Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The Old

I have just finished The Chronicles of Narnia, which proves once again that to deny the truth of majority opinion where literature is concerned is ultimately fallacious (disregarding your opinions of the raw quality of the given material.). Narnia is ultimately a surprising tour de force, a true fantasist masterpiece in the style of a children's fairy tale.

Narnia, is, of course, a piece of Christian literature, not so much a pure allegory as an exploration of an alternative moral reality. Lewis, the self-proclaimed reluctant convert, infuses his personal philosophies into the narrative, weaving the entire story - from the birth of Narnia to its ultimate destruction - and transcendence into a heavenlike paradise - into something so ultimately compelling to the penetrating reader (in this case myself, because I don't treat the story like the children's fairytale it ought to come across as) that it speaks to the depths of the soul. A Christian allegory, no less, but this time much easier to accept because it clothes the Christian message into something ultimately secular and independent of its original Christian trappings. (Not saying that the Christian message is bad, just that Narnia does not attempt to proselytize.) It's almost as if the book considers morality not the reserve of Christians, but of everybody that ever mattered.

The Chronicles of Narnia is a simple, pure, beautiful, elegant and childlike tale of wonderment. Its utter simplicity is a precious gem in the world of dark, gritty fiction like God of Small Things and other gothic travesties. The abundance of deus ex machinas is not just indicative of its messianic bias and the Christian promise, but also of a world bereft of the caprice of the author's vengeance. It is a comforting world of stunning beauty that speaks to the inner child of the most distant reader. It transcends its position as Christian apologist fiction and takes its place in the forefront of children's literature, that lives forever unsullied in our minds long after the adult world embraces us. It has the most important quality any work of escapist literature could ever want to achieve: It gives us an unbearable yearning to be in that world, to experience its grandeur and sadness, to bask in the radiance of suns that never shone and never will, save in our hearts.


Chinese New Year is a time of joy and celebration. It is a time where we can cast off troubles and let the festive mood seep into us. This year is different, though. It is as though a wind came in the early morning and blew the spring leaves away, leaving bare branches reminiscent of cold winter.

It is a sense of emptiness that pervades, a sense of being cut loose in a boundless ocean with no anchor. The inexorable changes that come with our transition into IB life, as the end of our teenage lives draws cever closer - that all the comforting things of our childhood would disappear, that bleak adulthood and then old age would come, and with it all the cruelty of a world sunk in strife.

It is as though things have lost their importance, and schemes unravel beyond the limits of our understanding, and the world shifts hither.

Change. The inscrutable.

If only it snowed here. If only clear liquid azure blue shone here every morning, and pastel hues of gold in the evening, and beech and blossoms bloomed in a lawn that doesn't exist, shading a path into a windswept plain.

That's Narnia for you.


Tuesday, January 24, 2006


It is not often that one gets to meet a de savant. In the United Confederation one does not see many around anymore. They have been rounded in, so to speak. And it is perhaps thanks to them that I have had the privilege to meet one.

He lives in the Round Square off Westside in New City 004B. So it was necessary to board the Train and cross the Continents to reach him. In the train I confess to a certain ambivalence; quite like that which one feels upon meeting a jaguar in the Old Wild. Of course, that is prohibited now. I wore the City 015R workclothes, which felt very anomalous because nothing in the guidelines pointed me to an appropriate choice of wear to a semi-informal (C-13) interview with a P-tag. But I am going off on a tangent. I shiver at the strange surroundings. It is not often that Urbiners have an oppurtunity to cross cities; their jobs do not let them. But mine does. And so anomaly comes to anomaly.

It is novel and disturbing to have the resources to open G-Doors and access M-lockets. So thus did I venture off to Round Square in halfwear, thoughtfully provided by the City authorities. The squalor around me is distressing and I fight the urge to call for the Bureau. In any of the Confed sanctums such a digression would have led to serious consequences for those responsible. But the Round Square lies outside Confed jurisdiction.

So I enter. The poor denizens stare with hostility, wretches that they are. I feel a pang of pity at their Unmodified physiques and weak immunity. I think, surely the Savant will not be like this, living here as it is. But doubt creeps in and I long for the PH holo.

His apartments are spare and irregularly shaped, with odd angles at every glance. He sits there, smiling serenely. The P-tag dangles from his neck. I rarely see a P-tag smile. It is against the decree, of course, not to assume a neutral expression at best. But rarely do they smile. Even a P-tag, though, living in the Outdoors - is an anomaly.

His name is Havek Lir Sador.

And I have to admit, I do not think he is resentful.

He welcomes me with a smile. I sit on the cleanest spot in his room and marvel at the waste, the spaciousness of individual purpose rooms. "Charmed," he says. The son of a Senior Adjucator before his exile he has had proper instruction in UniSpeak. Yet his accents are strange and tone of voice novel.

I greet him in accordance with Unispeak Proprietary Law 3.

His face twists as if in discomfort, and his smile slips. I plunge into the interview. At first he is stiff and unsure, but he warms to the questions as if tackling an opponent in Uniwrestle. I ask him on his emotional responses with regard to his seclusion, a necessary query based on Journalism Law 7B-2. "I felt very human at first," he says, smiling. "Resentment. Anger, definitely. Rage. Depression." I stare in shock at the impropriety. And then he goes on to issue another, greater shock. "But the feelings, they fade. Now I am glad that I no longer am a part of the UniCon. I feel...content. And that is also human."

"I wonder why we humans have to build arbitrary laws for ourselves. Customs that have no basis in reality. It is a cage to trap us, a prison of bars clustered too close for light to seep through." Sador pauses and takes a breath. I reply, "The UniCon provides us with the perfect balance, neither too close or too lax. If they did not, anarchy would follow."

And Sador retorts, "Whither you stand?"

And after a pause, he continues. "All the universe is may be construed to an arbitrary set of laws whose randomness is to massive for us to perceive. To us there is order in chaos, meaning in nothingness." Sador leans back. "But the UniCon gives us purpose and function: to serve in the UniCon for the betterment of humanity!" My sensibilities are disturbed, now.

And Sador says, "That is why we create meaning for ourselves; to live without meaning is to live without life. But the human is often too weak to envisage his own fulfillment."

"That is why there is culture. That is why there is belief."

"The UniCon has transcended culture and belief and united the nations together for the betterment of humanity!" That Sador cannot see this is truly astounding. I see now why he is a savant.

"But we must find strength within ourselves to make our own lives in the embrace of our sociological reality," Sador continues, unpreturbed. "And only like this may we weave our own unknowable destiny. A destiny in the stars."

The stars?

But the stars are hidden and dead, and the light that shines is that which deceives.

Soon, I leave. It is too much, enduring the contrariness of his opinion and the grubbiness of his abode, spacious as it is. I return to my City. I disinfect myself in the Communal Bathing Facilities. I sit and type this.

But I wonder, as well.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

A Chance Encounter

A dark alley worthless to thugs, and filthy. Sheer unbroken walls stand to either side, a green garbage bin at the sides curiously empty, ironically surrounded by mounds of filth - what you'd normally expect; fish bones and a fair number of crushed Coke cans and the occasional dead rat and one cat.

A man walks through the alley. He is either woefully ignorant of the inhibitions any right-minded member of the American civilization would have since he was three, or woefully heedless, inspired by a confidence no doubt stemming from things hidden in the depths of his voluminous cloak. In fact, he is a curious combination of both and resembles a monster in bandages and a bowler hat, seemingly out of phase with the fashion trends of the rest of the world. At least part of the reason for this is that he is in fact a monster hidden in bandages and a bowler hat, seemingly out of phase with the fashion trends of the rest of the world. Or at least that is the description anyone with a prosaic disposition would describe him as, which indicates everyone but Ridley Scott and a few madmen in institutions somewhere or other. And he isn't just out of phase, his incipient mental dictionary holds no definition whatsoever of the word fashion, in any case.

In fact, as he cheerfully describes in his petabytic diary (a curious affectation adopted from the denizens of this otherwise appallingly primitive rock), he may be described in the parlance of this joint as an alien, which he hastens to add, is not an illegal immigrant from Ecuador or Mexico, but, rather, an unknown entity from the vicinity of M18, and would set off most metal detectors in any case given the large amounts of base metals in his biochemistry.

Today he has a rendezvous, however. Tonight, rather, he thinks, and a hundred volts course through his various pouches as intricate recording devices encrypt his very thoughts on his customized watch, which he holds up to his abdominal regions to perceive the time. Late, he thinks, and another hundred volts - no, we shall not go into this again.

Behind him a matte black Mercedes pulls over, engines silent as the moon. The odd thought courses a hundred volts - no. His moon was not silent, and had not been for several thousand years, filled with gas-bars and strip-joints as it was. No. Anyway, the matte black Mercedes pulls over. Two men emerge, dressed in black suits, black shoes, black gloves, a black tie, black sunglasses, black wigs and black teeth - no, that is just a joke, he had had to undergo five years of training before he understood the point of jokes - and, defying the cookie-cutter mould, black shirts, with little black buttons down the sides and a tiny little black pocket with a tiny little black pen. Behind these two men the doors of the Mercedes slid shut like silk.

"This is a chance encounter," the first man said. He was short and had a shock of hair that glistened in the moonlight.
"This is a chance encounter," the other man said. He was tall and he was also black. His hair did not glisten in the light.

The alien sighs, fingering its megaton energy dissipator with a free tendril. It suppresses the urge to emanate a brief puff of pheremones in consternation - it was a neurotoxin to humans and he did not really wish to kill humans, did he? And begin another war that would surely cause another embargo of wormstock for the breeding grounds? In any case he rather liked the planet, primitive backwater as it was.

"This is a chance encounter," it admits wearily.
"Down to business, then, xenoc," the second man says briskly. "One, what are you doing out here without a permit? Two, where did you get that cloak? It's contraband, you know. Third, you're going to cause a leak incident the way you dress. You look like a Victorian on crack. You know how many people we had to process for you? Who sent you here an-"

"That's the fourth point, agent Jones," the other man expostulates.

Much to the alien's surprise, the second man reddens in chagrin. "Yes. My mistake. Fourth point. Fourth point, xenoc." He is louder now, like a Adjucator on carboxyls. "Who sent you here?" He clears his throat, and resumes importantly. "Remember that we are authorized agents of the Galactic Assembly and failure to comply will result in dire consequences for your seat on the Council. We know you're here on your government's espousal, and your-"

"Wait, Kane. Your-"
The other man whirls around. "What, Kane? Look, you gotta give me some space here-"
"Article 857." The alien is visibly impressed, and he suppresses another urge to inject more lethal neurotoxins into the air. Kane is a formidable entity, with style.

"But, Kane-"
The alien nods, a curiously human gesture. Article 857, the interstellar statute on state secrets. Which can only mean the young Jones is way over his head.

At length Jones desists. He turns his scowl towards the alien, who suppresses another urge to jiggle his pheremone sacs. "As it turns out, I do have a permit," the alien eventually says. "But not one recognized by your scanners. It exists in the compactified dimensionalities, and is in fact a Chalabi-Yau space with certain attributes. I dare not extract it for fear that it might obliterate your solar system. You do understand, don't you?" He waits expectantly and watches them scramble for cover.

"Fine," the second man stammers. "But that proves nothing." The alien sighs. Nature provided well for his species's case, endowing them with 26 appendages, 10 of which had manipulator suckles. This inclination for base 26 had proved useful in the development of their own GUT, a feat the humans were nowhere near completing. But Article 45...unbelievable as it might have seemed, the Assembly had agreed to pass the Amendment for Article 45 after watching a couple of Star Trek episodes. It was sad how these humans suffered such cruel ironies. As it was the alien's civilization remained far above human civilization, except for certain individuals in the embassy.

"This cloak is not contraband by virtue of the fact that my government authorized it," he says. "In an interdimensional civilization such as ours it is all but inevitable. Necessary, even," he finishes, casting a discreet eye on the puny pockets of the humans. "How do you store anything in those pockets, anyway? That's something I never quite understood," he ventures hopefully.

The humans do not take the cue. Eventually Kane steps in and the alien feels a tingle of excitement. "And the leak factor potentialities?" he questions, voice dry and cool as a flux-storm in his home dominion.

For once the alien has no easy answer. He admits to himself, liberating more than a hundred volts in the process, that he had indeed been rather careless. But squeezing a eight foot form into a six-foot cast is no easy thing, even for interdimensional civilizations. "I like to think of it as disguise through flamboyance," it says slyly. Kane's mouth twists into a vexed smile. Jones sputters. "Who dresses up all in black, anyway? What do you pass yourselves off as? Musicians?" Kane's smile disappears, and he mutters something about too many movies. Jones shoots him an accusing glare. It really would have to look up the meaning of fashion one day.

"That doesn't excuse your carelessness," Kane says frigidly. The alien waves a tentacle dismissively. "Oh, we don't come here to quibble." He inhales. "It's not even illegal. Go on," and assumes an expectant posture.

Jone looks apoplectic. Red-faced, he storms in like a bull in an amorphous dark-matter construct retailer. "Who sent you here, xenoc?" he rages. "You do know all forms of espionage, telephatic or otherwise, is punishable by embargo, don't you?" The alien shudders. Embargoes are the primary motive force of the Assembly, which replaced the billion-strong armies it utilized before the Great Commerce Revolution.

Slowly, the alien loosens up his organ sacs, ready for the coup de grace. "Why," it says sultrily, "I got the very idea after watching one of your Star Trek episodes. Very interesting, really, and it doesn't break a single law. Not even yours, humans. I'm a tourist," he declares, and settles back to watch as all hell, indubitably and finally, breaks loose.


Friday, January 13, 2006

Puissance du Côté en Noir

(Yes, yes, the title is straight from Babelfish.)

Far from lucidity, his thoughts roam down dark paths well-grooved. Diminutive, he rises, cloak silent fabric on cold metal underfoot, and fingers the dangerous silver rod at his side.

Abandoned of the light, Darth Malak, purveyor of destruction! He was power incarnate, and the weak fools he had left behind be damned to the depths of the Force! I sold my soul to the Dark Side on the behest of him whom I betrayed. And he felt the righteous power of his satisfaction. Conscience no longer held any particular meaning for him. Conscience was a form of weakness, to be purged. He had been reborn, a blade tempered in blood of a billion slaves of his Empire. Only fools spared those who were naked to their power. THe one he had betrayed was one of those fools. And for that he had died, when Malak judged himself the stronger.

They had restrained him, blind to his potential! They had limited him, in the knowledge of their inferiority! His old self, that meek self, the soul that he had been had been erased in fires of destruction. No longer the humble, accepting cretin of the past, but scion of the future he held in his fist. For now, he was pledged to the Dark Side!

For his chemicals roam the neural pathways of them! The sacred molecule of his partaking, his tool to crush all opposition! For he forces them to work for his Empire, forging new monoliths for his blood hunger! And such is their labour, for they lack sleep and are driven on by the terrible fluids he forces down their throats to keep their muscles moving, their labours unending, their end torment! Bitter is his tool, and the deceptive trails of fragrance a trap for the ignorant and the unwary.

No longer need he rave at the injudicious use of his true name! For the weak fools addressed him now thus, in his power and splendor. He had forced it down their throats, mocking their stupidity. Malak! Malak! Malak! How he had grated at hearing the wrongness! And now, he had taken his revenge!

Applying himself in full study of the dark arts, he rises! All the world will tremble at his nova of power! Soon, he will be the most terrible Dark Lord of the Sith Earth has ever seen!

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The Elements

The Elements are in disarray. For the past few days it has rained and been gloomy from start to finish. The blue day remains beyond the sheer, impenetrable veil of thinly clustered clouds. Think the Matrix but milder.

A bolt of lightning heralds a crescendo of thunder. I wonder how the Sec 4s are doing in Kluang. When we went the weather was pleasantly cool and the wind was heavenly. Perhaps they will not be so fortunate. Perhaps they will. I note from the blogs of a few of them that they do not appreciate this venture one bit. Neither did I, but I was pleasantly surprised. Kluang was the high point of outdoorsy life. Perhaps their reasons differ, for I am not of the religious persuasion. But then circumstances dictate action, more so than vice-versa. Change time, change democracy and the greater consensus, or change yourself. Action is, understandably, easier.

I wish Singapore were colder and windier. Tropical weather I despise, with its static, unchanging balmy humidity and stifling, sticky post-rain depression. I wish we had Australian weather, with the offshore winds and beautiful blue skies with their golden sunsets. With the pleasant cool climate and appropriately wet weather. Or perhaps subzero Chicago, with similar blue skies and bone-chilling winds that give the Windy City its reputation.

I have outlined a nominal plan to achieve my personal ends.

Plan A (Da Plan)

Firstly, we shall have to devise a method to tilt the rotational axis of the Earth, or alternatively, to accelerate continental shift so that Singapore may be moved several degrees up latitude, although I see no way to accomplish this. Asteroidal impacts are out of the question; they cause too much destruction. I suggest something similar; the use of a large planetary body of a mass similar to that of Earth's to alter its orientation.

There are several complications to be addressed.

1. Inevitable collateral fallout.
2. The alteration of climates dictates the inevitable mass displacement of biota.
3. Tourist destinations must be radically altered.
4. George W Bush must find a way to address the US budget deficit.
5. Suitable planetary body of appropriate size must be found.
6. Cimates will be far more variable, given the greater axial tilt, thus requiring massive bioengineering works on existent biota.
7. This one is way out on the left field, but I shall address it nonetheless. Such an action may cause nearby space aliens, aka extraterrestrial entities, to take notice of our civilization, leading to a number of possible consequences ranging fro our entry into a form of intergalactic confederation or the utter annihilation of our species a la Independence Day.
8. New branches of supramathematics will have to be invented to predict and plan the intriacate orbital paths of said planetary body in order to most accuarately alter the axial tilt to appropriate levels.
9. A branch of NASA will have to convene. Names will probably range from EATAC (Earth Axial Tilt Alteration Committee) to USGANASACIAEATTMAL (US Govt. NASA Committee for the Inevitable Alteration of the Earth's Axial Tilt To More Managable Levels).
10. The extermination of the elephant and associated lifeforms.
11. Martin Scorese/Steven Spielberg will probably have to do inspirational autobiographical flicks on the life of the noble NASA engineer in charge of everything.

After everything a Committee for the Salvation of Terrestrial Life (COSTEL) will have to convene to solve the constituent problems which may include (in no particular order of severity):

1. Climate fall-out.
2. Anomalous geological activity, eg multiple volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, splitting of the crust, massive flooding, gravitational stress on cities etc.
3. Altered conditions for the survival of the ecosphere.
4. Mass hysteria and panicking.
5. Greedy insurance agents on the side.
6. Possible intervention of Bill Gates and extraterrestrial lifeforms.
7. The delay in the release of the XBox and dual-core systems in Powerbooks.
8. North Korea.

The goals of this particular undertaking include the shifting of Singapore into a temperate climate zone, which will grant us relative cool or utter dangerous cold, depending on the extent of the tilt.

Plan B

Migrate. Not viable because I don't intend to.

Plan C

Grit teeth and endure it. Suggested to be optimal solution involving negligible costs.

Evidently I am in a fair mood to-day. The above is meant to be self-deprecation.

If wishes were wings pigs could fly.

Thursday, January 05, 2006


I feel spent. Orientation week is as unenjoyable as anything. I get a very human urge to blame it on the committee, but it's not entirely their fault. Could do with less of that mud, though. Otherwise, they coordinated everything well, put their best into making this week proceed as smoothly as possible, and their planning was mostly impeccable.

Such camps are invariably a hard time for me. I am naturally quiet and hardly very gregarious. I very much prefer to find my own footing with others gradually. I'd rather circumstances dictate relationships, rather than the opposite. When tasked to interact in a forward fashion I'd naturally feel as if the ship I was standing on disappeared beneath me. I wouldn't know what to say, what to do. I lack the ability to conform to other people's interests, or to ask questions just for the sake of asking them. Girls are a further complication, for my experience with dealing with their kind is rather limited. As a result I can only mix with certain people in my group, people whose social presence I don't get intimidated by, people whom I won't think are eyeing my every move, waiting for any mistake, any gaffe they can pounce on and eviscerate. And even then I wouldn't know what to say. Neutral questions about background and feelings? I can hardly say them with any sincerity on my part. Football? Couldn't be less interested. Teacher gossip? I'm contented to listen, never venturing anything in return. Jokes? I daresay I have a few in stock, but I daren't tell them in front of people I don't know well. Books? I've endured enough flak over my supposed bookishness to demur. I remember Sec 1 very well. It was a supremely embarrassing time, because I had lack of sense enough to go around asking people about Kardeshev's scale of technological achievement.

As Kangxi would say, I've revealed a small part of my entrails. Back to discussing orientation.

It's an uncertain time. My sense of retreat hasn't dissipated entirely and with all these new people I feel rather aloof. I can hardly believe that I now technically belong to a JC level of education, injected back into the mainstream society, made to relearn social conventions once more. I drift in a lonely sea. Orientation hasn't achieved its goal for me. I would have appreciated it more if we had simply been thrust into lessons. That, at least, is an arena in which I can feel equipped to handle whatever comes. This four-day span of activities smacks of UYO camps and artificially-conceived icebreaking endeavours, that particular strain of camps which I appreciate the least.

I realize, though, that the orientation isn't meant for us, it's meant for the newcomers. It's meant to give them an emotional sense of attachment to their new surroundings, to establish the realities of their newfound allegiances and cast away old ones. I cannot complain about orientation. I cannot technically wish we were thrust straight into lessons. But I think orientation stinks. Not blaming the OC, mind. If there is something to blame, blame it on my tastes. And on the rain, which I despise. Which brings up another point where the OC failed - wet weather contingencies. The soya bean drinking was rather outrageous. There was a real risk of food poisoning. The packs of soya beans and the buckets themselves, not to mention the straws, placed carelessly on top of open sewers - if anything untoward happened, we know what to blame it on. Some rather ill-conceived activities - that pointless clowning around at Marina Bay, the limes game at the Esplanade, the outrageous and scandalous things David was forced to do as forfeit - proposing to random girls in the street, singing loudly to random passersby - rather in bad taste.

At the end of the day, the end is truly what one looks forward to. And if that doesn't sound correctly optimistic, at least it's honest.