup might of Jay-Z and the MOTHERFUCKING BEATLES.

3. Weezer – Butterfly (G) vs My Favourite – Rescue Me vs. Kitch (B)
Grace wins 1-2. Unfortunately, the lackluster remix by My Favourite’s Smiths-lite is no match for the plaintive but powerful closer from Weezer’s finest album.

4. Eef Barzelay – Joy To The World (G) vs Razorlight – Hold On (B)
Billy wins 3-1. Its close, but other than the classic quality of the Xmas song, there’s really nothing to recommend Eef Barzelay’s cover over Razorlight’s catchy Britrock.

5. Ryan Adams – Amy (G) vs The Innocence Mission – No Storms Come (B)
Grace wins 2-3. Dammit, betrayed by my favourite country singer. You don’t even like Ryan Adams!!

6. Architecture in Helsinki – Kindling (G) vs The Impossible Shapes – Ra in thy Rising (B)
Grace wins 3-3. She’s on a roll. Australian ensemble popsters AiH pretty much decimate the Shapes, whom I listened to like, just the once.

7. Unknown – Idioteque Calisthenics (G) vs Slowdive – Some Velvet Morning (B)
Billy wins 4-3. I gave her points for the song being a Radiohead mashup, but wah lau, shoegaze legends covering freaking Nancy Sinatra? Dream on, my sweet, dream on…

8. Aphex Twin – Gwarek2 (G) vs Paul Anka – Jump (B)
Grace wins 4-4. This one cannot fight. My favourite electronica artist against freaking ah pek Paul Anka covering bloody Van Halen? Betrayed again by my heroes. Why hast thou abandoned me?!

9. Pulp – Bar Italia (G) vs Belle & Sebastian – The Boy with the Arab Strap (B)
Billy wins 5-4. Debatable. Both off classic Britpop albums by seminal bands. But B&S trump by virtue of being the title track and actually still being around.

10. Madonna – Jump (G) vs We Are Scientists – Coming Clean (B)
Forfeit. While I obviously win this one, its declared forfeit as Grace’s iTunes wasn’t playing her full library as she was searching earlier for Paul Anka’s Jump. Yeah, whatever.

11. Bowling for Soup – Ohio (G) vs Aphex Twin + Celine Eia – Nannou (B)
Billy wins 6-4. And Richard D. James blows Bowling for Soup out of the water!! Why the hell do you have that in your library in the first place? But seriously…

And its all over…

Quite a bloody affair, even though I’ve got the wider arsenal, Grace put up a fantastic fight, sneakily pitting my own biggest guns against me. But she was let down despite the strong early showing by the embarassing inclusion of the craptastic Bowling for Soup in her repertoire. You brought this upon yourself, m’dear. Until the next time…

fight back to school

Just completed my Enhanced School Experience of 4 weeks in attachment to a neighbourhood school near my place.

Here’s 10 things I’ve learned so far:

  1. Letting students break the little rules keeps them in line a lot better than trying to exert total control.
  2. Any residual glamour from your previous career in TV is lost when they find out that no, you do not have Fiona Xie’s phone number.
  3. If you look hard enough, it’s possible to find pretty subversive literature sitting next to Harry Potter on the school library shelves.
  4. Teachers usually get warmer and larger portions at the school canteen. Only if you’re nice to the canteen aunties though.
  5. Sec One kids – little terrors that they are – are still damn cute and given the right circumstances, will hang on every word you say.
  6. Sit near the ball courts at your own peril.
  7. So-called “notorious” kids can be your best friend if you can earn their trust.
  8. Surprisingly, smoking warrants heavier punishment than truancy. Maybe its the old smoker in me talking but these kids sometimes get their fags from their parents. How to control, like that?
  9. Don’t worry so much about naughty students, it’s unreasonable parents that are your worst enemy.
  10. There can be no real authority without respect. Authority must be earned, not conferred.

On my last day, I asked my favourite class to critique my performance as a teacher. So apparently, I’m a mumbler, I talk too fast, and I smile too much. Personally, I found myself lapsing into Singlish, Mandarin and Malay alot even though I’m an English teacher.

I’m not a fan of the whole native speaker theory, but I do think I need to keep a tighter hold on my speech. It’s a tradeoff, really. Sometimes a quick Singlish slang term explains something more elegantly than anything in perfect English.

Case in point, after 5 minutes trying to explain the meaning of contemptuous to no avail, I tried “no big, no small“, which immediately got me a satisfying chorus of “Ooorrhh….

I guess I rather enjoyed my time at school – burnt out teachers’ complaints notwithstanding – and I managed to get a pretty solid rapport with some kids in spite of the short time. Not sure if I’m really keen on returning to the same school, but at least I know I’m pretty well-equipped to handle it now. In the meantime, it’s back to NIE for me!

29 Down, 23 Left (52 Weeks, 52 Books)

Where to begin, really? Naked Lunch is a seminal work about drugs and homosexuality, a series of stories about gore and mutilation tied together with gratuituous blood and spunk, written in the cut-up technique, and pretty much nigh-incomprehensible.

Seminal or not, the book is not for the faint of heart, and it’s easy to see why I can’t find it in the NLB catalogue. Much of the activity described here is well and truly nauseating, though always absurd and surreal enough for the reader to know that this is the product of a sick, drug-addled, if brilliant mind. Burroughs was a well-known narcotics experimenter, and quite the authority on addiction and withdrawal.

In fact, the tail end of the book is a lengthy letter on the various effects and cures for the many chemical delights of the day, written as lucidly and academically as the preceding novel was Dada-esque and stream-of-consciousness.

Meant to be an indictment of sorts on the seedy underbelly of the American experience as well as a cathartic release for Burroughs, Naked Lunch works pretty well as a warning against substance abuse. Seriously, no way do I want to end up with the likes of those who people these pages. Some of the satirical passages are hilarious though, you haven’t lived til you’ve heard about the Talking Asshole, I kid you not.

So did I like the book? No, I guess not. I’m sure it’s a masterpiece of the beat generation and whatnot, but there’s no way I could get into all 180 pages of outrageous (in a bad way) hedonism and gore, all written in a narcotics-fueled stupor with no regard for the niceties of the English language. Apart from the occasional quite hilarious interlude, Naked Lunch left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. (Hey, I made a pun!)

My next book will be Robert Graves’ Goodbye To All That.

10K


Chekkit, boys and girls – I will weep tears of blood if my harddisk crashes on me now. Time for a long overdue backup.

For those who care about these kinds of things, I encode my songs as mp3 at 192kbps.


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