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.


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