Friday, February 24, 2006

A Whimsical Tale

So I was hanging out at my ranch in North County. The place swarms with bears and other critters. But I don't hunt 'em. I hunt trees because I'm a vegetarian. So one day I'm hanging out at the ranch, and out comes the sheriff of the county. He says to my face, "Ehhh, cello,", and I'm like "What?" Sheriff's a right nice guy, I mean, he's old and all, and his leather strip has met the hides of a thousand philandering horsethieves. He has these long white moustachios that hang to his knees a gold earring in his ear. He has a Colt 9 that's older than his grandaddy and that's saying a lot.

So he walks up to me, boots a-clinkin', and says "cello". "Sheriff," I say, "you're drunk." He starts to mutter under his breath. So I grab his arms and walk him to the edge of the wood. "Sheriff," I say, "You gotta get back. Sundance is out again." So he says, "What?" and grabs onto his moustachios. He runs a circle in this position with his Colt banging against the holster and it drops out. Serious. The leather just gives way. So he picks it up. An' he says, "
Your time is over and you're gonna die bloody, and all you can do is choose where," he actually screams it at the top of his Sheriff's Voice and it echoes off the mountains.

Then he shoots me.

So I'm in hospital, wishing I'd kept my mouth shut. The sheriff shot me. Then the deputy had to shoot him. In the foot. So after some days I decide to write a song about it. But it won't be what really happened, of course.

Two weeks later, would you believe it, I got shot again. This time it was by another old coot who told me he was goin' hunting them critters in the forest. Apparently he thought I was a bird. The geezer says his name is Dick. He also seems to think he's famous. And he loves pretzels.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Stars in the Heavens

Listening to the Contact soundtrack brings back many memories of the movie. Contact is one of the most deeply moving films I have had the fortune to watch. It is cinematic perfection from start to finish, exquisitely and lovingly crafted by masters, portraying a world so painfully beautiful and magnificent and compelling that reality seems a cruel wound in comparison. If humanity could one day conceivably embark on such a magnificent journey to adulthood, it would start from a point not unlike the one in Contact - that of childlike wonderment and a sense of humility against the backdrop of the undying universe above.

The Universe is a many-splendoured thing. We have always derived comfort and wonder from the cosmic movements of the stars. No human being can observe a starry sky and wonder at his own place in the universe. There is no beauty as pure or as magnificent. It is a cosmic dance that is still going on, infinitely complex, unutterably, breathtakingly old. Such beauty, I am sure, appeals to the very essence of what it means to be human, of what it means to know, not the mere stuff of the body, but the transcendent state of the mind.

Sunday, February 12, 2006


A new micromeme has emerged from the primordial slush. You'd probably know this if you were online sometime during the afternoon and evening of Sunday the 12th of February. No sooner than I logged on when I was buffeted with requests from no less than 4 people begging for my input. I complied. I got sucked in. Preamble gets irritating after a while. Thus do we present links.

The Arbiter



Friday, February 10, 2006

Dark Consume Me

I feel terrible. The weight of responsibility and visions of a troubled road ahead plague my dreams and torment me in my waking moments. The alienation and utter, utter disorientation hasn't left me. I am in a depressive cycle, and, compounded by troubles that arise out of cruel circumstance, I feel wretched.

The O Level release is humbling. As an outsider, seeing the agonies and the stress of waiting, I feel myself succumbing to the ceaseless pressures of their permeating anxiety. Their apprehension fills me and drives me to distraction. Perhaps irrationally, I almost feel inadequate. Guilty. Left out, of joys and sorrows, triumph and defeat. Watching the joy of Joshua and Soon Kai upon discovering they had passed, I felt a desire to join in. But I can claim no similar triumph. When Kevin came in with news of his results, I felt uncomfortable. I didn't know what to say.

The others are easier to take. A's and B's pile and news comes, but I do not get mine, even though, in my unconscious, I may reach out for it. It's like standing on the edge of a precipice, waiting for the fall that never comes, stepping forth into the infinite gaping chasm and finding oneself safely afoot on terra firma, that sense of unfulfilled expectation and unspent adrenaline, the knowledge of reason that somehow never quite subsumes the irrationality of emotion.


I am reading Ringworld by Larry Niven. The book doesn't satisfy. It is an adventure built upon a scientific concept that never quite manages to achieve real-world resonance. It's filled with glaring inconsistencies and irritating dialogue. There is an overemphasis on sex for its own sake. Although it is built upon sound scientific principles Ringworld doesn't fulfill its early promise. It lapses into a repititive set of action sequences interspersed with Dune-like philosophical inquiries and inconsequential plottwists that sound unbelievable. It uses some rather tired motifs in science fiction like the alien girl as representative of divergent humanity and explorer-as-god, although this is forgivable given the period the book was written in. The most interesting thing in the book is, of course, the Ringworld itself. It is a compromise between a Dyson Sphere and a planet and is three million times the surface area of Earth. It is a vast sci-fi playground filled with many possibilities. Pity the book doesn't capitalize on the enormous promise of this construct. In its defense though I must say the aliens are among the most original and unique I have seen. It will be interesting to see how Ringworld ties up the plot and reaches a conclusion. Perhaps my opinion will change in future, but it remains thus while I continue reading this Hugo- and Nebula- award-winning work.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Danes and Religion

There's something to be said about freedom of expression. It might be serve as a check on authority. It may disseminate ideas and fashions. But as with all the nascent tools of humanity there is a limit to its application. We in Singapore set the limit too low. In Denmark and the utopian nations of Scandinavia, that limit requires some revision. Not to say that flag-burning and arson is justified as a backlash against a cartoon that is, after all, the brainchild of not more than the minutest representative of the Danish population, but freedom of anything is a dangerous thing. Unchecked, it can lead to chaos and disaster, abstractions that are all too chillingly real - and which have uncanny parallels to the ways in which fashions and modes of thought percolate, often among the very same channels.


Islam has often been labelled intolerant. True, insofar as it goes, but all religions share some measure of this unfortunate attribute; it is, after all, the imperative of their existence. Religions are coloured by their cultures of origin, of the early proponents of its doctrine. Islam's ideology is not dissimilar to pre-Lutheran Christianity, where the Church dominated a Europe steeped in religious inflexibility. This was the world where witches were burnt at the stake for the slightest transgression and scholars were persecuted for beliefs that did not conform with the views of the Church. The Islamic world, while considerably more mature and humane than the Christianity of that era, perhaps needs time before it can shed its image, no doubt aided by the inimical activities of self-styled jihadi terrorists. Like all religions, it often resides before the present, a symbol of antiquity predating the silicon world of the modern age. Unlike Christianity, much of whose influence has percolated with the Imperial winds of British domination, Islam has had less of a chance to expose itself to the world at large. And thus misconceptions have been formed with regards to it, misconceptions, that when dispelled reveal a religion perhaps having the potential to be as powerful and influential as Christianity itself.