Monday, May 31

Mondays Are For Thinking

I'm feeling wistful today. Maybe it's age catching up with me, or the general slow pace of the day, but it's one of those days when you just can't be arsed to do anything but sit, think and..well look wistful, and you know it's unnatural when even a Simpsons episode makes you feel all gooshy inside (more later). Oh God.

I was at a friend's engagement yesterday afternoon. Nothing fancy, just an exchanging of rings, gifts and a rather formal meeting of both sets of parents. Being a close friend of the family I was entrusted with photographing the occasion. You know, for posterity and all that. It dawned on me then, as we were winding down after the rather stressful ending (unrelated to the ceremony, but the groom to be's parents had a car crash about five minutes after but luckily no one was hurt, how's that for drama) how things were changing. I felt it in the waves of relief the mother of the bride-to-be emanated, in the way everything suddenly felt different, as if there was an invisible bubble or aura surrounding everyone and generally in the whole feel of the place. Something inside me (or was it outside?) sensed the change, imperceptible as it may have been. In that heightened state of awareness, it was as if I could even feel the continents move if I wanted to.

Life (at least for the two principals) had changed. As I watched them sit, talk, eat and make plans, I could feel that familiar twang of envy. There they were, radiant and expectant, and for a brief fleeting moment I wondered if I could ever feel- correction: if I could ever let myself feel that way again. The girl had gone through a lot before this. She was successful and empowered, and that tended to attract either the wrong guys or none at all (knowing how some guys feel about the whole thing, I'm not surprised). So when this particular man came into her life it was not without misgivings on everyone's part. In a way, I guess what I felt was the collective sigh of relief from her family that at least THIS part was over, that there was only the matter of the wedding to attend to, and she would finally settle down.

I can't say if it was rock-my-world, can't-live-without-you love or not, and frankly it doesn't matter. They made a conscious brave decision, and whatever the outcome, they had more balls in doing it than I could ever muster on my own. As I drove back last night I couldn't help but think of the funny paths life takes us on, and how you can never count on anything to stay the same.

Life moves on. So do the people in your life. They grow, evolve, change and find new priorities. Suddenly you realise you're clutching desperately at any vestige of the old life, knowing fully well it's left you ages before. You feel that little twinge of fear in your psyche. Unjustified, perhaps, but knowing it is so doesn't make it any better.

There are still so many things to do, but in the meantime you content yourself with other things: that wonderful Carl Sagan paperback you picked up for 7 bucks to read on the train, memories of that amazingly clear and erotic dream where you were giving head to a woman only you could see or feel (and man could I feel) and when all else fails, trusting that in time there might be a little space for you, too.

You know, up there where people are (or seem to be) happy.
And have lots of lusty, multi-positional sex.

Good night, folks.


Education Hullaballoo ver 9.0

I originally wanted to blog about my recent Singapore trip, and my impressions. I also wanted to top it off with a mini review of a delightful UK film I saw called Shaun of The Dead. However when I got back home little did I realise the extent of the hue and cry caused by the latest round of university intakes.

I won't even attempt to do a write up, many of the other more established bloggers have done so, and exceedingly well at that. I am terribly sorry for those students out there who have given their all only to be given an arbitrary reason for being shunted into an obscure faculty or departmental course. It is a huge blow, and no doubt many of you are disillusioned and disoriented. I am also sorry that the process of choosing your potential course is so difficult not because it IS, but because you lack any trained (and caring) help. My brother faced it, and I think so have you. You received the forms with scant clue as to how to fill them in, much less any warning that ONE minor slip will shunt you out of your chosen course to something no-one's heard of. You hear rumours of a lelong system, where the uni high-ups decide what to do with the scores of students who supposedly do not make the grade (or the quota, perhaps?) Other than the UPU handbook that arrived in the post, you have to make do with common sense and frequent calls to friends or older relatives. Some of you are lucky because you actually know someone familiar with the system. Other times you just trust in God and fill those eight choices in, knowing full well whatever happens it's still going to be YOUR fault.

There are no excuses to be made. None at all. As someone who works in the system, whom some of you will see this coming June (if you come to classes that is), I have to say I have none of the answers. This has been going on since I was a student, and no one has the faintest idea why or how, or perhaps no one dares say that they do.

A brain drain is going on, and even yours truly can't really escape its temptation. As noted in SuaraMalaysia, a unified examination system is perhaps what we need to eliminate cried of favouritism, cronyism and the like. That silly little crutch the malays are so comfortable with needs to be chucked in the trash (I'm Malay by the way, before anyone decides I'm a racist pig). You want to see why? Come to the other side and see what it has done for your children. Dependent, scared, inert. This is my raw material, and you expect me to mold them into gold?

This is not my job. Spoonfeeding is not my job either. Neither is repairing the damage caused by a decades-long disintegration of learning values and the tidak apa attitude.

As Fooji notes, good exam results don't necessarily make a good student. Anyone can cram a textbook into their head. But how many students actually come into the system hoping for more than just a good GPA? From where I'm standing, not many. Of course, I don't blame it all on the students, since the system has been effectively killing off any creativity they may have had.

There needs to be a revamp, and we can't do it if the administrators are the same people who were there 30 years ago. Until we abolish decades of brainwashing and patronage, there will be other cries of foul play and calls for transparency. Ultimately the damage CAN be undone, only if you want to. Shake off that inferiority complex and the secondary school mindset. Throw away that "government will always help us" motto you've been fed. There is every chance to do well as a student AND a person in university, and it's all up to you, no matter what they did to your UPU forms.

I await the intake with bated breath. See some of you in June.


Sunday, May 30

...And Coming Up For Air

In the words of the greatest action hero/actor this century has even seen:


I'm still aching after the 8 hour train ride and there's an engagement ceremony I have to attend in a bit but I just thought I'd let the blogiverse (well the people who read me anyway) know that I'm back.

I'd love to launch into a report of what I thought of Singapore, but I realise whatever I write now wouldn't be fair, simply because I didn't spend enough time there and thus wasn't able to REALLY run around the place. I DID have time to form some singular impressions of the places I did go to, and these will be fodder for another post (because it's Sunday and I want to savour the weekend before it disappears).

So until that glorious moment, I'll have this to say:



Friday, May 28

Going Down

I haven't been on a train in ages. So later tonight I'm getting on a train to Singapore with a couple of friends and when I wake up, I'll be all the way down south.

I have no idea why we're going. All I know is I need a break. So to all you folks out there, have a good weekend, drive safe, and if you can't be good, at least be bloody careful.

Ash.ox out.


Thursday, May 27

Second Story: Dream


"..Everybody has a secret world inside of them. I mean everybody. All of the people in the whole world- no matter how dull and boring they are on the outside. Inside them they've all got unimaginable, magnificent, stupid, amazing worlds..

..and if there's a moral out there, I don't know what it is save maybe that we should take our goodbyes whenever we can."

The Sandman: A Game of You, Neil Gaiman

It's been one of those days when you're sure as hell something's trying to tell you somebody. Your skin feels like a pair of old worn socks, you think your head's on funny and there's an itch in the space between where your head ends and the mind begins to flow. You know, in the in between places. Anyway.

I dreamed:

There is a theatre of sorts, and there is a play, or maybe it is a musical. The players jump about and say their lines, but you can't hear them clearly (or even see them), because you're too high up. Trying to look at any one performer makes your eyes ache, because they alternate between being very small and very big, but they're always very grainy, as if someone thought putting an 8mm colour filter on things was a good idea. So the washed out colours on the washed out players flicker in and out while you try to figure out which remnant of which dream THIS one is.

As usual, you know it's a dream (though why it makes sense that this is organised by your office eludes you, but you accept it anyway) and you play along, if only because it's so much more interesting than real life. So you turn around and the Ex is sitting in the row behind you, looking pretty much like the last time you saw her (except with shorter hair) and you congratulate yourself on being able to get the details right, even if her glasses are all wrong.

Back to the play, and all of a sudden you're sitting in between two girls, and the one on your right inexplicably has your right hand in hers and the other is chatting (or at least that's what you think she's doing) because her mouth is moving but nothing comes out except what sounds like a very faint blablablah. So you turn to look at the girl on your right. Thin, cute in a way but not really pretty (actually the both of them are quite average looking but at least they're not monsters) and suddenly she's got your hand on her face and she's acting like it's the best thing since sliced bread the way she's kissing it and smothering her face with it. You can feel your face smiling (even the one outside the dream) because it's just so damn funny.

And the girl on your left pulls you back because apparently she needs you to listen to something very important, though for the life of you you can't hear a single thing, but you smile and nod anyway. A tutting sound from the back makes you look and you see some other people looking very disapprovingly at what you're doing (and you realise the girl sucking on your palm has no bra on and you can see her left nipple down her top, it's brown and it's hard and you can't help smiling).

You get tired (plus there's a sound you KNOW is the alarm) so you pull away, give a little nod to the silent Ex and the two wonderful girls (especially the one on the right), take a last look at her nipple (this is what I will remember when I wake up, you tell yourself) while trying not to be too bloody obvious about it and you're still chuckling when the dream-spool plays out

and you wake up.


Wednesday, May 26

Two Stories (Again!)


Regularly I'm not a violent person. Really. But today something happened that made me want to do spectacular, bloody and painful things to people. Well, not people. Just two, actually. Comng home slightly late from work, I decided to stop at the McDonald's drive thru near my place for a quick takeaway (if it's one thing about the big M, it's that I've never ever contracted food poisoning from their food). As usual, it being late and all there were already several cars ahead of me, but I didn't really mind, since the service has always been quick. So when there were only two cars in front of me (and my tummy was grumbling rather loudly at this point) a motorcycle came around from behind and approached the counter. This in itself was nothing irregular, since some cyclists routinely use the alley to make a quick U-turn back into ss15.

However, I started to get curious when the cars ahead of me seemed not to move for quite a long time. When I was able to inch my wheezing Kancil a few inches ahead, I saw the reason for the delay: the cyclist and his pillion had cut the queue and were ordering from the drive through counter. Now call me anal, but I was more than a little miffed simply because:

1) As I drove past the motorcycle spaces I noticed most of them were empty, and the main dine-in counter itself was rather deserted.

2) The fellow cut the bloody queue (DUH!).

3) He took his time ordering AND paying.

4) The Drive-Thru lane means exactly that: it's for bloody driven vehicles!

To add further insult to injury, the bastards didn't even bother to fake an apologetic air, or even a placating wave! I'm a firm believer of the Traffic Apology Ritual: look back and raise your hand in a gesture of apology, and I'll be fine. Really. Even though I know you don't mean it, that particular gesture goes a long way to soothing a stressed drive. So maybe this makes me a wuss, but life has so many other troubles to waste brain cells on than getting angry at the driver in front of you, so this is acceptable.

What happened just now, was not.

So after several hours stewing about it in my head, I've come to the conclusion that I was angry simply because it didn't make any sense for Mr Macho Cyclist to come to the drive-thru window, for the reasons I mentioned above. With the ample parking for cyclists available, he could have parked the cycle and popped in and out in less time than it would have taken us to move 6 inches. The counters were nigh deserted and still he chose to cut off two (three including me) other cars. Anyway, either Malaysians were feeling nice this evening or they were just too chickenshit but the drivers in front of me went on as if nothing was wrong (although I did notice the satria driver in front of me had his hands full with his girlfriend pawing his face every few seconds).

I guess I'd not notice someone cutting the queue as well if I had a girl pawing my erm, body parts. So there it was. My reason for the slight discomfiture early this evening. I don't know if the gods of irony were working overtime, but on the way back (after finally getting my ValueMeal) I was stuck behind another Satria with the female passenger literally all over the driver.

Man, I need to get myself a satria.

Ash.ox out.


Tuesday, May 25

The Battle of The Mess

It is Tuesday.

He decides that the house is messy enough, and a little elbow grease wouldn't hurt. The pile of magazines and assorted knick-knacks defy him, in their own silent way. They sit in the corner, looking all formidable and mess-like. It is an unspoken challenge, but it reverberates throughout the apartment. "Take us apart," they taunt. "See if you won't end up sweaty and tired, and we'll still be here."

He imagines himself like one of those samurai in the chambara movies, gritting his teeth and squaring his shoulders. For good measure he grips the palms of his hands, tight. There is a little pang of disappointment as he realises there is no crackling sound that comes out of that act. It is real life, after all, so he settles for the second best: he twists his neck slowly, from left to right. This time, there is a sound. It is loud too. He takes this as a sign. The battle can begin.

The Old Ladies say there is an art to approaching the messy bookshelf. One should not rush into it, for the bookshelf is wise, and learned in the secret art of the Bookslide Ambush. It has expected this attack, and has prepared its defenses well. He cautiosly scouts the area, looking for an opening or a sign of a possible trap. In times like these, a single mistake could cause the entire effort to fail.

There is none. Bordered by the Great Circular Dining Table and backed against a wall, the Bookshelf is in a good position. Our hero (if hero he can be called, which is highly unlikely since he's in a tattered pair of shorts and an old shirt) leans back to rethink his options. He stares hard at the pile of Old Girlie Magazines, pompous on their peak. They stare back, their dogeared covers flapping in that obscene laugh only they know. The Hotlink ad comes on Astro. It is time.

His hands grasp the first layer of magazines, and lifts them off their perch and onto the floor. They resist, but as he works he realises that their taunts only serve to mask their weakness. Once on the floor, they are nothing but limp paper. He works faster, and the plastic bag next to him fills with refuse, old pieces of paper, bills. Almost too easy, he thinks, and then he gets walloped by the Stack of Memories.

(The Stack of Memories is a popular last-ditch form of defence by any Mess under threat. When activated, this attack assaults the person trying to get rid of the mess by completely surrounding him/her with items that invoke a memory flood in the person, thus drowning him/her with past memories, usually of the romantic type.)

There are bits and pieces of the old life in some of the scraps and pieces of paper. Old bills, ticket stubs, project outlines, envelopes with reminders ("buy supplies", says one, hastily jotted notes, old love letters from 1994. It's all there, and it's all unleashed with extreme prejudice. The Shelf, it seems, was not going down easy. He falters, just for a little while, and the Shelf glorifies in its victory, but nor for long. He fights back with every ounce of his strength and so-called tenacity and soon, there is no more mess.

The girlie magazines are tied up and stacked. So are most of the others. Some stragglers sit awkwardly on the floor, splayed and violated. Those he can pick up later. For now, the Shelf is manageable and organised. Not as much as he'd like, but there will be more time for improvements later. As he brings the corpses to the recycling bin he thinks he can feel the Mess plotting. It always plots, and there will be another battle for another day.

For now, the world is in balance again.

*Unrelated - check out my favourite author in an interview eating eggplant sushi here*


Monday, May 24

When Universities Are Bled Dry

A colleague came back today from a three day long gathering of all the IT deans from all the local public universities. They had been discussing the national ICT education policy, and some of the results were quite surprising, to be honest. For instance, I've just found out (beyond rational belief) that my particular faculty has one of the highest numbers of staff with PhDs in the country (this has no bearing on the actual quality of the institution or their research, but more on this later). Secondly, and perhaps more importantly none of the local IT faculties can afford to send their lecturers abroad for their doctorates! Apparently most of their staff are opting to do their PhDs locally, since internal funding is next to zilch (especially for the newer University Colleges). What makes this interesting is that so far, all universities agree (discreetly) that it is beginning to rankle them that the medical and engineering faculties continue to receive "critical" status even when they're unsure of the eligibility of those fields.

For the uninitiated, critical status for a particular field simply means you get an extra RM 500 added to your base pay, and the priority to procure funding for overseas study. If you're a member of the academic staff, the promise of getting funding for your doctorate means the world. Of course there are the yearly external scholarships (which are contested throughout the world, and which I'll definitely apply for) but it's nice to know that our place of work can actually send us to wherever it is we want to go. So where did the money go? No one really knows for sure. When enquired, a certain government agency could only speculate that the money went "somewhere in the last election".

Anyway, there's the issue, clear as day: Local universities can no longer afford to send their IT people out to get their doctorates. There is, according to the government, no more money. Now if that isn't weird, I wonder what is. So we start to hear whisperings of unhappiness. People are questioning, why isn't IT a critical field as well? Are engineers and doctors the only people who are qualified to go abroad?

As much as some of you may think this affects me, strangely enough it doesn't. Not in the way even I'd expected. Well, actually what DOES affect me is the fact that the government can actually run out of money to fund overseas research. Not to say that local research isn't any good, but if what I hear is true, and my university is actually the one with the best research staff, then the rest really has something to worry about. A field like computer science cannot depend on inter-varsity knowhow alone. The field and its many sub-disciplines expand almost every day at an exponential rate. Try reading through any recent journal publication related to the area (IEEE, ACM) and it will become readily apparent that without a focused consistent effort to bring in the expertise and technology, we'll be stuck producing the same things over and over again.

So how will I handle this? I know if I DO want to continue on this path I will HAVE to go abroad. I cannot forgive myself if I don't. A PhD is four years of my life, and I will not have it wasted on something I have no interest in doing, nor I will have myself settle for anything less than the best. If I can't do it where and how I want, I might as well not. Am I being selfish? I figure I deserve this much. Heck, I'm halfway to quitting the science line altogether and do something like media studies anyway. So in the meantime I'll be waiting to see where this goes, and trying for those external scholarships.

They'll have to try extra hard to bring this dream of mine down.

*Again, on a totally unrelated note: Joanna Bessey in a baju kurung is sooo hot.*



Sunday, May 23

DVD Sunday

When anything more strenous than getting up to go to the loo is nigh impossible, there's only one thing to do:

Get in as much visual stimulation you can (and no, I can't bear looking at porn when my stomach's like this). So in the spirit of sharing and tummy aches, I present to you not one but three mini DVD reviews, just to show you how much of a couch potato I've been today.

This little gem of a thriller may be one of the best movies of 2004 that no one will ever see. Starring Val Kilmer and William Macy (!!) among others, this political-espionage thriller tells the story of a kidnapped girl whose existence possibly threatens the whole US government. I wish I could tell you more, but that would spoil the whole thing. Written and directed by playwright turned director David Mamet, this movie drew me in with numerous red herrings, good acting all around and a generally intense atmosphere. Very nice.

Bubba Ho-Tep
I'd been waiting for ages for this, and it's finally paid off. Bruce "Evil Dead" Campbell stars as Elvis, who gives up his life of fame by switching places with an Elvis impersonator. Growing old in an East Texas rest home, he befriends Jack (Ossie Davis) who believes he's the real president Kennedy (albeit with his brain removed) and discovers that their neigbours are being killed slowly by an Egyptian mummy wearing cowboy boots! An excellent script followed by amazing performances by Campbell and Davis (one of the best Elvis performances I've ever seen) make this one in the running for instant cult status. Not everyone's cup of tea, but if you like something out of the ordinary and brutally honest about growing old, I'd seriously give this one a check.

Tagalog for vampire, I'd watched this roughly 10 years ago without ever knowing its real title. Thanks to the magic of DVD, it's finally available to the public. Telling the story of a woman who signs her baby away to a wealthy family on to discover they may not be who they seem (how's that for a typical movie blurb) this is indie film-making at its rawest. There's some interesting use of gore, and the acting is typically what you'd expect, but all in all it makes for an interesting viewing. Rounding out the experience are interviews with the filmakers and actors as well as actual audition tapes and fundraising trailers. Nice one.

So there you have it. Proof that Sundays can be spent doing better things than watching DVDs. Kids, don't be like me. Get a life.


Troy Reviewed

Finally, the food poisoning's receded enough for me to put my thoughts on Troy to writing.

Anyway, Troy is a decidedly above-average action/adventure flick that, while never actually rising to the level of being great, never really descends into Bad Movie territory either. Loosely based on Homer's epic poem the Iliad, it tells an abbreviated version of the infamous Siege of Troy, and how the Greeks finally defeated the Trojans (hey it's not a spoiler. Homer wrote it down a couple thousand years ago, so blame him). It's definitely popcorn-friendly, with buff men in skirts, somewhat pretty women and some ingenious action set pieces.

Wolfgang Petersen (who also directed U-571) is more of an action movie director, and it shows. There are some jagged edges in the flow, as if he wasn't sure how the audience would take the sudden change in his genre. It never really hurts the movie as a whole, but it IS noticeable in the last quarter of the film. For some reason that quarter feels somewhat rushed, as if Petersen was worried that audiences would not be able to stay past the 2 and a half hour mark. Perhaps an extended DVD release would fix this?

So yes, we have Brad Pitt as the buff, bronzed and ultimately sexy Achilles, Eric "Don't Make Me Angry" Bana as Hector, Orlando Bloom in one of his most pathetic movie roles ever as Paris and even Peter O' Toole as King Priam! (Apparently besides being nigh invincible, the Gods even blessed Achilles with the ability to appear wonderfully clean shaven in just about every scene!) I just have to say one of the best surprises the film threw at me was the inclusion of Sean "Boromir" Bean as Odysseus. He's definitely a good character actor, posessing of a quiet intensity that somehow manages to make his character seem more realistic than any of the other Greek heroes in the movie. Somewhat underwritten (which is understandable since this IS a feature for Pitt) Bean's Odysseus is perhaps the most believable of the lot, and one can only hope he gets more good exposure. The rest of the cast is rather cookie cutter, with the standard Hollywood characters: the greedy monarch, the hulking barbaric Greek with his axe, the assorted wretches who die in various ways, etc.

One major letdown (for me, at least) was the female cast, with the exception of the somewhat lovely vestal virgin Achilles got to shag. Helen put it mildly, painfully plain. One would expect her to be slightly more..beautiful? As expected, most of the female cast weren't required to do anything but scream and look pretty. Very forgettable, unfortunately and I guess strong female leads don't really matter much in flicks like these.

And then we have the action. Historically, sieges have always been protracted affairs, sometimes taking up years and years (Homer writes that the siege of Troy actually went on for ten years before the Greeks decided to use the Trojan Horse). In this version however, for reasons that I can understand perfectly, Petersen decided to make the whole thing look like it took place over one long weekend. Besides some notable set pieces (the Trojan back-to-the-wall defence and the flaming fireball ambush on the Greek forces) the rest of the action is pretty much what we would expect from a semi historical film. There's the requisite masses of CGI warriors clashing, dust flying, blood splattering etc etc. Nicely, though not overly done.

In the end, Troy is an enjoyable, light flick that is easy on the eyes (especially for the women) and the brain. It's got nice chunks of action for the men, sneak peeks at Brad Pitt's bits for the women, and an uncomplicated storyline throughout. It's not the greatest, but I can think of worse ways to spend your hard earned cash, like watching Van Helsing, for instance.

The Ox gives Troy a 3.5 out of 5.


Of Friendships and Conditioning

Bloody ramen. I've spent most of today shivering, puking and generally leaking from almost every orifice in the body (how's that for graphic?) taking breaks only for bursts of unconsciousness (read: sleep). Food poisoning sucks. Really, it sucks big time. You have no appetite, you can't keep anything down and you feel like you'd just rather curl up and die.

Well, maybe not die. I hate food poisoning. Did I say that already? I hate food poisoning. I hate poisonous ramen. Gah.

Anyway. Conversations on Friday night after Troy (and Zsarina's thought provoking post) set me to thinking about the nature of friendships, and of psychological conditioning. Being a guy in this day and age, it seems to me you have two main choices: either you take the insensitive jerk path, or you try and adjust into the (now passe) Sensitive New Age Guy role. There is an elusive middle path (which I haven't found yet, but they say exists) which like all good things promises a "balanced" lifestyle, but I'll believe it when I see it.

So, on friendships and conditioning: For the first 20-odd years of your life, you've been trained to generally put your feelings on the back burner. Pick up after yourself, and don't expect people to just sit around and wait to hear you whine. This is especially true if you're a male. So you have feelings. So you cry. It's okay, just don't spread it around too much. These are the things drummed into your head day in and day out.

Suddenly, as you grow older you find that this inability to express your emotions is as equally destructive to any kind of social relationship you may have. People expect that if you reach a certain level of friendship, you open up to them. You're supposed to share and reciprocate when other people open their (insides??) hearts to you. Easier said than done, unfortunately. For most of my life, I've been the listener, and the doer. I listen, I plan, and I do. Life gives you lemons, and all that. So it's automatic. In my early twenties I first found out that this seeming inability to express my feelings or in simple terms "let people in" was hurting my personal and romantic relationships a great deal. I could be articulate about anything else in the universe from the price of fish to Schrodinger's Cat, but not necessarily what I felt at a particular time. I was, and to a certain degree, still am emotionally distant. Not intentionally, but it's something unconscious. Something I picked up a long time ago as a survival skill, and it's proving hard to let go of.

So what's a guy to do in the age of "EQ" and emotional freedom? How does one undo a near lifetime of conditioning? Is there a psychological switch you can turn off? Would a session under hypnotherapy be able to awaken the latent emotional release valve? Tough questions for a Sunday morning, but valid ones (to me, at least) nonetheless.

Which brings me to another thing: Ugly truths. These are the things you wish you'd never hear, but you need to, if you're ever going to improve. One ugly truth about me is that I can be extremely spiteful. Not in the put snakes in your shoes kind of way, but more in the I-hurt-you-because-I-can way. Case in point: It has been observed that I tend to make sarcastic, snide remarks about people whenever I feel threatened. These range from the simply acerbic to the unbelievably cruel. And this has been going on so long that it has become part of an automatic self defence mechanism. Whenever I need to feel better about myself (or if I'm feeling insecure), I hurt other people.

The scary thing is, sometimes I even enjoy doing it. There is an unbelievably addictive endorphin rush from the ability to inflict pain on other people that I can't even begin to explain. Of course, a harmful side effect of this ability is that lately the phenomenon has been getting out of control. Instead of a few choice witty comments now and then I simply do not know when to stop, which results in my friendships in danger of being untimely terminated.

So are these two issues related? My guess is they are. The psychological conditioning I've been put under for the last two decades have produced an archetypical Ash that is highly resistant to any form of emotional release. This pent-up anger and stress needs an outlet. And since I don't actually vent when I'm supposed to, it blows up at the most inopportune moments.

However, as much as I'd like to ease into the new, more emotionally open Ash, I do have some misgivings. Much of my best work has been produced when I tap into the vein of anger and distance I have within me. It gives me drive and stamina. So of course it's only natural that I am a little worried that if that core is gone, an essential part of myself goes with it. There is a shell I have created around the inner me (it's not exclusive, even girlfriends have had to suffer this) to protect myself from ever really getting too close to anyone. Some people have told me it's a natural defence mechanism, which I agree with.

So until I can find the elusive balance between emotional openness and still having my nice little private inner sanctum, I'll have to apologise to my friends (and the people who know me) because there is no time frame, and no promise I can give. Though admittedly most experiences will have similar shared characteristics, there are always peculiar quirks that make each person's evolution unique, and one that is nigh impossible to imagine (no matter how much you try) unless you've walked in that person's shoes. Being human, we sometimes unwittingly pass judgement (even when we don't mean to). I've had several lifestye/personality changes in the past 3 years alone, and though the latest one shows promise, I'd like to take my time on this one until I'm sure I'm who I want to be. Not for anyone else, but for myself.

Not many people can say they're who they are for themselves, innit?


Saturday, May 22

Down Time (Again!)

I would have loved to review Troy (which I caught yesterday along with Meesh and PY), but right now I'm having difficulty doing more than one thing at a time.

What started off as a mild stomach discomfort (I think it was the ramen I ate) developed into a full fledged fever that kept me awake all night, shivering and delirious. I woke up with an impossibly bad taste in my mouth, and the fever still raging.

Down time. This is serious downtime.

Later, people.


Thursday, May 20

Boys And Girls

Something a friend wrote in a comment on yesterday's CSI post sparked something in my heat -blasted mind (is it just me or does the whole Klang Valley seem to be in a perpetual heat wave?). Do I really, as she says have the hots for primarily older women? Don't I, unlike my male brethren, like the thought of having a younger nubile thing have the hots for me? An intriguing question (which on its own perhaps doesn't even merit a blog post) but since it's bleeding hot and I have nothing else to write, I shall endeavour to dissect.

Thinking about it, it IS true. Since I was very young (you won't ask me HOW young if you want to keep your sanity intact) my various dalliances were always with older (even if it is by a year or so) girls. While not unusual, it somewhat bothered me that I could not get girls my age to even look at me, let alone talk (being part of the school nerd team did NOT help matters) to me during my school years. Of course, once I entered secondary school in that marvelously eye opening institution (heheh) where the girls were pretty, rich and dressed in wonderfully short skirts, I DID manage to get chummy with quite a few, which somewhat brought normality to my hormonally enraged life. However, the curse(??) once again reared its ugly head when my girlfriends at that stage of my life were all at least two years older. And I was what, 14? I have to state here that the students in my particular school were all somewhat horny most of the time. This being evident by the amount of partner swapping, tarzan-inspired acrobatic flips into the girls' dorm and random snogging that went on among the kids.

Coming from where I did, it was as good as being Hugh Hefner's pool boy on a rainy day.

I remember I WAS pretty close to the girls in my batch, probably since I was the most harmless of the lot, and they felt free to unload all kinds of stuff, personal, sexual or otherwise (safe to say here they were my unwitting sex-ed teachers, not counting the one when I was five...oops). In that sense, I was quite pleased with myself, being able to get close to the hot ones without being blown off and at the same time getting busy with the older, better "developed" girls (and I certainly didn't complain about the development, no sirreebob).

Ahh, the ignorance of youth. Now what was this post about again?

Good lord. I actually forgot for a while back there. Let's, women, Marg Helgenberger...ahh. Anyway, as time went by, the trend only continued. So much so I actually thought I was consciously looking for older women. And then, during the few relationships I had with younger girls I realised what I was looking for that the girls my age at the time didn't have:

That unspeakably sensual sense of self.

As I grew up and relationships got more complicated, I finally found that I used to be attracted to older girls simply because they tended to be more...mature (yes, yes the fact that they had bigger boobs also helped, but gimme a break here) and confident. Having said that, even in my current circle of friends I find I unconsciously move towards those who know what they want out of life, and who aren't afraid to get it (is it a coinkidink that some of these women were extremely sexy as well?)

So does this finally explain my fixation towards Marg Helgenberger? Perhaps. Strong women excite me (although not in that sleazy "ooh I like 'em feisty" way). Their ages don't really matter, they never did. It's that air of knowing they can get what they want WHEN they want that just melts me in my boots. Intelligence, charisma, the ability to bat around a hint until it turns into a promise which then leads to something actually being done...THAT is priceless. It all comes back to this little thing: if I can't bloody respect you as an equal, I can't envision myself actually BEING with you (even if you ARE shaggable as hell, and yes sometimes I am weak, so there's an exception to every rule). Does this mean that I'm turned off by girls my age or younger? Heavens, no. If she's legal, and all that then she's bloody fair game.

So I guess I know why I hang around the girls I do, and why it's bloody hard for me to settle for anything less than this ideal I've got in my head. Hell, I know it's gonna take a lot of compromise when I DO settle, but yeah, looking from where I am right now, there are a whole lotta options in that big blue sea.

OOooooh. Isn't that lovely?


Wednesday, May 19

Midweek Movie Madness

I know, I've just posted. But hey, all that pent up emotional/psychological knick knacks one builds up during the day have got to go somewhere, hence this post (also so all three of my readers have something to chew on). As summer gets even closer we see the big movies already lining up to suck our hard earned cash out of our pockets (and with this year's line up, I have a feeling I'm gonna be pinching pennies). I've already done a preview of sorts in a previous post, and this one will continue where I left off, with some sneak peeks at films that will be joining us later next year, or the next...Since this is potentially a mucho long post, I've decided to break things up into categories. And this week it's.....

Comic to Film Adaptations!!

As we all know, this particular genre is seeing a lot of money being poured into it these days, what with the sudden success of Spiderman and the two X-Men movies. Even with bombs like the Hulk and LXG, it doesn't look like Marvel is slowing down an inch. Here are some other upcoming titles this year (and possibly the next):

This Year:

Spiderman 2
I've got good hopes for this one, since most of the original people who worked on the first movie are back. Just a couple more weeks till we see if Doc Ock makes a worthy opponent.

The Punisher
I've not got a good feeling for this one, really. I'm just crossing my fingers, though.

They're changing the origin story, costume and almost everything else. I have a faint hope for this flick, but seriously, what more harm do they want to do to comic book adaptations?

Batman Begins
The new Batman is Christian Bale. So far some production stills are on the net, and there's a nifty new tank like Batmobile. If they can revive the franchise, then by all means please.

Blade: Trinity
I kind of have a liking for the first two movies. They were cool, action packed and just nice, light adaptations that didn't try to do too much. Plus they had Kris Kristofferson. When this one comes out later, I'll be one of the many in line.

Alan Moore (who also penned LXG) has officially disavowed any knowledge of this project. After seeing what the studios did to LXG, I'm inclined to do the same. Not only did they cast the mother of wooden puppets Keanu "Whoa" Reeves as John Constantine, they also made him a Yank instead of a Brit! Typical Hollywood. I'll be holding judgement until more details are available.

Hellboy 2
Del Toro was rather pleased (and so were the studio backers) with the results that he's signed on for a sequel. Ron Perlman's agreed to do it although he cautions them they'd better move fast since he's getting old..

Fantastic Four
Not to be confused with the fab five, this particular nugget has a lot of fans angry at the producers for intending to shoot it as a "sitcom". Rumours on the net point to a lot of changing in the storylines, and I can only hope Reed Richards doesn't turn out to look like Plastic Man.

Jim "Jesus" Caviezel is rumoured to be cast as the enigmatic Capt Francis Blake in a movie loosely based on a French comic book. It looks to be something like LXG, although with two protagonists instead of several. I'll be sure to post more details as I get them.

Well that's all for this Midweek Movie Report. Keep coming back for more, and lemme know what you think!


Good TV And Hormones

Oh dear lord. I've just finished watching tonight's episode of CSI on AXN and man, it's got my vote for one of the best episodes this season. Before I forget and ramble on, I just have to say this:

Marg Helgenberger is so, so bloody, blinking hot. I have a feeling the next few upcoming posts will contain a lot of pent-up sexual frustration since I am, as one friend puts it, "..a straining rod of sexual tension."

Thank you for reminding me, Shen.

Anyway, back to the point. Tonight's episode really brought the series' strengths to the forefront: the tightly written scripts, the acting, the drama and most importantly, the human element. We see relationships that we were introduced to several years ago coming into fruition, and the human dynamics that are always involved in the show begin to draw the viewer deeper into the lives of the players. It's not just another crime drama anymore. We begin to care for the characters. We feel sorry for them when they're sick, angry at them when they seem intolerant, and happy for them when they succeed. We begin to think less of them as characters in a script but as actual humans, with their own private fears and needs. When at the end, Catherine drops by Grissom's room before going out on a date with Nicholas Lea's character, we see that these are two individuals who care deeply for one another, but it is a path Grissom (repeatedly and purposefully?) chooses to avoid. The audience feels a little jealous ("I've not had sex in 6, no 7 months!" Catherine complains earlier, to which Grissom answers somewhat densely, "So how may I help?") because they can see the potential of a relationship between these two, but in the end they are left wondering: what if? If that's not an example of good writing, then I don't know what is.

Kudos goes to the scriptwriters who have really handled the series' maturity well. Four seasons into the show and the momentum that was so intriguing the first time around is still there. The crimes are still as gory as ever, yes, and the trademark zooming into body cavities is still there, but they never detract from its most important component: the story.

I'm a sucker for good stories. Like Boomtown (another bloody good show) the writing is taut and realistic. These are not necessarily larger than life superheroes, they are just normal people who happen to be good at what they do. And when the shift ends, you know that each CSI has another life to go back to. Good TV. A rarity, but when it comes, you're just too bloody glad to complain.

And yes, I seem to have a lot of bloody time, don't I to be dissecting an episode of a TV show. Well, I don't actually. But when an episode manages to mix blood, murder, drama, science and (the promise of) sex so well, one can't help but be entertained.

Of course, having Marg Helgenberger actually looking horny is a big plus as well..

Oh God. I think I need a shower.


Stuff Of Dreams

"I have always been solitary, but here on the nightward shores of dream, loneliness washes over me in waves, lapping and pulling at my spirit.."

- The Sandman Volume One: Preludes and Nocturnes, Neil Gaiman

There are some who are born to speak for us, better than we ever could. They transcribe our dreams, hopes, thoughts, visions, fears without ever having met us, sift through out whole lives as if they knew us, picking the worst (and sometimes the best) moments and kneading them into the fabric that is the stuff of stories. And so every story has a grain of life, because in the end all stories end the same way, the way all life goes.

In volume one of the Sandman, Morpheus (the titular character) has to face a challenge with Choronzon, a lesser Duke of hell, in exchange for his helm of dreams. The challenge itself is a mixture between role-playing and metaphysical O-som: each tries to outdo the other by assuming different forms and ultimately hoping to subdue the opponent (a snake tries to bite a horse, which then turns into an ox, crushing the snake..and so on). Nearing the end of the battle, Morpheus assumes the form of the universe, with all the life in it:

"I am the universe, all things encompassing, all life embracing."

To which Choronzon, seeing an opening replies:

" I am anti-life, the beast of judgement. I am the dark at the end of everything.."

Pompous and assured of victory, the demon enquires of Morpheus:
"And what will you be THEN, Dreamlord?"

Morpheus only needs one line to win:
"I am hope."

Perhaps, in these somewhat troubled times it would do us all good to remember that there IS hope. Faint in some, strong in others, but it is never gone from us unless we banish it. And having written this, I hope I remember as well.


Tuesday, May 18

Sony Strikes Again!

Oh Sony, how could you?

Just when I thought it was safe to breathe a relative sigh of relief, Sony comes out with its answer to Nintendo's Game Boys (and DS, which I'll be talking about in a bit) and Nokia's NGage: the Playstation Portable, or PSP. Details have been floating about the net for the past year or so but the gaming press were finally able to get their hands on the hardware and several gameplay demos during the recent E3 which took place in LA from May 12th to the 14th.

For the uninitiated, E3 stands for the Electronic Entertainment Expo, a two day event open ONLY to members of video game related press and industry insiders. Members of the public almost never get a chance to get in, but it's safe to say that E3 is the equivalent of a video gamer's wet dream. There are booths from almost every game developer under the sun, showing off their hardware or software (with generous help from booth babes!). It's been said that unless you structure your visit there carefully, there's a chance you'll never be able to see everything it has to offer. The only thing in Asia that can even rival the experience is the Tokyo Game Show (or TGS), running for several days in September every year. Thankfully that one is open to the public. Anyway, back to the PSP...

Since its announcement roughly a year ago, the internet has been rife with speculations and rumours as to the true nature, design and capabilities of the portable system. Unveiled 20 minutes into E3, Sony once again manages to prove that its marketing skills are second to none, and that the PSP may very well be the biggest thing since the first Game Boy was released more than a decade ago. Scheduled to be released in Japan at the end of year (and the US in spring 2005) with an as of yet unspecified price tag (eek!), the PSP boasts:

* A 16:9 widescreen TFT LCD (think laptop display) capable of displaying over 16 million colours
* A PS/PS2 style controller layout, with an analog nub and two shoulder buttons in addition to the now familiar design
* Wireless networking support out of the box, with USB2.0 and 802.11b WiFi built in
* A Memory Stick Pro Duo slot for data/software transfers
* A new media format, the UMD (Universal Media Disc) capable of 1.8 Gb of storage. The UMD format allows storage of not only games, but movies and audio as well.

These are the basic operating specs, and all are scheduled to be included into the final product (since almost everyone at E3 got to see the PSP at work, we can be reasonably sure of that). Of course, built in stereo speakers, headphone connector and display controls come standard. Sony has promised an all new proprietary anti piracy protection measure involving not only the game discs but the individual consoles as well (although how well this turns out remains to be seen). So why am I excited about the PSP? Simple. One of the major sell points for this system is the fact it has the equivalent processing horsepower of a PlayStation2. That's a huge leap over any other portable system in the market now (with the possible exception of the Nintendo DS). What this translates to is super sharp fully 3D graphics ON THE GO (and the shape..oooh the shape). Add in the choice of media which allows more storage than any other form out there, and this baby seems to have it made. Before we all break out the champagne, there are several issues of concern, however.

First and most important, is battery life. Any laptop/notebook computer user will know that accessing the CD/DVD drive continuously whilst on the go drains the battery considerably. What happens in most games for the PS2 is that the game environment is "streamed" intermittently (and invisibly) while the player is actively engaged. This is ordinarily not a problem since the PS2 runs out of a wall socket. But for a console like the PSP, this may be a big problem, and one that affects not only the player, but game developers as well, as they will have to find solutions to get around the streaming problem. Nintendo's portables do not suffer from this problem, as the limitations of the cartridge media force them to focus on gameplay rather than graphics (which is essentially the most important thing).

Another issue that's perhaps more relevant is the fact that if Sony's copy protection system DOES deliver, it may mean that gamers in Asia who're used to modded consoles (with copied games) may balk at having to pay full price for their enjoyment. While this essentially is a good thing, in a weird sense software piracy here actually boosts interest in new hardware and peripherals (even for PCs) and as I said it remains to be seen just how strong this new protection is. IGN has a good writeup and discussion on the first impressions of the PSP and Nintendo DS and is available here.
Anyway, we still have several months before the first versions are released, and this is one Ox who'll be vigilantly looking out for it. Expect more news and updates as they are available, and I'll be doing a little preview of the Nintendo DS soon.

Till then, cheers!


Monday, May 17

Two Stories (Part Two)


Before I forget, Jo has joined (or is it RE-joined?) the blogiverse. All I can say is "It's about bloody time, Joe!"


I used to think mat sallehs/gwailos/western men had it easy in Malaysia. You know, coming in from the HQ abroad to consult in the local branch, getting paid triple what most other employees get, free living, transport (sometimes) and oh yeah, the women. Take a quick look at any of the clubs along Jalan Sultan Ismail on a Saturday night, and you'll see some (not all, mind) women throw themselves at these westerners like metal shavings to a magnet. Of course there are the requisite GROs (out to make an easy buck or four) and other less savoury characters, but there are also the other women who look for the perceived security even a short fling with these men would entail. That will take another post to talk about...

After several years observing this, one assumes that the westerners enjoy such attention. Truly, some DO, with observable results (a different girl every week, at the same club). As I've recently found out however, there are exceptions to every rule. A friend recently told me a story of two American consultants she took clubbing with some other colleagues. Whilst one was happy entangled in the arms of a local lady, the other was content to sit down and enjoy his drink, well aware he was the designated driver. He told my friend and another female colleague that when he was alone he would always have at least one GRO approach him and "rub herself all over me" as he put it.

Naturally, my friend thought he was just exaggerating, and thus the two women sat themselves on a nearby stool, away from him. Sure enough, within two minutes a doe eyed, sexily dressed young woman sidled up to him and started to chat him up. He signaled my friend and her companion to come near and take their previous places, when the girl asked him "So are you all friends?"

The matsalleh, being a wily one himself answered thus:
"No, this is my wife and her sister." The girl suddenly did a reverse step while uttering a nervous, high pitched laugh and promptly disappeared. My friend was laughing as she related this story to me, and I could only wish I'd been there.

So it IS true. Not ALL westerners enjoy being the focus of such money hungry attention. After all, they ARE human. Still, we can only wonder at the financial stimulus our economy receives from those who DO enjoy their asian flings.


**Totally unrelated, but I just have to say that I think Joanna Bessey is really hot.**


Two Stories (Part One)


Coming out of another meeting with the dean (to check the status of our prospective PhD applications) the Ox started thinking: is he doing the right thing by giving up on applying to leave this year? As usual there are no guarantees, with everyone urged to just get an offer of a place and then worry about the scholarship. Earlier this year, the Ox would have been rejoicing at this glimmer of hope. Right now, he's just tired of the whole bloody mess.

There are roughly two years left in his contract, and somehow he still wants to wait, wants to make a decision on his own, for once. Time moves on (sometimes seeming too fast) and he'd like to have a shot at a dream of his own, instead of someone else's dream, someone else's wants. He doesn't blame the dean. He knows the man's tried everything he can (and it shows). There are other things he blames, people he'd like to pin it all on but he realises it's useless and simply impractical. There are things he can complain about, and then there are things he just has to DO.

So more and more of his colleagues opt to do their doctorates locally. Some anticipate it eagerly, even. The Ox cringes from such a possibility. Four years, he thinks. Four years going head first into something I don't really want to do...

Sometimes he thinks he's spoiled, that he should grow up some more and just accept things and go with the flow, like everyone else. That he is not special and dreams are in his head and in books where they belong. That the only people who can have what they want are the people with the silver spoons and the rich parents. It would be so easy to slip, but for some reason he is incapable of doing that. He knows he would never forgive himself. So he holds on to that faintest of hopes, blocking everything else from his mind.

He recalls a friend's post. Like her, he doesn't have any other skills. He's jumped into this field, and the only way to survive is with a doctorate, and good research. So it all boils down to a choice: Will he succumb, do what is easiest and serve the uni? Or will he risk it to strike out on his own, for a scholarship, for a place, for a future?


Sunday, May 16

Don't Panic Part Deux

Oh My God.

The official weblog for the upcoming feature film adaptation of Douglas Adams' Hitchiker's Guide to The Galaxy has officially been launched! Production stills and what not are all available, and personally I can't wait till the movie comes (all the while crossing my fingers that it'll actually be good).

You can go to see the beginning of the end here.


Birthday Ox

Almost two days past turning 26, and other than the blazing hot weather that seems to want to punish everyone into submission ("Get used to it, it's the same where you're going," a friend says) I feel rather dandy. Er. Not sure if dandy is a right word in these fast moving politically sensitive times, but sod it. I feel very, very dandy.

Admittedly, there's a little ache in these joints (due to excessive partying my birthday night, followed by a mega workout session with my new Eye Toy) but so far it's a good kind of hurt. Friday night was an absolute blast, with friends old and new coming in, good food, raucous conversation (thanks to T-Boy), copious amounts of Ash-bashing (which was deserved, of course) and general all around fun. It turns out that CPK in KLCC is exactly the right kind of place to be in if you plan to have noisy conversation BUT still hear yourselves talk (many thanks to PY and the others who helped plan the whole shindig).

Still, how do I describe it? Breathless fun trying to keep up with the streams of conversation going about, and I was just happy soaking in the atmosphere that I didn't really want to go anywhere. Najah got to meet a fellow RMIT alumnus (who she insisted on asking weird questions of) Meesh finally got her revenge on me (with Shen helping) and Jo finally got to meet these mysterious blogger friends I always shoot off to see.

All in all, a good night indeed. I would have thought that alone would have been perfect, but then the presents appeared. Books, glorious books (think Gaiman!! and a Yakuza Movie guide!! Woohooo!!) from the bloggers and a brand spanking new Eye Toy (this is important for reasons I'll be explaining in a bit) from Jo and his crew.

So as the night went on and I was quite happy to retire, some of the resident Hot Blogger Women of PPS decided to take me out for a nightly spin in town. To cut a long story short, they actually had the courage to be seen with me as I showed off my rather...severely palsied dance moves (again I reiterate that I can't dance to save my life) and I owe these people several boatloads of thanks.

Of course, the next day, having recovered I set about testing my Eye Toy at Jo's house. Lo and behold this particular version he bought contained the dance game Groove (which I will be practicing very hard on, for obvious reasons). For those of you unfamiliar with the name, the Eye Toy is a peripheral for the PS2 that resembles a webcam. Plugged into the USB port of the console, it allows the users to interact with the console games like never before (it has to be seen to be believed trust me).

Anyway, the weekend's been exactly what the doctor ordered. I got to spend time with my friends, get some good lazy down time, and generally have all round fun. Now if you'll all excuse me, I have some Gaiman to read if I'm ever going to start on my Yakuza book.

To everyone I'd just like to say this: Thank you. It's been a long time since I felt that good, and I owe it all to you. All of you.


P/s: If you're interested in knowing what your birthday star REALLY is, give this site a visit.


Friday, May 14


Half an hour past 12, and half an hour into the new day.

"Hello, 26", he thinks, as the warm glow from the phone call subsides (physically as well, since his ear got warm after the first 10 minutes). There are messages waiting on the mobile, and he checks and answers them methodically. A trace of a smile plays on his lips. It feels good.

There is much to be grateful for.

And yet there is still much work to do. The job, the family, the friends, the life. 6 years since he was twenty, four years since he graduated, one and a half years since-

but there are no regrets. Older, and hopefully wiser he looks out the window at the sleeping houses. Far off in the distance, half obscured by that strange smog that makes everything so bloody hot there are the twinkling lights of the bigger city. And yet still far away, in a place he knows not where, lies his future. And as has been the way for as long as he can remember, the future is rushing to meet him, with the weight of a million million lifetimes.

Some say the best way to come on top when you're fighting the future is to wrestle it and tie it down like a stubborn mule. He wasn't sure how true it was, but he knew one thing:

It'd better be ready for him when it arrived.


Thursday, May 13

Bachelors Rejoice!

And to think we're still folding clothes the old way. Have a look at this.

It's a 6 meg download, but I swear it's worth it. You'll never waste a moment folding clothes again!

*Rushes off to practice*


DVD Update!

Thank God I'm finally home. The drive back was in full glare of the sun, and man was it hot. After dinner I decided to treat myself to a little fun and dropped by my friendly neighbourhood DVD store (just a few metres from the mamak I go to). Against my better judgement, I got myself three titles:

The Van Helsing Animated Prequel
This being a precursor of sorts to the feature film showing now, I haven't had a chance to properly watch it. It looks good, and contains among other things, a "making of the video game" feature, as well as other promotional bits. Hugh Jackman lends his voice to the titular character, and I'll be reviewing it soon after seeing if it's any good.

Assault on Precinct 13
I've been waiting to get this baby for awhile yet. Directed by John Carpenter (and scheduled for a remake soon) Assault tells the story of a group of besieged police officers and the prisoners who have to band together to defend their lives against the ruthless attacks of a street gang packing serious heat. From what I've seen of the trailer (and numerous positive reviews on the net) this looks like a serious fun movie.

Being John Malkovich (Special Edition)
This John Cusack, Cameron Diaz and (who else) John Malkovich classic is out on DVD just in time to whet my appetite for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. By the same director, this little flick is a hilarious look at what would happen should someone find a door into John Malkovich's head. Thanks to mexidvd from my DVDMalaysia forum for the pointer!

Other notable releases this week:
Aswang - Tagalog for vampire, this is a small independent movie released in 94, and I'm doing some research on it as I write this entry.

Intolerable Cruelty

Peter Pan - the new one, with Jason Isaacs

Army of Darkness Special Bootleg Edition - containing 15 minutes of additional footage!

The House of Sand and Fog

Mystic River (caution, may be a screener copy)

Kill Bill volume 1 R2 edition - what this means is that the famous black and white battle scene near the end is rendered in glorious colour! Blood! Blood!

Shameless plug: If you're at all interested in the local DVD scene (original OR durian) do register at the DVDMalaysia forum. It's free, friendly, fun and heck, it's all DVDs, all the time. I'm Lord_Ashe in there, in case anyone feels like joining.

Right. It's a couple hours yet to my officially leaving my quarter century mark. I'll be in front of the tube, DVD-ing, if anyone's looking. Have a good night!


Wednesday, May 12

Wednesdays And Weddings

Thought of the day: I've always wondered why Wednesdays is pronounced the way it is, and not Wed-Nes-Days. Silly Ox.

As my birthday draws closer, I can see my thoughts getting somewhat morbid (again!!) and expect long posts like this as I ride the emo wave. Gah.

It seems almost everyone I know is getting married these days (and no this isn't a rant against marriage or anything like that). After dinner with IZ and J (and their respective partners) at their parents' house in Kelana, I couldn't help but overhear IZ and her fiance discuss their impending wedding arrangements with IZ's mother. For some reason it even overrode CSI in the background (and I was trying so hard to concentrate).

Checking my calendar when I got back I realised that starting from July onwards, there'll be a wedding of sorts almost every other week, culminating with IZ's nuptials (which I'm sure will involve elephants, marching bands and the like) at the end of the year. Hell, I'm supposed to go to Kelantan sometime in September to attend an old friend's wedding, and I have a feeling I'm going to fly up, the reason being that everyone else who's going is bringing along their respective partners/fiances/girlfriends, and an 8 hour trip surrounded by people who'll politely/not so politely but insistently ask me what the hell happened to me does NOT sound pleasant. My plan entails flying in and zipping out right after the first course, and I'm almost sure I can pull it off...

It's somewhat amazing that in the past year, only ONE married person I know has NOT put the question to me in that brusque manner Smug Marrieds (or Almost Smug Marrieds) always use, and that person happens to be my long lost classmate Azrol. Thank God for small favours, is all I can say.

Anyway, it hit me just now how my little bubble of single "happiness" will devolve and probably burst in the next few months. With IZ getting married and her brother J following not long after, my core group of karaoke fiends, eating buddies and general hanging out friends will dissolve, like it or not. I've noticed how they try and include me in the things they do, and I always feel grateful that they never rub the fact that I lack a "partnering unit" in. There's a little trip to Singapore coming up soon, and after that, snorkelling in Redang, and I'm really excited. But you know what they say, two's a company, three's a crowd, and five can't be any good at all. I hate being extra luggage, and if that seems the case I'd rather not go at all and make it easier on myself (which reminds me, I may need an escort if I'm to attend IZ's wedding. The thought of going it alone scares me shitless.. Anyone keen? I'm relatively clean, I don't smell and sometimes I'm even good conversation!) God, I'm desperate.

At this moment in time of course, there are my bosom blogger buddies, and the rest of the people I've made friends with in the past year and a half. I'm thankful for them too, and I guess I've just got to accept the fact that nothing lasts forever, that my friends will eventually have to make a decision regarding their adult lives, and unfortunately so will I.

All this brings me to the thought that while it IS tempting to just find someone to be with, simply because I'm "alone", I can't. Not right now, and not in the foreseeable future. For one thing, I have no idea if I'm even in the right frame of mind for a relationship (never mind I don't even have a candidate) and secondly, I'm in a nowhere job doing nowhere things, with no job security, feeling like something's still missing from everything.

So what does one do? The only thing one CAN do, which is live. And see where MY path takes me. Maybe I'll end up alone in my apartment, and die surrounded by my home theatre unit, game consoles and be chewed by my pet cat. Maybe I'll get lucky and hit it off with an amazing woman who'll show up out of the blue tomorrow. Or maybe none of this will happen, and I'll end up living a somewhat dull but secure life. Whichever it may be, best thing I can do is make sure I go with a bang.


Night Fever! Night Fever!

I just had one of the best nights of my life. Thanks to PY, my second birthday present came early as well, in the form of tickets to Saturday Night Fever at the Istana Budaya. In a nutshell: the musical was excellent, the MUSIC exuberant, and the company impeccable. There was PY and Zsarina, also Jack and his enchanting other half (which I can't name because I have no idea how to spell it, sorry!). In short, this is one really happy Ox on a Wednesday morning.

Having only been to see musicals at the Istana twice, I'm no critic. But IMHO the players were really good, the aforementioned Bee Gee renditions fresh and the dancing, oh the dancing. I think energetic would have been the word for it. The cast managed to make even the most reserved looking attendee tap their feet or bob their head in time with the score, and what a score it was. There's no mistaking that these people really know their stuff, and when the night culminated in a triple encore on stage, EVERYONE got up to dance. Even me (and I can't dance to save my life). Saturday Night Fever is truly quality entertainment. Voices were good all around, with very convincing Travolta and Karen Lynn Gorney (thanks to PY and IMDB for the info)impressions by the leads. Sets were just nice and the sound was quite good (but then again I've not had professional training).

After taking off our boogie woogie shoes we adjourned to this little secluded (beach club, according to Jack) cafe somewhere in Sentul, where we sampled some of the best chicken rendang on nasi lemak ever. Now if only I can remember how to get my arse back there...

Well, it's late, and I have to work in a couple hours. Have a good midweek folks!


Tuesday, May 11


I'm at home right now for two simple reasons:

1) My car desperately needs servicing (God alone knows how much it'll set me back) and

2) After everything that went on at the office yesterday (the programming competition, lifting tables and what not back to their proper place) I ache everywhere.

The competition was the culmination of several months work, and it's amazing how no one really knows the amount of hard work that went into that smooth 12 hours. Which brings me to the next big thing on my list: The faculty's 10 year celebration, which takes up all of 5 months, and ends in October. No guesses for who gets the honours to organise THAT little shindig.

I'd rant, but my arms ache too much. See you round, people, and hope you like the template!


Blogger Reloaded

The free version of Blogspot's gone through some major revamps, including a new posting interface called the Dashboard and some other intriguing features (like built in commenting, for instance). As of today, The Insane Ox will try and take advantage of these upgrades, so I apologise for any inconveniences in viewing. I hope my readers will bear with me as I explore the intricacies of template changing.

In the meantime, come back often!


Monday, May 10


This is the second time I'm writing this post, so it'll suck. Murphy's Law reared its ugly head as I was about to press CTRL T to open a new tab, and instead pressed CTRL R, causing the whole page to reload, and me to lose my entire post. How lovely.

Anyway, there was this very nice and witty opening to this post (which has since gone to hell) which I shall now replace with this:

"Kau ni macam budak-budaklah," said my astute colleague (may peace shine upon his family forever). "Baik kau kahwin cepat." This after we had spent part of Saturday afternoon lifting sofas into the office, and as I was talking to another friend about anime reviews.

Now to the relief of the world, I shall not be discussing marriage in THIS post (I'm saving it for a super bumper edition). I WILL however talk about the decline of western animated features, and why I think Japanese animation (or anime) will be a dominant force in animated entertainment for the next few years. Being a fan of Disney since I was three or so, it is amazingly disheartening to see the studio churn out flop after flop after flop. Where we used to get Beauty and The Beast, we get Brother Bear. Where Aladdin used to soar, we got Atlantis. Pixar seemed to inject new life into the studio, but alas after the enormous success of Monsters Inc and Nemo, both of them have parted. The world needs a touch of spirit in their animated features, and Japan may be the one to provide it, if we can get over the whole anime as cartoon stigma.

I always get riled up when people ask me "You're watching cartoons again?". For most people, they equate anything that's animated with cartoons, hence kiddie entertainment. I don't really blame them, however. The deluge of animated material from Japan in the previous decade has completely swamped our airwaves with quality anime (ElHazard, Sakura Wars) and not so good ones (YuGiOh anyone?). It's a chore separating the wheat from the chaff, but here are some picks I'd like to share that maybe, just maybe will open a whole new dimension to your opinions on cartoons.

Anything by Hayao Miyazaki's Ghibli Studios
By this time you'll have at least heard of Sen to Chihiro Kamikakushi or Spirited Away as it's known elsewhere in the world. The reason why I didn't actually outline a particular title is that Miyazaki's work is generally always very good. Painstakingly hand drawn, his work relies more on the story and message of each work, instead of how many polygonal special CGI effects he's pushing on the screen. Regarded as Japan's answer to Disney, Ghibli has consistently portrayed themes and concepts considered taboo by western animators such as death and destruction as well as greed and anger. There are no toned down scenes for children. Events have consequences, and sometimes they are sad ones. All the more reason to check out some of their work. Highlights include the aforementioned Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, Totoro, and Nausicaa.

Otomo Katsuhiro's Memories
Normally I would recommend Akira, but I DO understand that that particular film has been hyped beyond recognition, and thus it's better to start with something that really showcases this director's talent. Memories is a collection of three animated shorts, each written by a different person but brought to life by Katsuhiro's famous style. Think of it as a collection of short stories that are intriguing, heartwarming and more importantly, human. The animation is top notch, but they never take you away from the stories, which are truly at the heart of the films.

Masamune Shirow's Ghost in The Shell
The Matrix owes this one a huge lump of gold. This is cyberpunk at an all time high. The Wachowskis even asked Shirow to contribute to the Animatrix (which I'll be mentioning after this) and if you watch it, you'll be treated to a dazzling display of action and emotion (not to mention some soul searching). As of the time of writing, a 26 episode TV sequel as well as a full length animated feature (which is heading to Cannes) will be available soon.

Shinichiro Watanabe's Cowboy Bebop
Action, comedy, humour and excellent music mark this gem of a collection. Telling the story of intergalactic bounty hunters Spike and Jet (and their merry crew) this series grabs you from the get go and never loses a beat. It's a western, space opera and high comedy all in one. Definitely recommended.

The Animatrix
Released as a build up to the Matrix sequels, this series of 9 shorts showcases some of the best talent to come out of Japan. This would be a great introduction to anime especially if you already liked the Matrix. Watanabe is here (contributed to 2 episodes) as well as some other artists I didn't mention. Even if you hated the sequels (like I did) you'll like this one.

Well, that's all there is to it for today. I hope this starts some of you on a journey of animated fun, and who knows? You may even find there's a lot to like about in these...cartoons. Have a good week!


Saturday, May 8

Running On Empty

It's 5 pm on a Saturday afternoon and I'm still at the office, sweaty, hot and running on pure adrenaline. I've only clocked 2 hours of sleep since last night, and there's still a tonne to do not including the trip I may have to make to Kulim tomorrow if my dad doesn't feel well.

In fact, I don't feel well either. There's something about lifting sofas in the hot sun (when you're half asleep) that doesn't sit right with me. Oh well. Just a bit more, and then sleep. Blissful sleep.

I hope I can trust myself to drive. My hands are trembling.


It Ain't Easy Being Yellow

**UPDATE: THIS post was written after a rather sleepless night (through no one's fault but my own) and was a reflection of my state of mind having walked into an eerily quiet office at 7 am, grumpy and feeling like shit. In that situation, bits and pieces of things you never think about come into focus in ways they never would anytime else.

Lessee. Just got into the office after about 2 hours of sleep, and I just found out my name is Homer Simpson. Looking at my profile in the mirror as I was dressing for work, it didn't surprise me at all.

So now all I need is a Marge.
Homer. I never would've guessed. Always had me down for the Comic Book Guy, but I'll take what I can get.


Van Helsing Reviewed! Read Before Watching!

It's 3 am and I've just returned from the two hours of dreck that is Van Helsing. For any of my gentle readers who may even be considering watching this Stephen Sommers fiasco, I only have one word of advice: don't. Get a McValue meal. Buy a secondhand book. Donate to charity. Anything, and I mean ANYTHING is better deserving of your RM 10 than this.

My mind is still staggered, trying to piece together the reasons why this is such a bad film. Maybe it's the nonexistent plotline that throws several different subplots at you while simultaneously going nowhere, fast. Then there's the overabundance of generally poor CGI and editing. It could also be the atrocious C-grade acting from the cast (try the word "wooden") and their horrible switcheroo accents. Hell, I can even be mean and blame Kate Beckinsale. But that wouldn't be fair. To really understand why Van Helsing doesn't deserve your time would require you to watch it, and that is something I don't have the heart to ask you all to do.

Sommers, what happened to you? I was pleasantly entertained by The Mummy and its sequel (though slightly less so) and thus I had a faint hope that Van Helsing would provide the campy B-movie humour of those earlier flicks. No such luck here. With the exception of the first three minutes (which is a marvellously done piece of camp) this movie is a confused mess. It doesn't know if it's a serious superhero flick, an adventure story, or a tongue-in-cheek tribute to the great monsters of our time. As a result, VH pelts you with too many things at once such as contrived plot sequences and coincidences (that all work for the hero anyhow), really thin 2D characters who abuse every single cliche under the sun and scriptwriting that sounds like it was done by the guys who wrote the early episodes of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. After the titular character drops his nifty gas powered ubercrossbow for the umpteenth time, you'll really feel like killing HIM with it instead of the vampires. And heck, Count Dracula even gets to say THIS overused line:

"You can't kill me, I'm already dead."

Does it make sense that I'm dreading the Punisher since it features the exact same line? And in the trailer, no less. I have a feeling Sommers had something along the lines of the Mummy films when he first started writing it. Then he discovered how cool CGI could look and for some reason or other, left out the whole part of the script that required any actual acting.

Take Kate Beckinsale, for instance. She speaks with a horrendous East European accent, does backflips, and states the obvious about 50% of the time. Now if this were a one off thing, it wouldn't be so bad. It's just that she's all but fudged all her previous films as well, and literally murders her Anna Whatshername role here. Hugh Jackman, on the other hand looks trapped. He doesn't know if he's supposed to be all broody and dark like Batman or wise cracking and funny like Indiana Jones. Hence VH as a person never really goes anywhere. You could put ANY actor in his place and achieve a similar amount of woodenness. Richard Roxburgh as Count Dracula would have worked better without the accent (again!!). He's always been a cool baddie, and I'd hate for him to be relegated to B-movie land. It's a shame because the character was written so badly.

Now comes the point where I try to say something positive about the whole thing. Let's see. It's got passable CGI, good set pieces and perhaps the best rendition of a man transforming into a werewolf I've seen so far. Here's another thing (though I'm not sure if it's really good): the character of Frankenstein's monster, though mostly digital effects has more personality than Jackman and our Kate combined. I think I'm done.

Perhaps in 10 years or so, VH will be recognised as a cult classic simply because it's a wonderful example of how NOT to do a horror action adventure flick. Until that time however, take my word for it and wait for it to come on TV. Even then, if there's a footie match, you're better off watching THAT.

The Ox reluctantly gives Van Helsing a 1 out of 5.

To look at other rotten reviews of VH, lookie here.


Thursday, May 6

Porn As Drug Of Choice

When you're at home with the flu and the DVDs suddenly don't make sense you know your brain's on the fritz. The meds have kicked in but my head still feels like it's stuffed full of some heavy grade wool, and the only recourse is to surf sites like these to get some really weird news. Of course, having David Lodge to read IS a pleasure, but one can only take cognitive science theory so far in a feverish mind.

Among the tidbits I've unearthed today: May is Masturbation Month (or at least these people seem to think so). Amazing what you can do when you have a dotcom and presumably plenty of free time. Born in this month, I have only this to say, that if it rocks your boat, by all means.

On a more technical note, those of you with Symbian camera phones may find this rather interesting. Called semacodes, this site proposes using your camera phone to capture and read URLs in the wild, and having them display in your phone browser. I quote:

A camera phone, pictured, is the center of the semacode system. The user must have an internet connection plan using GPRS or a more advanced data option. When they encounter a semacode in the wild, they load up the semacode software and point the viewfinder at the symbol. With a single click, the software decodes the contents of the semacode and presents the URL onscreen for approval. If you accept it, the web address is launched in the on-phone web browser.

Pretty cool stuff, and there's a PDF file you can download to learn more.

Before I sod off for the night, here's further proof that with funding, everything's possible. According to this article, there's a guy in Utah who's going to spearhead a movement to use MRIs to conclusively prove that pornography is actually physically harmful. According to Judith Reisman, president of the Institute for Media Education in Granite Bay, California:

Pornography leads to rape, serial murder, child molestation — and male impotence. "Every time he looks at (pornography) he's ashamed and angry. And he's compromised his ability to respond in a normal way. . . . He can no longer just fall in love with a young woman and find a thrill in the turn of her neck and the curve of her cheek.

Wow. And to think for a major part of my adolescent life I have been exposed (at least peripherally) to the various kinds of porn. So is this to blame for my current inability to fall in love? Does this mean that if you enjoy pornography with your partner it's the equivalent of snorting coke?

Wow. People in the states really know how to spend their time constructively. Ookay. I'm getting dizzy again. See you tomorrow, folks.


Don't Panic

I got my first birthday present of the year in the post today! Travelling 10 000 km to see me (thanks to a really fine sheep) is what else but one of the most sought after DVDs I have ever had in my list: The Hitchiker's Guide to The Galaxy 2 disc edition containing all of the broadcast TV episodes PLUS tonnes of extras (I'm absolutely giddy, in case anyone can tell). Having read Doug Adams books back to back and side to front it's an almost ethereal pleasure to be holding the box right now. Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect in celluloid! Gasp!

Anyway, in case I haven't mentioned (where are my manners?) thank you, thank you and thank you! I don't really put much stock into gifts but this one has me swept away. Now if everyone will excuse me, I'm off to enjoy some good old fashioned Brit humour (and this after watching Monty Python's Life of Brian only this morning) after which I SHOULD have the ultimate question to life, the universe and everything. I am right now one happy (though slightly sick) ox.



Wednesday, May 5

Sick And Hungryy....

Several days spent in quiet contemplation of my navel (or dark gazing, as Zsarina puts it), culminating in a strange bout of viral fever as the itchy throat on Monday quickly deteriorated into something else really does fill ANYone's personal depression quota. As a result, I now feel perfectly fine (mentally, since physically I feel like shit, thanks to the virus) but thankfully out of whatever zone I was in these past few days. In any case, I'd like to thank those luverly people who have inundated me with well wishes and assorted what not. One does not dare ask for more, heheh. And also, to that very nice offer of a going out, lemme know (wink wink). Human contact is ALWAYS good.

So, since it's the middle of the week, I decided to start on my favourite little pastime: movies! Specifically, the films of summer 2004 (amazing how time flies, innit?). Here the Ox outlines some the movies he's looking forward to (and also others he's NOT really excited about) just because he's nice, and because movies are for sharing. Well, at least good ones and porn.

BUT. Before that, here's a minor rant. I still cannot fathom why some so called "academic" film directors still insist on manufacturing trash for the Malaysian Masses. Glancing at a banner proudly displayed near my place of work, one cannot but think that the Malaysian movie going public are suckers for "satu lagi filem melodrama tragik". And I'm quoting verbatim here. Looks like we have a long way to go, and this will be a blog entry in itself...

Right. Now to the good stuff: Summer 2004 Movies!

Spiderman 2
I was rather pleased with the first one, doubly so since it was directed by Sam "Evil Dead" Raimi! I dunno if Doc Ock makes for a better villain, but we'll see. The first previews look quite delicious, and I can only hope it will be one of those rarest of rarities: a sequel that's better than the first.

Historical battles on a massive scale? Brad Pitt cleaving his way through many bronzed bodies, armed with only a spear? Orlando Bloom in yet another supporting role like this? I'm a sucker for these battles (though seriously, one more movie with the infamous fiery catapult device...) and this shapes to be one of the best this year. Will know when it shows though.

The Village
Night "I see dead people" Shyamalan returns with a creepy little story set in (what else?) a fog enshrouded little village. William Hurt and Sigourney Weaver star in this one, which I think will do marginally well, if not better. I'm a director man, and Shyamalan CAN be good (if a little dreary).

Aliens Vs Predator
I can only pray for this one. Freddy Vs Jason sucked big time, but still the lure of seeing my favourite aliens kick each others' butts on screen may prove to be a draw. Paul Anderson as director doesn't really inspire I'll relegate this to a maybe watch.

Van Helsing
I REALLY can't be excited for this one. Seriously. Sure it sounds intriguing. It's got Hugh Jackman and the wolfman, but why the hell did they have to cast Kate Bleeping Beckinsale in a horrendous Transylvanian accent (don't believe me check the trailer)?? Really, I'll be happy if this proves even marginally entertaining.

Halle Berry should be enough of a draw for males to attend this one. I'll be banking on Christian Bale's Batman, thank you. Something just doesn't sit right with me on this one. Hey, if it's any good, I'll even be pleasantly surprised.

The Punisher
Early reviews have tanked it, and I hope it comes and goes as quickly as it can. Another example of comic to movie madness gone wrong.

That's all the time I have for this edition of the Wednesday Movie watch, so keep coming back!

Signing off,


Tuesday, May 4

Knights On Wooden Horses

Past midnight on a Tuesday morning (does that make sense?) and you know you really should sleep. There's a somewhat longish drive ahead of you in the morning and you need it. David Lodge is nestled on your left and you wish you could write half as good as he does (or Gaiman, or King, or Moore) but you know you're not quite there yet. It's still bloody hot and you've got that itch in your throat that threatens to be strep or something like that and you know you're screwed and just waiting for it to come. Like death, only death doesn't really screw you. People screw you.

So it's up early tomorrow and for the trip back. Back to family, and the little town you grew to love but feel so distant from these days. Back through the little road into town you'd always envisioned bringing that person with but reconciled with bringing your little black box (because video games don't kill people, people kill people and you don't have a person to bring back and you don't WANT one). Do people feel sorry for you? you wonder, sometimes aloud but mostly when the fan makes noise and you're in that little space in between waking and sleeping, when walls are thinnest and you finally feel you're ready to let go, in that blissful moment when you realise you're actually falling asleep. A part of you answers that yeah maybe sometimes they do.

But more importantly, do YOU pity you? Usually you chuckle at this point because it sounds smart when in fact all it is is a load of poo (I won't say crap let's all say poo because roses smell like poo, Outkast said so) and no matter what you do right now you're royally buggered because it's all a sham trying to be everything to everyone (like Everclear said). And so you spend some nights writing brill stuff (well to you anyway) and others like this one writing punctuation free prose that would make anyone gasp for breath just reading it, as if you're trying to rewrite your whole life all over again and you're racing with the devil only he's got a bigger faster pen.

And you think if you can write fast enough, and good enough your life WILL change and everything WILL work out and you'll finally be able to write in a happy ending. But dawn comes and you wake up into the same old cycle and you realise you actually like it that way. So the script doesn't really get finished because you get weird scenes that can't really be shot and an ending that would make Plath kill herself with a garrote after swallowing arsenic (if you knew Sofia Coppola or maybe slept with her you think she'd want to make a movie out of this, a really sad one).

And THAT makes you laugh, sometimes.
What a way to close a night.


Monday, May 3

Hot And Bothered

Sitting in the stifling May heat, you realise you're lost. That little switch in your head you'd thought you wouldn't flip got flipped anyway and suddenly everything changes:

You no longer care what happens to the world, or the minds you're supposed to mold and educate.
You do well at your job because you hope it will take you somewhere else, eventually (maybe even somewhere better).
You give up on relationships because they all break down eventually.
You get tired of being the nice guy.
You get tired. Period.

I rant a lot these days. I realised this myself and from the people around me. It seems I've run out of anything nice to actually say. Maybe that's a sad thing. Maybe it's a reflection of what's going on in my head. For better or worse, I've changed. Evolved, you might say.

I never said anything before because there was no need. But now I have to let it out. Some people may like it (although I have a feeling many won't). That's alright, because there's only going to be one person other than God who knows what it's like being in my head, and that's me.

So stay in your happy little bubbles. Please.
It's for your own good.