Monday, August 28, 2006


I have always had a vicarious love-affair with snow, even before my fingers had ever brushed it, or crushed it into soft balls, or handled great crystalline blocks of it to fling over the distance. Funny, how snow, present everywhere in every form, pervasive in the very air around us; that unattainable and precious crystalline form of life-giving water; funny how it never comes to us but in the coldest of climes; and then, when the perfect moment comes, all drift down in mighty cascades of white gold that collapse power lines and turn automobiles into silent mounds of icing-laid cake.

Here in Singapore one wonders how the Northerners in their think parkas must feel, freezing in their little log-cabins, crouching around a fire crackling merry warmth. And yet the cold is its own magic, the silence broken only by wind and the little gusts of white swriling around the conifers. I always imagine the breathy whisper of branches and the almost-silent drift of floating flakes. The feeling of dusk at winter and the deepening blue lit, perhaps, by shimmering carpets of the Aurora Borealis at latitudes far removed from here, dancing life's joy, celebrating the misty snowy night. At times I think of a snowtopped mountain amidst a mighty cluster of peaks, snowcapped and covered in pristine perfect snow; every footstep an ecstasy, a perfectly crafted print that marrs the smooth surface of the white, fine snow that crumbles like sand in gloved fingers, cyan cloudless sky and sun above, craggy peak and blinding snow below, or a vast canvas of starry night that enshrouds the sleeping world in soft night's chime.

I have felt snow, handled it. It was a novel and wonderful experience. It is almost what I experienced in my daydreams, albeit real snow is rather colder and icier than I would like. In towns, much of it is dirty. But pristine snow on mountains, brilliant blue sky dividing the world in two, white and blue. Now, that was postcard perfect in my dreams. Too bad I have a predilection for altitude sickness.

Those who live among snow must feel the strain of cold, must be tired of gazing at the mountains, perhaps wishing for a warmer clime, among palm fronds and iced cocktails and sandy beaches. I love palm trees and coconut trees; they seem exotic to me, and, like elm and maple, are living art, sculptures that grow, statues that change. But I, too yearn for winter and cold, for snow and blue sky and chilling wind and mountain air.

It is an escapist fantasy perhaps, but nonetheless it speaks to me in my mind, dances with my dreams, beckons to me with the promise of the blue skies, that empyrean ocean of wonder.


Wednesday, August 16, 2006


The passenger liner hurtled on through the faux-blue realm of hyperspace, bound inexorable for the centre of the universe. Within its cavernous interior thousands of immigrants, returning citizens, and transit passengers sat and mingled and ate and slept - or did the equivalent of their species - the normal hubbub of sapient activity so native to the galaxy at large.

Genes did not unite the Galaxy, but shared communion of life did.

This was not the era of war and strife, of conflicts that consumed worlds. The Sith Wars had died out years ago; the Sith in hiding or dead, never having risen again. The galaxy was in the throes of its last golden age under the Republic. Trade lanes lay open under the token protection of the Republic Navy. Ships in the trillions navigated the space lanes, feeding the ever-growing furnace of the Galactic economy. At once there was a demographic shift to the more affluent Core Worlds. Planets of renown and legend, names that whispered down the corridors of galactic history - Corellia, Corulag, Alderaan - now found themselves targets of eager floods of suddenly-affluent galactic migrants inbound from less glamorous locales in the outer reaches of the galaxy.

For what seemed the first time in thousands of years of strife, those planets had the resources to accomodate the swarming crowds.

The Centre of the Universe, ironically, had never enjoyed such control. Coruscant, embattled ecumenupolis, bearer of a thousand scars of conflict - motherworld of civilization - it has always been the figurehead of a galaxy that took care of itself. Privy to the wishes of smaller, more powerful conglomerates, like the Czerka corporation or the Huttese economic and political hegemony, Coruscant was bound to play a continuous cosmic game of chance and political appeasement to these myraid groupings. It was little more than a nominal leader to the Core Worlds and not much more than a distant guardian of the Outer Rim, where the Republic was little more than a distant rumour and corporations ruled with absolute control.

With the end of the Sith Wars, however, all that changed. A century of increasing Republic control and propaganda established the political and economic supremacy of the Republic. Draconian trade laws enforced by a heavy hand massively reduced the clout of the hegemonies plaguing the worlds of the Rim. The Republic became synonymous with a force for civilization, hearkening back to the days of the Unification Wars where the Republic brought the fruits of technology to all it encountered.

The Republic became the great civilizing force, the bringer of light, the bastion of progress and freedom. And this brought with it greater control than ever before, with outbound planets supporting the Republic which had freed hem from the clutches of exploitative galactic companies like Czerka.

No longer would a foe find the Republic unprepared for war. Space was a perpetual conflict zone, and the Republic Navy controlled everything. Even the enemy had to use space lanes that had been scouted out. Space lanes could come under the interdict. No foe would ever hope to penetrate the trade lanes that led to the Core.

But this centralization, this peace, would not last. Already it was showing signs of instability. As the disapora continued, balance must be restored. The inbound would come, but along with it, the Mid Rim would sag into obscurity. Lacking its administrators and businessmen and scientists, planets would stagnate. As the diaspora continued, the Core Worlds would also sag under the weight of the immigration of billions. Immigration laws made little sense in the context of entire worlds - it was easy to disappear into planets. Especially planets like Coruscant or Humbarine. The vicious cycle would continue until the Republic would sag under the weight of centralization and stagnation. The bureaucracy would inflate, coorporations would reestablish their footing on distant planets. Power blocs would form, with senators defending the interests of their sectors.


Where there are peaks, there are also valleys.

One would come, of an ancient prophecy, he who will bring balance.

The inbound ship hurtled on in hyperspace, carrying the seeds of chaos. To Coruscant it would come.


Saturday, August 12, 2006

Equatorial Night Lights

Yesterday I had the fortune to be able to witness (from a reasonably clear vantage point, to boot) the New Caledonia fireworks display for the SFF.

Truly a spectacle, I should say, more so because I don't think I've ever seen fireworks up close before, feeling the urban crush of others around, the mass of people congregating to see and to be excited, the deep reverberations shivering up my legs as cannonade after cannonade of gunpowder-packed fireworks were projected up into the sky to burst in a myraid of coloured streamers of fiery light. There were the usual skybursts of red and golden, and those with two or many colours. There were shimmering cascades of molten frisbees spinning out into the night. There were golden showers of sparkling waterfalls and cunningly aimed explosions that seemed bent on roaring towards us before being consumed by the darkness. There were red ones that burst, and the showers that they released burst once more, creating chain reactions of crimson rain. Smoke obscured good photographs and highlighted others, and deep red shone off their cavernous plumes, and long trails, reminiscent of crashing aeroplanes or crop-dusting aircraft, spun off in many directions. The spectators were kept, enthralled, for ten short minutes as bursts of fireworks ascended in majestic beauty. After that, of course, it was all chaos.


The morn still bleeds tears of mist for the revelry of the past night.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

A Story of Temptation

the Novel

Chpt. XII : The Japanese Pay Babu A Visit

He was in his shop when the Japanese came for him.

Blue afternoon, sun beating down. The heavy drowsing air casting a pall over weary patrons. Babu reclined on his wooden chair, idly shifting coins around on the table. Nearby his bottles of water shimmered wetly in the scintillating rays of the afternoon light.

When the Japanese came, it was without warning.

They came upon you like a storm and before you know it your face is in the dust and blood trickles slowly down the side of your face.

Babu stood, almost purely on instinct, body bent forward in a bow. Almost of its own accord. The other customers had already leaped up, in like postures, all staring at the ground, none daring so much as to venture even the slightest glance at the shopkeeper.

The commander's eyes were like fiery ice on his back, raking the pores on his skin. He could feel the intensity of his serpentine gaze without even seeing it.

The commander's mouth opened with the delicacy of shattering poreclain. His diction was pained, ponderous. "You know about the death of our soldier."

It was not a question. Babu could not deny it, nonetheless.

Nearby a Chinese man was being viciously backhanded by a Japanese soldier. Babu attempted to block the sickening sounds of torture. The screams grated nevertheless. Torrents of vicious-sounding Japanese followed suit.

Arbitrary violence was the Japanese doctrine, the grand strategy for keeping Singapore - Former Crown Colony, Disaffected Vassal of the Empire, Recently Liberated Member of the Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere - under tight control.

Abruptly the Japanese commander sat down, a false smile playing on his unpracticed lips.

"I always like your drink."

Babu could only stare dumbly at the ground. He could not have been more surprised if the commander had abruptly begun doing cartwheels and singing an aria to Queen Elizabeth.

The feral grimace (that could almost be a smile) widened. "I tell the men, your drink always good in this hot weather."

The commander was fingering his bayonet. Babu swallowed, sure in the knowledge that whatever role he might be playing in this twisted, surreal little game, this uncanny contrivance of the arbitrary tyrant now dirtying his chair, that he could not possibly understand it. It was beyond him. Thus could he wash his hands off this whole sordid affair, by failing to understand.

"Bring me your drink."

Mutely, Babu brought him his drink.

Carelessly, the commander tossed a coin on the table. Babu eyed it warily, certain that keeping in concordance with this lurid little fantasy, it would morph into some terrifying visage at any time.

The commander's smile faded a bit, to be replaced by a dim expression of annoyance. Promptly, he ordered, "Pick coin up." So Babu picked the coin up.

"Put in pocket." Babu assented, eyes downcast.

The commander smiled a pleased snarl. "Now we the talk." He took a surreptitious swig at the drink and nodded in satisfaction.

Babu, certain in the knowledge that no Jap had ever patronized his shop before, wondered how the commander could possibly know about the goodness of BBB. The goodness of BBB is all-empowering! Babu uses the secret ingredients and best technique to make the drink that will make your day!

Babu's Big Bucks were in trouble. That much he could gather.

"Sit." Babu sat, galled at being offered a seat at his own shop.

"Tell me what you know...about this place, the Haven."

Babu felt a thrill of foreboding course through his spine. "Ha-aven, sir?" He ventured a glance up. "I know nothing about the Haven, sir, except it is a place where orphans go to school, and, you know, things, and I am truly sorry, but-"

"We know about this. Tell more."
"I...I am not sure, sir, what else to say."

Now was the moment where everything goes black and red and stars, he thought.

But the commander only stood, shouldering his bayonet. "You should join INA. Make drinks, meet Bose, free country from British Imperialists."

For a brief brilliant moment the dream of Starbucks floated in his mind. He could join the INA, the Japanese were all over, he could start his Starbucks and sell his BBBs and create chains of stores all over Punjab. He could feature movie stars on his labels and wear tailored coats and sport a Ford car.

For a brief moment, then all was extinguished.

The Japanese shouted commands to his troops and they promptly set off. There was a visible release of tension. Babu was surprised to note that the sun was already setting.

The Japanese had an agenda, of course. But he was a friend of Haven, even if he was not affiliated in the least with them. They were good money, and good friends.

The INA would have to do without his culinary skills.

Perhaps I should start in America instead.

Espying the retreating Japanese, he set off down a side street at a run, determined to get there before the Japanese did.


Monday, August 07, 2006


I never thought I'd say this, but I really do miss our small island nation with no natural resources. It's been a month and a half now, and the lack of "lah"s and "nehmine"s, coupled with bloody American spelling, is getting to me. Unforunately, while there is another Singaporean here, she's from UWC and is half Canadian, so I've had to turn to Mr Brown to keep me sane. Go ter kwa!

Anyway. Life here is really hectic. Since I'm missing school to do this, I figured I may as well try to get two As - which I later realised is above 95. This therefore entails studying most of the time (so this is what being a wafflesian feels like!). On the other hand, the courses and instructors are excellent, the campus is gorgeous, and the people are absolutely amazing. Most of them aspire to start some literary renaissance, win a nobel prize or solve world hunger and/or villages of starving orphans, so its really difficult to answer what your ambitions are when asked, without sounding absolutely retarded. Currently I've settled on being world hegemon, which I suppose will be kinda neat in due time.

Speaking of Mr Brown, I just went to visit his namesake the week before. For some reason or another it reminded me a lot of good old AC, with a very heavy emphasis on CCAs and a tad less on academic grades. Also, I just returned from an eight hour roundtrip to Yale, which is without question one of the most beautiful yet idiosyncratic places on the planet. For example: in both Harvard and Yale, there are bronze statues with the founders' names below them. People (chinese and japanese tourists especially) pay megabucks to come from all over the world to touch the statues' toes, which apparently brings luck to the admission process. As a result, the toes of the statues are gleaming gold from people touching it and transferring its dust to themselves. However, because all paintings of them were destroyed in various fires, the statues are NOT actually of either Harvard or Yale! Rather, they're just two random people the artisans picked out when they made the statue. Very very silly. More pictures to follow.

The depressing part of all of this is that its going to be really difficult to get into any one of them. A quick trip to the COOP here will explain (in "How They Got Into Harvard, 2nd edition") that unless you're a valedictorian, captain of three national sports teams, and related to the president (yes, all at once), you're better off selling ice to eskimos than applying to a top ivy. Ah well, much work lies ahead.

On the plus side, in two weeks I'll be back. Which isn't entirely good either, because theres going to be a mountain of stuff waiting for me. But I knew this would happen when I signed up for it anyway, and its certainly been worth it, I think. I hope.

Aiya sian already, see you all soon lah.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Alchemy Haven

Midmorning on Saturday, chemistry practical laid out in the process of exquisite compilation. It is strange, to say the least, how doing something as conventionally frustrating as a practical report can be so cathartic an experience. The very nature of the report requires extensive didacticism and serene, precise organization. The very normalcy of such a feeling inspires a sense of comfort and confidence within the confines of one's labour, and the care that one places in the mathematical precision required by sets of calculations is a testament to an unbridled love of order and organization as needed in all the myraid things of the earth.

Organization, minimalistic elegance and unfettered simplicity are the attributes of the day, a fitting counterpoint to the chaotic mess of school life and the excess of acronyms that must be painstakingly adhered to and paid to by services of pliant lips.


Which brings me to the next topic, Haven. A mildly entertaining spectacle of sincerity, a concatenation of laudable effort, a commendable debut of directorial diligence, diffidently delightful dancing, dames, (dowdily dressed), drawling daintily dulcet duets, and nicely drawn backdrops.

I'll spare you the details of the plot, which is rather conventional. Suffice to say that Haven was not as bad as I thought it would be. The dancing was not bad, some of the songs were quite good, veering off the all-too-common NDP-esque medleys that I feared might dominate. The acting was fine, barring the irritating didacticity of the speech, and the flatness of some of the dialogue. The play is sharply divided into two halves in terms of mood - one half is at once relaxed and comedic and features prominently white-clad Indians and Joshua Hoe. The other half takes itself too seriously, is overbearingly preachy, and features Abraham, Pastor Jo, and Victor. But in all the play and the actors acquit themselves well. Abraham exudes "goodness", the Victor guy the opposite. The girls, as usual, acted and sang like they were born to it. And perhaps they are biologically conditioned to acting, being better able to express emotion. Victor sang like he was in a boy band, words slurred, shaking a fist at the world. I suppose that was somewhat appropriate.

One thing I didn't like was the way Christianity was inserted into the play. Granted, there's an obligation, but the way it was done was rather explicit and excessive, with all the "good guys" being Christians and the evil or maladjusted characters being non-Christians. There was also that joke about Shiva, which I thought was insensitive. It seems to me that Haven is trying to portray Christians as possessing all the moral ground. This was unlike Godspell, which expounded on the virtues Christ embodied, which was good, because it is evangelism based purely on the positive values that Christianity possesses, and not the negative values that the rest of the world is apparently drowning in.

The Japanese soldiers were well acted, especially when they were conversing in (faux?) Japanese. I had feared that the Japanese were going to talk in some hackneyed imitation of a Japanese accent. They don't, except the Japanese commander, who spouted a few English phrases in a Japanese accent thick as molasses and authentic as far as I could judge, being unacquainted with the intricacies of the Japanese way of speaking. Which is a good thing, in any case.

All in all, a reasonably enjoyable experience, although I wouldn't watch it again. I shall see how others make of it.