Saturday, May 13, 2006


Hestia, she was always the Cassandra of the little Playgroup.

The other day, during Practitions of Kinematical Ability, she ran sobbing to the Playcircle and announced to the class, "A Mercedes Benz R350 just came out of the waste paper basket!"

The scene of the crime was unsurprisingly devoid of any such improbability, though. We stood reproachfully around the offending basket and ignored the sobs of the betrayed Hestia. Miss Moppets, our teacher-in-charge, tapped a red-painted finger on her full lips and considered the surrounds.

"For once, I think Hestia did see what she just saw."

Miss Moppets was a formidable force in our collective sight. At One Point Six Emm she towered still over us like a vengeful giant bent on destruction, her reproach sufficient to annihilate cities. But notwithstanding her vastness the most remarkable thing about her was how she housed her abdominal regions within the confines of a 3-inch cylindrical aluminum pipe, making the two bulbs of her body resemble twin globules of sweetness on a giant lollipop. When she walked on her platforms they wobbled precariously to and fro. Often during our darker moments we shared this collective vision of her vulnerability and traded dark stories on her history.

Presently we stared at her, faculties skeptical but inquiring. The silence was enough to say it all.

She pointed a red finger at the floor, where two streak marks, fresh, graced the delicate granite. Our eyes followed her to the north wall, amalgamation of centuries-old tapestries.

"Observe closely, children." Her voice was marigold on tinted silver and reverberated painfully in the room. It filled us with a sense, an image, of great red dark fleshy organs and squelching blood palpitating in the depths of her trachea, where indomitable golems of bloodred flesh laboured quietly to belch forth patterns of sounds that would rise sickly, bubbly, up to her lipstick-smeared mouth, past her rows of glinting, wet teeth and rolling, wet tongue-stained with black cigarette smears and green mint, forward, blowing back the uvula and making it bounce back and forth like a punching-bag, forward, whistling through the jagged gaps of skin-flaked lips and-

There was something strange about the wall. We stared closely. "Concentrate," she breathed.

Some got it first, others later, but we all did get it in the end. There was a hole in the wall, except that-

It wasn't there.

Miss Moppets placed a hand on her abdomen, which is to say, the aluminum pipe, and announced that she was proud of us. "Only," predator's teeth bared in feral grin, "my children would have seen it."

A voice from the back whispered, "What is it?"

The grin widened. For a moment Miss Moppets resembled a Great White, alien, hostile, and exultant over a prospective meal. The caverns of her satisfaction opened, and for a while, we were defenceless, alone, vulnerable before her infinite might.

Pronounced from the deadly caverns of her satisfaction: "It is a quantummechanical effect."

The illusion shattered. There she was, back again, Miss Moppets, hand on aluminum pipe. "The car exists, or did not. It came, it did not come. And what it did, it could not have done, for it did not exist. The wave function does not collapse, here, in the Playroom."

Seeing our confusion, she pronounced, "The mind cannot comprehend the spatialics of the Higher Dimensions."

Our notebooks were busy for that moment. Hestia's sobs receded into snuffling. "Hestia." The sudden import of sound was earsplitting. "Come here."

Hestia went, shaking with fear.

Miss Moppets regarded her from above. "You showed remarkable potential, Hestia. The ability to dictate quantummechanical reality. I have decided that you shall ascend, despite your lack of training. Children," she addressed us, "Hestia is leaving. Her delusions have not, in fact, been delusions. Her fancies have been realities. She has the ability to conjure dreams from reality, and reality from dreams. She shall Ascend."

Hestia disappeared, then.

Years later she is an idea, a representation of a quality, a force. Like Minerva, she spawns from dreams. She spawns dreams. She is a goddess, and she has become endemic in the minds of men.

Okay, got the idea from American Gods.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Charles Stross and Other Matters

Since Perdido Street Station I have cultivated an ever-growing interest in steampunk, which is to say, that particular genre of novels that deal with the themes of the dynamic between magic and technology, usually represented in the typical Victorian "mechanized civilization" and corresponding "magic" elements in society. Steampunk must be dark, gritty, and Gothic. It must defy some mechanical rules; essentially, it is an atavistic, fantasy version of technopunk.

As a testament to this newfound interest in steampunk I have been digging into Rise of Legends, the "spiritual sequel" to the famous and Nova-beloved RON, as well as having recently purchased KJ Parker's Devices and Desires, which although not categorically steampunk, has some nice drawings of pistons and pumps on the cover. (Come off it, it's called the Engineer Trilogy, for all's sake. And medieval Dukedoms are a worthy substitute to magic-spinning voydanoi.)

I have also been trying to broaden my sci-fi tastes, in a grandiose effort to 1) expand my science fiction reading circle, 2) aid my EE research. So the other day I stopped by Kinokuniya and acquired one Iain M Banks book, Consider Phleblas, and the two Charles Stross ones on the Eschaton - Singularity Sky and Iron Sunrise. Suffice to say, Bank's seemingly action-centric narrative hides a deeper significance encapsulated in the title that no doubt has links to the question of the moral right to sovereignty and overlordship of a certain Culture in the novel. Stross, on the other hand, is hailed for his innovative sci-fi universe and blazingly new concepts along with the "Benford-like care", as a reviewer put it, in his works. I never liked Benford because of the Second Foundation series. Nor David Brin neither. I preferred Iron Sunrise of the two, although it was more conventional. Iron Sunrise seemed more complete, with a clarity and direction rare in books of such scale.

I have yet to expound fully on my liking for The Parent Trap.
Since I seem more loquacious today, it shall begin hence. The Parent Trap is a testament to the fact that innocent, carefree movies cannot be consigned just so into the rubbish dump of bad movies. Merely because it lacks the "real world grit" of machismo-ridden, film noir angsty jungle-world Oscar-winning scions of the Great Directors doesn't mean that it is of little value, relevance or profoundity. The Parent Trap is a cohesive mixture of comic action, serious themes in life and relationships. Lindsay Lohan performs her dual roles with near perfect polish, rendered doubly noteworthy by the fact that her two characters are so different. Her acting is one of the best things about the movie and is a major reason why this movie is a must-watch. Besides, although including the inevitable reunion, the plot is not as cliched as I had thought it would be. All in all, excellent performances from all, and although six years old, The Parent Trap is as fresh and relevant as it ever was and will be.

Tests. Firefly and Serenity. Rome. Chemistry Practical 9. All these things; they trouble me. All the obligatory projects and long-term mash of must-dos. IOP. Group 4 project. TOK. Math Portfolio. Common Test.

Respite eludes me. That's it. I am done with the obligatory blog-rant.

No matter what I cannot seem to summon up the resolve to write about Shanghai. I have enlisted the aid of Nova, who has much to say on the matter.

The weather seems to be improving, with the exception of the heavy rain of a few hours back. The blue sky reminds me of America and other temperate countries. Blue sky is, for me, indelibly associated with OM and holidaying. Sunny days and cumulus cloud-dotted skies are my favourite type of weather.

PAP won again. I was hoping that the Opposition would get a full GRC this election, what with the furore over 47 contested seats and such. Apparently not, with the system skewed such that possible pockets of opposition support are integrated into the pro-PAP GRC fold. The PAP overreacted. I cannot believe that it would honestly think that negative attacks on the opposition would rally public sympathy to their cause. Gomez was a clear miscalculation, and I think they knew that along the way. But what irks me most is that a PAP minister would actually say after the whole affair had come and gone that "Don't Worry, if you voted for the opposition, you're still pro-Singapore." Thats an ultimately arrogant and fallacious statement on several counts. First, it assumes that people are naturally inclined to think that the Opposition is anti-Singapore. Second, it's a smug assertation of PAP superiority and a tacit assumption that voting for the PAP was the "right" and "pro-Singapore" thing to do -which, although correct to a certain extent, suggests an overturning of the democratic process in which the moral right of the voter is asserted. Third, it just sounds so arrogant, especially coming after the shameful things the PAP had to pull in order to discredit the opposition, like the ruckus over Gomez, the carrot-and-stick approach to the Opposition Wards in Hougang and Potong Pasir. Those two wards remain to this day poorer districts of Singapore. I honestly cannot believe that the PAP thinks it is right to pull such outrageous and plainly insincere stunts. If a governing party rescinds upgrading privileges for the sake of getting more political clout, it has lost some of its mandate, no matter what the analysts say.

It may be that the PAP honestly believes that it is the only party that can handle Singapore, and responds as such. And perhaps it is. One cannot discount the incredible things the PAP has done for Singapore over the years, or attribute it to luck or regional climate or any such half-baked reason. One cannot deny the fact that without the PAP, it would have been so easy for Singapore to slide down the path to darkness and obscurity. But disregarding our obligation to them, and their contuining effectiveness in running the country, the utilization of strongarm tactics like these is simply untenable and shameful, and gives the critics more meat to discredit our nation.

Let us hope that GE 2010 will see a mellowing of the PAP's campaign and the inclusion of an increased opposition.

CAS. A fruitful Monday afternoon works wonders on the mind.

With all this talk of OM, memories once again surface. I remember Iowa, Boulder, Chicago; all the American cities I visited; the bookstore at the Uni, the teen's party of such American exuberance, the trading of pins and T-shirts. The pain of OM. The utter agony; listening to Enya and Blue (Da Ba Dee) while working on props that seemed never to get done. Waiting in the Glenn Miller Hall and emerging sans a mask.

Funny how remembrance blurs the pain. And how merciless is time and transition.


Sunday, May 07, 2006

Rumination II

Shanghai was...interesting. It's changed so much since I last went there, and that was only about a year and a half ago. Many things have remained the same, though. Its beauty; its ugliness, its modernity and parochialism all mixed together like every other city humanity has ever spawned at one time or another. Shanghai has grown beyond its people, a first world city still amongst third- to second- world attitudes. Like Singapore in the 1970s, perhaps. Its people are catching up though. With frightening adeptness.

I wouldn't want to live in Shanghai, though. Unless someone gave me a million dollars to furnish a reasonably high-end locale establishment in-city, preferably in Pudong. Nova will again provide details on the trip, if he wants.


It's saddening to watch the Parent Trap, delightful though it may be. The Parent Trap owns Mean Girls hands down, which is a primary imperative for me to go search out a VCD of the movie and keep it for posterity. It's saddening because Lindsay Lohan is currently engaged in discreet drug-taking (or is alleged to be by vengeful paparrazi) and the production of "sexually suggestive music videos" in an attempt to be a cross-platform teenage drama queen (hah). Contrast to her double role as the twins Who Decide to Reunite Their Estranged Parents in the 1998 movie, where she, like Macaulay Culkin before her, is/are the quintessential mischevious but good-hearted kid(s) who swoop(s) in to deliver the oversized double whammy of feel-good comic action Against the Antagonists. Two words that bespoke of the cruel inevitability of change: Growing Up.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Postcards from Shanghai

It was a song that had been playing on my way to the airport on the day of the flight. "...send me picture postcards from LA..." sang Joshua Kadison. Seven days and half a week of rumination and distraction later, I can only present a URL.

Shanghai-Suzhou OEP Pictures

The connexions are clear enough. When we are ready, perhaps we will furnish this place with some reflections.