Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Altered State

We've moved.

Need we say more?

Yes, actually. We are waiting for wordpress to come up with a fun importer. Then we shall be exonerate.

Update your links!

Thursday, January 04, 2007


Happy and belated New Year.

I have attempted the arcane business of blogging, but have never seemed to be able to publish anything of sufficient merit and impact these past few weeks. For this I am profoundly unapologetic, in full awareness that at times a blog, as fields of crops, requires an extensive period of lying fallow such that mysterious biological processes may reenergize the soil (by absorbing carcase of small insects, perhaps?) What I have just mentioned is probably nonsense. Blogs cannot lie fallow, or their owners will find that whatever sagging readership they have previously mantained will disappear like autumn leaves come the winter. But when one's ideas are similarly fallow, or if the tender of the crop is otherwise engaged in activities of another nature, then it is inevitable that such things must occur. Therefore I shall acquiscese to the odes of sloth.

Now, come the New Year, I find that once again I have the compulsion to blog. I am unable to imagine why. Several times I have contemplated moving to Wordpress; subject to the apathy of the co-blogger Nova, whom I approached concerning this rather pressing issue, who replied with a random syllable or nine. Doubtless Blogger's all pervasive AI censorship will quail at the mere mention of disloyalty; well, I say to thee, Blogger, if thou wishest to mantain thy devoted slaves, thou wouldst do better to improve thy blog templates.

The question of Blogs comes once again to the forefront of introspection. Why do we blog? Why don't we? Are blogs what they seem, exegeses of expositulary intent, ego-trips, or hopeful attempts to garner notoriety? And why do some blogs lie fallow, why does compulsion, that serpentine monster of caprice, rear and strike at the strangest moments? For you must have known times where you, perhaps, sunk in capitulation to some drudgery or another, are seized with a brilliant snippet of insight that you cannot bear to keep to yourself, but when you finally sit at your computers, fingers poised to deliver your grand expositions, you falter and say, "Mayhap, I, myself, art not of the Temper for the commission of my Thought upon the flimsy paper of the Web." For, myself I must admit that such has happened oftentime, and is partially responsible for the Fallowness of this Blog.

The Fallowness shall probably be a fixture of this Blog for a long time. Perhaps, as the paradox of leisure goes, I shall be compelled to blog more, but somehow I doubt this. But you can never tell when the Blog-muse falls on your shoulders and you have no choice, as the automaton hath, but to sit at your computer and type. I yearn for the days that I could post twice a day. Those days rest, but perhaps I can live them once more, someday. For indeed they are synonymous with the nostalgia-coloured lens of hindsight, that one never fully appreciates the present, but when it is the past. Truly, is nostalgia biased, or are we? Also, was that comment a product of bias? When we perceive the present, do we see with present-tinted cynicism?

In other news I have been reading the Book of the New Sun. It is said to be dense in several ways. It leaves you with an almost indescribable feeling of awe at the sheer imaginative scope and alieness of Severian's society; and yet a feeling of frustration at the inscrutability of the narrative. But then I have not finished, thus comments are reserved for when I do, in the not-so-distant future. I wish, however, that the science fiction tones and settings were more pronounced; versimilitude of the barbarity of this future only goes so far; suspension of disbelief, the fourth wall we keep banging our bodies against when reading a book, is sufficient if spice may be had for the sacrifice of such.


Saturday, December 09, 2006


is a very interesting place. I’ve been here for about five days, and am currently at Narita eating at the same cafĂ© where collinear and I rushed to fill out our OM style and prop forms, which we were actually supposed to do a week before. Their menu has changed somewhat though; instead of beef stew and pizza like the last time, I’m currently having curry and naan. Which reminds me of our OM Karan jokes: Together we can make beautiful chapatti! Ask any omer for details.

Anyhow: quite frankly, I’ve always disliked the whole Wapanese, or pseudo-Japanese, culture that seems to have sprung out everywhere with a tv and access to Naruto. Seriously, nothing boils the blood quite like a bevy of 16 year old pimpled white teens/ah lians with yellow hair and ultra high boots doing a “Kawaiii neee!, or having a conversation with someone who adds the suffix “-San” to the end of your name about twenty times in a row in order to sound like a four year old Japanese boy. Thankfully, the real thing is far, far better.

I started the trip at Club Med Sapporo.
First, lets start with a quick check: do YOU know where Club Med Sapporo is?

Well yes, aside from being in Sapporo.


Good, thought so.

Unfortunately though, for some unfathomable reason, even though it takes a 7 hour plane ride, two 2 hour train rides and THEN a 30 minute bus ride to get there, the place was SWARMING with Singaporeans. Not just any Singaporeans too; Acsians. They even outnumbered the Japanese! As a result, almost every conversation in the next three days began with “HEY YOU! Class of 7_ right?! Do you know [string of entirely random names]? My son’s from ACS too, is yours?” and so on. I can almost see US doing it thirty years down the road…the Class of 08, hah. Doesn’t quite sound the same.

The huge AC crowd did have its benefits though. I met a few people from our school, most notably Josh (not Hoe, the Indian one) from sec 3 GEP and OM. We spent many memorable moments falling down spectacularly from the steepest hills we could get our hands (or rather, feet) on, accosting the hill with our skiis and snowboards. Unfortunately, because the ski lifts weren’t open yet, we had to pound our own ski slope by packing the soft snow with our skiis, a task which left muscles we never knew existed burning. Consequently, I am now well prepared for a subsequent life as an ox or miscellaneous farm animal.

Club Med has always been a bucketful of fun because of three things:

1) Really interesting people
2) Very challenging activities you wont normally do
3) Terrific food.

I must say, Club Med Sapporo hits all three counts square on with a large sledgehammer, and if you ever want a holiday experience that doesn’t involve seeing Shinto Shrine after Shinto Shrine, I highly recommend it. For your sake though, don’t go during the Singaporean school holidays.

After Club Med, I went to Tokyo. Here I witnessed the full spectacle of Japanese fashion: everyone fell into three broad categories – Over-Fifty, Goth, and Hobo. I saw a man with more holes in his jeans than there was denim, wearing a cap with four different colours, and a shirt that had some badly mangled English idiom with “Sex!” written in purple all over it. I figured that the only way anyone could possibly outdo the Japanese tendency toward outrageous clothing is if they wore pajamas. Which, naturally, is what I did. I walked around Harajuku, the trendiest teeny-popper area, dressed in my OM green pajamas (with thermals underneath, naturally, because it was 2 degrees Celcius). It was fun, and several passerbys actually thought it was a good idea for an outfit. Hah.

There are several things about Japan that I admire, chief of which is their architecture. Tokyo doesn’t have the gigantomania of Dubai or Hongkong. It doesn’t have terribly tall buildings, and the famous Tokyo Tower is just a mundane radio broadcasting station. Yet, there’s something inexplicably quaint about the way a Japanese building looks, a something which a HDB block, for example, glaringly lacks. When you step into a Japanese room, it may not use the most expensive Italian marble, nor have huge neo-classical columns, but it looks and feels good. Using simple wood, concrete and neutral colors, they somehow manage to create an environment that is both comfortable and elegant at the same time. It’s rare that one sees this kind of understated beauty anywhere else.

Second of all, I love their obsession with perfection. The food tastes good again not because they cook it in any special way, but because they obsess over every last detail of the ingredients, from the fineness of the flour to the temperature at which they store the sashimi. The ski slopes were closed when I went because there was a tiny patch of grass visible at one section of the slope. Their contraptions, such as the toilet with more buttons than a stealth bomber, to quote The Sims, are almost comical in their huge range of functions.

Thirdly, the weather is amazing, although probably not through any effort by the Japanese unless someone really invented one of those Gundam climate control things. I swear, there’s something in the air that makes everyone look young. In Club Med, for example, I met a Japanese guy who could have passed for a seventeen year old back home, only to find out that he was twenty nine and married.

Last of all, I am amazed by their civic-mindedness, for lack of a better word. One of the most striking things I saw was when a Japanese man took a drink from the dispenser in an airline lounge where I was and spilled a few drops. He spent the next ten minutes searching for a napkin, meticulously wiping the table where the spill was, which by then had already evaporated for the most part, and then walking around to search for a recycling bin for the paper even though there was a trashbin right in front of him.

Naturally, there is probably a much darker side to all of this that a casual tourist such as myself will never see. A problem that is rather apparent, however, is the almost derogatory portrayal of women. You know there is something amiss when even the parking ticket dispenser has a cartoon teenage girl dressed in a sailor uniform and a very short skirt bowing to you repeatedly on the touchscreen.

Secondly, the way everyone seems to be excessively polite, women especially, seems to have led to the loss of significance of courtesy, with most people ignoring you when you say excuse me or please. They need an Un-Courteous Lion.

Finally, it seemed to me as if they placed undue importance on appearances; while roaming Harajuku in pajamas, I realized that there were only two kinds of shops: those that sold NOTHING but four floors of cosmetics, and those that sold four floors of Lolita and Gothic clothing. It was ridiculous. A sizeable percentage of the women I walked past along the street wore enough makeup to paint several houses, with outfits so extravagant they leave you wondering how much time was spent assembling them.

Nevertheless, I must say that I have had a good time. In fact, some things reminded me of events in Foundation, that fantastic book by my favourite author that our dear friend Collinear so graciously spoiled for me so many years ago. The double decker subway train with seats on top that required passes, for one. Also, I was reminded of a comment by a settler in some new colony in a distant part of Asimov’s galaxy, envying the culture and history of the Earthlings. Being in Japan made me wonder what it must be like to stem from, and be bound by, traditions and etiquette thousands of years old. It made me wonder what it would be like to grow up in a place which hundreds of generations of my forebears toiled to build, and in which everything has been done before. Maybe it explains why all the artsy Japanese films seem to reveal some kind of profound loneliness and frustration with life in general. Ah well; that’s yet another story, for yet another day.

The plane’s about to take off and the stewardess is saying something incomprehensible in Japanese that probably means she’s going to throw my preciousss BlackBook out of the window if I don’t go. Muchos homework awaits my return, and I currently face the prospect of spending my 17th birthday in a military facility in Sichuan, trying to explain the Theory of Conservation of Energy and geosynchronous orbit in traditional Chinese.


Thursday, November 30, 2006

A Preponderance of Literature and Rants

I cannot for the life of me imagine why I read Pride and Prejudice. It is similar to reading Susanna Clarke after taking barbiturates, and without any magic whatsoever. (The reverse would have been much more appropriate, but I'm afraid sff has consumed my mind). The book is a whimsical exercise of extravagant manners and bursting with faint cries of approbation and frilly hats. Still, it is by no means an uninteresting book. Perhaps that is what makes it such an enduring classic.

Today I bought Peace and War, the Joe Haldeman omnibus consisting of all his Forever books (whatever). It is a most lovely book, with lovely red borders. I also borrowed The Book of the New Sun, after an abortive attempt at the NLB to scrounge for more Zelazny-related information. They, too, are most lovely books, and it pains me that I shall have to return them one day, especially as I am much convinced that I shall be liking these novels very much indeed, and I would be most miserable if they were not mine to reread whenever I wished. I have also The First Chronicles of Amber, which I purchased just before I came across a pristine copy of the Great Book of Amber in a second hand bookstore, an oversight for which I am greviously upset.

In an amazing stroke of fortune, I have come across three lovely bookstores at Vivocity and Orchard; PageOne, San, and Harris in Orchard MRT, and I expect I shall be patronizing them very often indeed.


V for Vendetta is an great movie in terms of plot and execution. The message was not as well-constructed as I expected. It is a rather formulaic tale about dystopia made spicy with the inclusion of the figure of V, whose introductory speech I have memorized. Still, I can't tell whether he is supposed to be a bomb-throwing anarchist or freedom fighter, and I am inclined to believe the latter, under the circumstances. V for Vendetta has lovely pacing and cinematography; the bombing of the Bailey sent shivers down my spine. The symbolism is rather shallow, especially the fetish on V and 5, but that's alright; it's a rather smart acknowledgement of historical events and a rambunctious character idiosyncrasy Moore and the directors after him could exploit for weirdness. In any case, a great, but not revolutionary, movie, for all the revolutionary claptrap it depicts, like blowing up Parliament - what barbaric splendor mixed up against terrible echoes of recent history, a heady but vaguely shocking dichotomy.


I must say I despise reviews that go, "This genre would be doomed if not for so-and-so, whose work has rescued the genre". It seems to me to be quite a dangerous, polemical, and unfairly critical statement that borders on exaggeration. Blase and jaded the professional reviewer may be, it is not up to his bibliomanic sensibilities to measure the worth of a book; if it is conventional yet well crafted and entertaining, and conveys its message arcoss effectively, then its a good book. No need to be groundbreaking or creative to make a work good. LOTR is by today's standards cliche; that does not make it unworthy of reading.


Saw EVIL FOR EVIL today in Kinokuniya, the middle book in the Engineer Trilogy by KJ Parker. I'll have to wait until the trade paperback is published. Curse these publishers! And their large pricetags. And their big, bulky novels. Pah.

R Scott Bakker's The Thousandfold Thought
Scott Lynch's Lies of Locke Lamora
Aaron Allston's Betrayal
Steven Erikson's Bonehunters

These are a few books that have been denied me by virtue of their hardbackedness or tradepaperbackish vibes. The Mass Market Paperback is an object of immense beauty. After all that has passed, it is beauty.

The first Golden Compass pictures have been released. Daniel Craig as Asriel. How...amazing of him.


Monday, November 27, 2006

Crimson Flame


The monster resembled a giant lizard. It stormed through the city, breathing flame and burning thousands. Its huge claws picked people off the street and threw them into its colossal jaws. Its muscular legs toppled smaller buildings as it continued its dreadful march through the crowded city center.


The terrible fire lizard towered over the streets of the doomed city. Men and women scattered, screaming, before the great monster's inexorable approach. It opened its cavernous jaws and breathed forth an immense gout of blinding crimson flame. The dreadful conflagaration scorched the asphalt, gouging and crisping the hardened tarmac. One man, not fast enough, was caught in the terrible path of flame and burnt like a torch, screaming in purest agony. But worse was to come. The massive bulk of the creature bore down on the streets. Its claws flexed and clenched, grasping one woman like a vise. Her helpless screams did not avail her. The monster, ravenous, brought his prize catch up to his massive jaws and consumed the woman with a snap of those powerful muscles. Satiated, it roared a stentorian evocation of satisfaction, shaking the metropolis to the core; then it extended a huge, muscle strained leg and, with all its might, struck an old building with blinding speed. The structure collapsed in a damning crescendo of terrible noise of falling men. The dust cloud was infernal. Satisfied, the monster lumbered triumphantly on.


Only the Titans in their halcyon days could have availed the doomed city, its terrible fate having been foreordained by the tragic circumstance of inevitability. The scudding clouds dotting the empyrean above provided a stark counterpoint as the monstrous abomination ravaged the shaded avenues of the once splendid downtown. Hither did it approach on reptilian legs, its coming the dilatoriness of one who is aware of the inexorability of its terrible, absolute domination. The grand play of circumstance was thus begun, as the dread monster elected to release Hell itself in the form of a great, sweeping crimson cataclysm on the hapless populace, fleeing in blinded horror and panic. The molten heat of the consuming inferno scorched the veritable essence of the thirsting ground, sending up great bouts of smoke, black as the darkest shadow. The imitable torch caught an unfortunate soul in its fiery clutches, electing to consume him in a burst of ravenous flames. The mammoth beast was the instrument of blind desire. Its ravenous hunger now dominated its attention. Bending its considerable bulk, it thus reached down to clutch a woman in its vise-like grip. Slowly, the onrush of anticipation, unaffected by the woman's screams, bore down on it, and casually he tossed his impending snack into his jaws, a world of darkness and agony in the ribbed innards of the furnace of being. Roaring its saturnine satisfaction it reached out a leg and unleashed his murderous power onto the nearest structure. The hapless building held for a moment, then collapsed in a vast symphony of dust and death, the screams of those inside echoing the melody of Fate. Its aggression vented on a victim, it trod on, victorious but uncaring of the role that Fate had provided him.


World of heat, sensation of restraint undeveloped, need and want blurred into unified symphony with the will - alien. Alienness. Assailed of speculative hunger and wanton devastation of artifical agony. Therefore the horrors, whence the crimson light of destruction. It burns and is satisfied. It its and is revenged. It unleashes strength in all its simplistic harmony, strength against cowardice, and turns, desiring to be sated to be hungered to be sated to be -

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


Literature provokes a response. Great literature speaks to a reader to the depths of his soul. The response of the reader is not essentially what the writer may intend; as long as the reader gains something from the work, or has been affected by the novel, the writer is uplifted. Few books have elicted a powerful response in me; the primal quality of such books, however, is that which reaches into the innermost sanctums of feeling and resides there. And when I think of these novels, a powerful sensation will invariably course through me. Below is a list.

1. Watership Down

Watership Down is the defining novel of my childhood; it has a beauty and power I have yet to experience anywhere else, of camaraderie, sacrifice, pain and passion. The writing is modern yet graceful, erudite yet accessible, and communicates every nuance of what Adams wanted the reader to sense. No other writer could take a group of animals and craft them such that they seem more human than the humans in the novel, and yet so animalistic in their society and culture. No other writer could so gracefully weave the rudiments of a completely alien society into a grouping of rabbits so mundane and prosaic in their thinking. Setting and plot are transformed from the rabbit's perspective; the peaceful English countryside is transformed into a tantalizingly mystical land of oppurtunity and danger in their eyes. The descriptions are haunting, evocative and powerful. There is even a touch of gentle humour that keeps the novel engaging even in the most serious of moments. Watership Down is truly a novel that spoke to me, and left an indelible mark on my mind.

2. Lord of the Rings

Strangely enough, the first time I read Tolkien's work, I found the latter portions boring. I liked the pastoral nature of Hobbitry and the mystery of the Barrow Downs, the terrible darkness of Moria, and the sheer loveliness of Rivendell. Aragon's adventures held little excitement for me. The second time, everything changed. Lord of the Rings was transformed into the seminal epic fantasy. Never before had I ever experienced the full scope and power of the novel as in Lord of the Rings, the epic feel, the immersion and sheer complexity and history of Middle Earth.
Lord of the Rings didn't appeal to me because of its compassion and humanity, but because of the grandness, density of plotting, excitement, and above all the sheer believability of Middle Earth. Lord of the Rings introduced me to fantasy. It remains one of the greatest books of fantasy written.

3. Harry Potter

Believe it or not, Nova introduced me to this in secondary 4. For the longest time, I resisted this, based on vague notions of incipient YA nubness. I was wrong. Harry Potter is the penultimate escapist work (the ultimate being Star Wars) of the century; it evokes a yearning in the reader to be there, to join in the fun, to know what it is like to be a Hogwart's student. It is truly a book that is accessible to all age groups. Its appeal is universal and undeniable. It invoked in me the old sense of wonder. It emphasizes the importance of love and friendship. It resonated with its sympathetic portraits of school. It became a refuge, a haven from the bitter reality of the world, and as such highlights the reason why Harry Potter is so popular. Its a salve for a bruised spirit and a drug for stress; its curious blend of maturity and innocence is heady and speaks to the reader. This is one series finely conceived, lovingly treated, carefully sustained, and is arguably one of the greatest YA fiction series ever written.

4. His Dark Materials

While Pullman may be abit of a hypocrite with regards to Narnia, his books combine elements of both Potter and Narnia. That is the intimacy and sense of wonder invoked in Harry Potter with the epic scope and religosity of philosophy in Narnia. It is the anti-Narnia, the philosophical counter, but in its way it is just as great. The idea of daemons is truly compellng. I almost wished I had one when I first read Northern Lights. This series has a heartwrenchingly beautiful premise and a heartrendingly shattering ending.

5. Star Wars

The premise of Star Wars is that of an amalgamation of Grade-B Flash Gordon and simple yet powerful story in terms of plot, setting and message. Star Wars spoke to me because of its exotic locales, fantastic premise, special effects, and the compelling dynamics of the characters, as well as its simple but effective message of redemption, goodwill, courage and heroism. The prequels were not technically as brilliant, but TPM spoke to me in terms of its childlikeness and sheer cinematic elegance, while the other two prequels really gave me a sense of the crippling malaise that is corruption and a suggestion of the sheer horrific magnificience of a dying empire. The prequels, by stressing the decay of the Republic, spoke to me of the need for renewal. It is a grand, epic cycle of history. When one brings in the whole regalia of associated material, the books, games, comics etc, Star Wars transcends its mythos and becomes a true sandbox of the imagination and the greatest and most completely conceived fictional universe around, without question.

6. Robot Series

The Robot series, especially the latter two books, are some of the most powerful, moving books Asimov ever wrote, including Prelude to Foundation and Foward the Foundation, and shows Asimov at his best writing about characters. He made me care for Elijah Baley; I felt the sadness at the passing of a great historical figure at Baley's death. It's amazing how he chronicled Daneel's slow evolution towards his ultimate role, and the friendship between Giskard and him. Although the science fiction ideas are a little outmoded, Asimov writes with great power and clarity, and the strength of his prose and the wit, compassion and humour in the plot are truly indicators that Asimov was a true master at his profession. It is the primer for the epic Foundation series, that other great (but not nearly as moving) work, a great part of that grand cycle of future history that stands as another one of the greatest conceived science fiction universes ever made.

7. Terraforming Earth

Jack Williamson's novel about a group of clones who constantly reseed Earth after it suffers catastrophies is one of the most profound and compassionate post-apocalyptic books ever written. Normally, I don't like post-apocalyptic works, but Terraforming Earth was superb in its treatment. The book is intimately recounted from the perspective of the historian of the group; Earth's presumed saviours are fleshed out and realized, the plot is evocative, tragic, and beautiful, and the various civilizations that arise out of the clone's reseeding missions are interesting and original. The book's message of resilience amidst our incipient frailties resounds through the work, setting it in a light that adds to, rather than subtracts from, from its tragic element. Truly one of the best post-apocalypse science fiction novels yet written.

On the flip side, there are works that have inspired a negative reaction from me. I read them and despised them. Or, I disagreed vehemently with them. I'm not saying that these novels are bad, but that I disliked the messages within; they resounded in me and I decided that I didn't like the music. Below is a list.

1. Childhood's End

Deeply unsettling and pessimistic novel about how we have reached the end of our history and how a new species of human will inevitably take over and serve the universe. The seminal posthumanity novel, deeply disturbing in its premise.

2. Time

Another one of those posthuman novels, Stephen Baxter suggests that since the human race is doomed to extinction during the Cosmic Whimper, humanity should be snuffed out to create more universes in order to give rise to other life. Deeply fatalistic and unsettling.

3. Night's Dawn Trilogy

I liked this trilogy, but one aspect of it ruined the experience. The sheer volume of perverse, graphic iniquity is very shocking to the reader, and detracts from the plot. Hamilton would have done better to tone the sex down, by a notch or six. Yes, indeed. And the Deus ex machina wasn't that good either, Mt Hamilton.

Alright. That wraps it up. We should start a thread on CAPERS for such.

Monday, November 20, 2006


Maybe I should never have started on Robin Hobb. I know that hence, every book she writes, I will buy. (Except the latest trilogy, for reasons I shall not deign to explain.). Ship of Magic is heady stuff. Especially given the nautical theme, which I thought I might not have gotten into.

Well, anyway. My prospectus for the rest of the holidays:

Excession Iain M Banks
The Warrior Prophet R Scott Bakker
The Mad Ship, Ship of Destiny Robin Hobb
Lies of Locke Lamora Scott Lynch
Spin Robert Charles Wilson

The Farseer and Tawny Man trilogies, well, I'll leave that for later. Much later.

What makes a book good, anyway? There are different answers for different types of readers. There are those who read for enjoyment. There are others who read for knowledge, or cartharsis, or obligation, or for the sake of emulation. A book must have conflict, a raison d'etre for existence. It must have an artistic purpose; whether to express a philosophy, or construct a mythos, or even for the sake of pure entertainment itself. Literature is to be appreciated, and to a lesser degree, critiqued. With introspection of a text comes greater understanding of its agenda, but removes some of its sheen. To analyse too much is to strip away the suspension of disbelief. To provoke literary appreciation of its artistic merits one must reject appreciation of story and world. Sometimes the best way to enjoy literature is to sit down and be carried where the author wishes to take you, to take a passive role in the unfolding of craft and story. To scrutinize in terms of happening, and not the voice of the author speaking in between the lines. Of course, literary analysis is necessary and is part of the author's agenda, but it is usually a secondary one, especially when it comes to speculative fiction. Literature is a canvas, and while we may appreciate the form and function, we are first and foremost admirers of shape and colour, of the apparent, of the simple and the obvious. And that's why I prefer realist art.

I may start another story blog. It shall be inspired by EVE Online. It shall detail the life of a gallivanting ship pilot as he tours a strife ridden galaxy. If there is time, that is.