Tuesday, June 29

On A Better Note

It's been a very good day. And I mean that in all senses of the word. Work was as always, I made some new friends, and I decided to throw caution to the winds and...

buy not one, but TWO books (I know, there goes my budget). Okay, so that was a letdown, but whaddya expect? That I got laid?

Hmm. Anyway. I gave in and bought two books on impulse. The first I'd been meaning to get for the longest time, which is the reprint of Colin Wilson's The History of Murder (2001, Carroll and Graf) and the second I just couldn't help but get:

From the Edge Of The Couch (2003, Bantam) by Dr Raj Persaud.

Wilson's History is an indepth look at the motives and methods of murderers, from the Pre-Christian age, through the middle ages and up to the present. Written as a sequel to the Mammoth Book of True Crime (which I also have) this one promises me a lot of sleepless nights...finishing it of course.

As for Persaud's book, it won the 2003 Medical Journalists' Association Award for Excellence (okay the name's longer but I can't be arsed) and it uses authentic case studies to explain current thinking on brain function and emotional disorders (from blurb at back of book, yes I'm lazy again). The author analyses previous cases like the man who could only get sexual satisfaction from being crushed by a garbage truck, the man who thought he was a tiger and tried to get it on with a tigress at the zoo and other equally bizarre ones.

It was a fluke that I saw it on the shelf (since I rarely go to the Psych section these days) but am glad I bought it. Looks like I'll have plenty of bedside company the next few weeks..

Till later, have a good midweek and cheers!


One Menu I'd Like To See

'Nuff said.

Pic courtesy of stupidnakedpeople.com


Monday, June 28

Visitor Q: Reviewed!

**WARNING** Since I don't think very many people will be watching this film (especially after this review), I decided to include major spoilers. You've been warned.

It would be impossible to start any decent review of Visitor Q without any form of warning for potential viewers. What I'll do is give out the short version here. Those of you interested to actually read more, can scroll down. Okay, here goes:

This film is disturbing, downright gory, and sick. Before the 84 minute mark rolls about you'll have been treated to scenes of incestual sex, anal rape, parent-beating, extreme lactation and necrophilia. There are scenes of incomprehensible surrealism and weirdness you'll wonder if you've lost your mind by even watching this. This is not for the faint hearted, or if you're anywhere near mainstream.

Good. Now that we've scared all the others away, I'll just continue on with the full skinny. Don't say I didn't warn you..

Equal parts family drama, horror film and social commentary, Takashi Miike's Visitor Q is a disturbing look at the disintegration of Japanese familial values and the emergence of reality TV as the entertainment of choice for the masses. Made in 2001 and shot on digital (with a very limited budget), Q is a romp into dysfunction and madness but proves to be ultimately hopeful.

The story opens with a young prostitute (Fujiko) cajoling Kiyoshi Yamazaki (Kenichi Endo, who later proves to be her father) to have sex with her. After being charged extra for ejaculating too early, he wanders back home and in the meantime is brained by a rock carried by the mysterious Q (Kazushi Watanabe). Kiyoshi is a TV executive who is fixated on making the next big reality show with his reluctant co-worker and lover Asako (Shoko Kawahara), especially since his last effort ended up with himself being sodomised with a microphone (which we see in full colour later).

At home, his wife Keiko (Shungiku Uchida, in a role that has to be seen to be believed) cowers in fear as their son Takuya (Jun Muto) beats her again and again with one of many paddles he keeps in his closet. After being beaten, she limps into her room to look at her scars, cover them up and shoot up with heroin, while her son goes up, dons a mask and hides as his school mates attack the house with firecrackers. Finally the father returns home with Q in tow, and the weirdness doesn't stop...

There is something to be said about Miike. In a time when other genre directors seem to have run out of ideas, he delights in taking the most taboo things and shoving them into our faces. Simply put, he dares. Like the bloody perversion in Ichi and gruesome revenge of Audition, Visitor Q grabs you by the (metaphorical) nuts, twists, pulls and takes you on a trip of such content you're left gasping for breath after, a little woozy and very shaken.

That's as close as I can come to describing it. There are no holds barred, as he takes the viewer into the lives of this family the only way he knows how. This is the ultimate reality TV, where you know you can't possibly watch what's happening but you do anyway, because..well because it is there. From the early sex scenes between father and daughter, to Q's awakening of the mother's lactation fixation, leading to the final gut wrenching 20 minutes as Kiyoshi kills Asako and then tries to have sex with the corpse (and getting stuck as rigor mortis sets in), him and his wife killing Takuya's bullies to the gloriously bittersweet redemption of the family, the shock is non stop, punishing and brutal.

At the end of the day, the family is on the mend, Q is nowhere to be found and yes, even the daughter is back in the bosom of the mother (literally, thanks to Q's rock) and we pull away from the still disturbing sight, finally relieved that it is over, that at least for now, there is no more hurt.

There are some messages to be found in this almost unstomachable tale, this reviewer believes. Miike rues the degeneration of the family unit, the obsession we have with reality TV, and our dependence on a third party (Q?) to make it all better, when in fact the solutions are with each other. The family is stronger for all their pain (and weirdness) and for once Kiyoshi doesn't need to be behind the camera, taping another sick story, Keiko doesn't need to turn tricks to feel beautiful and the daughter comes back home.

This is not one I recommend to anyone, unless you know what you're getting yourself into. It takes a lot from you, but it also gives it back, with interest.

The Ox gives it a 4 out of 5 with tons of warning.


Sunday, June 27

Happy Endings, Malaysian Idol and Boo! Nigeria

I heard something sweet happen on RickDees' top 40 yesterday. This guy called in and asked the host's opinion on something his ex said a couple of months after they split up. Apparently she'd told him her favourite song was Hoobastank's The Reason, and he wanted to know if she meant anything by it.

What Rick did was to call the ex on conference and ask her on live radio if there was a hidden meaning. Since I said earlier this was a sweet happening, as you'd probably guessed she wanted to get back together with the lucky sod. Now, bearing in mind this may have been another studio setup to elicit "awwwwws" from listeners, if it was authentic, three cheers for the bloke and his soon to be reunited bird.

I love happy endings, don't you?

On another note, I personally thought today's instalment of Malaysian Idol was rather crappy. For some reason I seem to get more and more annoyed with Paul Moss. Granted that some of the applicants (or is it supplicants) were deserving of a boot out the door, I felt he could have been a little more sporting. I guess this is where he pales in comparison to our other favourite gwailo, Simon Cowell. Where Cowell thrives on barbed wit with a smile, Moss simply comes across as a brooding, sourfaced kid. Sorry man, IMHO it takes more than a scowl and mean comments to be a good judge.

There was an unexpected highlight, however. Roslan Aziz visibly cringed when a contestant sang a Sheila Majid song, which I found highly amusing.

Speaking of amusing, if you've ever had to delete yet another Nigerian/Filipino/Bruneian letter for assistance from your inbox, maybe you'd find some solace from this little site. It's got several scambaiters (people who try to outscam the scammers) working hard to teach these parasites a good lesson. Worth a read, especially on those slow days.

I've got to scoot, so good night and have a good week!

**Update: Is Sweden heaven on earth?


The Things We Write About

God my head hurts.

I planned to have an easy, early night in (after 12 hours tending to various students and their respective baggages) but it seemed God had other plans. Rather, my PC did. I'd gotten a trojan alert earlier after my sister installed ICQ, and a rather hasty cleanup/checkup gave the impression that all was well. At midnight, I quickly realised how wrong I was after the damn thing froze for the 50th time. I'm all for System Restore, but I thought this warranted a more..decisive course of action.

Therefore, I decided a clean install was in order. There's something about formatting a drive and installing a fresh copy of Windows on it. Somehow it's kind of..therapeutic (yes I'm a sad, sad excuse for a human bean but hey) and I usually feel a lot better after. Thankfully I'd already backed up most of my important documents earlier in the week, and all that was left to do was format the C: drive, wipe it clean and pop in the Windows CD, after which it finally took me till 4 am to finally finish installing all the software I use (plus all the antivirus, firewall and anti-spyware utilities and THEN updating them). Honestly I have a feeling it's a little more than a trojan problem alone, since the HDD is rather old and it's been seeing a whole lot of use lately (this is one of those times I wish I was actually rich, and not only metaphorically). As of the time of writing, I'm waiting for Windows Update to finish before resuming my broken(!!) torrent downloads.

So in the meantime, constant reader, I'll put in some more padding so you won't feel your time here's been wasted (cmon, you didn't just come here for the pseudogeeky writeups, right?). In the past week, some bloggers I know have touched on originality and other aspects of blogwriting. It's inevitable that some bloggers will be more prominent than others, inspiring their readers to come up with similar themed or styled writings of their own. Sometimes it's the content. Other times it's the person's style (humourous, dark, sordid or what have you). All of this invites imitation (the sincerest form of flattery, although I HIGHLY recommend against doing this in real life, it just irritates the hell out of the person you're trying to flatter) and sometimes, feelings of inferiority.

It's come to my attention before that I don't do serious socio- or politically styled articles. Sometimes I ask myself why (especially when some other bloggers seem to be unsure of their content as well). I guess the answer (for me that is) is as simple as I just don't lean that way. We already have more than enough political, religious and social commentaries going on (inside and outside of PPS), written by people who are passionate and more importantly informed about their material. Anyone who's been reading me from the beginning (yes, you three) will notice how I've tried my hand at several approaches before finally settling (for now) for the format you see today. It hasn't been easy finding my online voice, but it takes a certain mix of passion, knowledge (shamelessness?) and being comfortable inside your own skin to find that sweet spot (think of it as the G-Spot of blogging). Working in academia tends to force any writing I do into rigid, scientific prose. Blogging is the exact opposite.

So until I decide I need to change some more, The Insane Ox will still be dishing out anecdotes on my life, attempted relationships, the business of local education, video games, movies savoury and otherwise, DVDs, gadgets I want, sex and all those things that matter to me. So here are some tips if you're new, since I got the same from another blogger when I first started:

Be honest, and more importantly be yourself. Readers will know if you're ripping off someone else, so don't bother. Respond to the readers' comments, and always remember that no one sees things quite the same way you do, which is a good thing. Don't worry if you feel insecure about the content because all blogs change, as you do.

Having said that, I don't think I'd really be me if I turned Jeff Ooi on myself and my readers, would I? Till then, whatever your poison (be it sex, politics, tech or boys/girls) take a nice long gulp, and I hope I'll be reading about it soon.



Friday, June 25

Visitor Q And The Weekend

It's a Friday night and as usual I'm at home, instead of out painting the town red (or blue or whatever colour is in these days). I dunno, I've just been more of a homey type (not to be confused with Homer Simpson) plus I have to be at work by 8 tomorrow for a faculty workshop. There's a bunch of students out there who are in dire danger of being kicked out, and as usual yours truly will have to head the task force in identifying just what it is that's so difficult for these kids.

Professional responsibilities, and all that. I never did expect the previous entry on roads to resonate with so many of you out there, and I'd just like to say thanks for writing in. There's more where that came from but I'd hate to be first and foremost in the field of navelgazing (since there are some who think so) and there's only so much dark, deep quasi-intellectual woe to pass around.

So what does one do when it's a weekend, work (and this is the academic kind) is piling up and the old hormones are starting to act up again (no points for guessing WHICH hormones, people). Well, if you're a geek like me, you pursue geeky interests in the hope of conveniently forgetting what it is you're so horny about (oh I guess I just blew it, didn't I). Having just installed the Xbox Media Player I'm so tempted to torrent some pr0n and watch it on the telly, but it'd be too much work. So I dug into my backlog of unwatched DVDs and came up with something close to porn, but perhaps much worse:

Takashi Miike's Visitor Q.

I've said the same about Audition, Ichi and several other titles before, but I'm dead serious about this one. Stay away from it, unless you're really sure you know what you're getting yourself into. Like Salo (which I'll review properly someday) this little piece doesn't just unsettle you. It makes you quickly want to take your eyeballs out, wash them and then wash them again.

By now I figure some of you should be intrigued, so I'll give you guys a little taste of what to expect before the review comes up next week:

The movie opens with a question card: Have you ever done it with your dad?

The following several minutes involves a girl, a man, 2 cameras, and sex.

Come back next week, for the review. I'm still waiting for my eyeballs to clear.


Installation Status: Green

This is sad. When everyone else is enjoying watching England beat the hell out of Portugal, I'm fixing .ini files in my Xbox config, and changing weird XML tags.

It's done. The Xbox Media Centre 2.3 Beta has been installed safely and succesfully. After several trial runs with various data formats, it's now almost a certainty that the black box can safely play just about every media format under the sun, and then some. I guess there's no time like the present to download those old Automan episodes...

I'd whoop and yell and stuff, but it's getting late.

See you tomorrow, folks!


Thursday, June 24


The funny thing about roads, I realised driving back from a little side trip after a long day at work is that most of us don't realise how much they're like canvases, or pages in a book. Every tyre tread is like another line of ink drawn across its surface, writing down a particular car's story, the little nicks and bumps on each tyre setting down a little world of its own. Sometimes it feels like there must be entire worlds down there. Worlds of love, hurt, laughter and pain.

It's one of those nights again, when something's trying to tell you somebody.

There are some roads I haven't driven on for awhile. Not because I have anything against them, but because they lead to places I don't really go to anymore. These are normal roads, like any other. During the day they're indistinguishable, but at night and when the light is just right the stories come alive, as if driving on them places an invisible grampohone needle on every groove and tread mark, and the reel plays. Not on the windscreen (that would be too horror movie-ish) but directly into the mind's eye (through the wonders of quack psychology!) and there it stays, not quite out of view but there in the corner of things.

So you remember. This is the road where you laughed, cried, argued, made up, kissed, held hands, (very nearly) made love, felt the tremor in that person's body that somehow told you this is right, rejoiced, accepted and finally, sent away. These and other roads are silent observers, there when you first etched those lines (that was a silly argument wasn't it, you turn to ask but the seat's empty) and they'll still be there when you're a pocketful of dust and bones, and the bugs have picked you clean.

The playback ends when you make a turning and sometimes another reel comes on, on cue. Sometimes it just ends and the remainder of the feeling, of the memory hangs in the air like a million gossamer threads (angel hair, you think), almost tangible but then you exhale and they vanish, waiting for the next time you drive by.

You hope the roads are ReWritable media. You know, for those new memories. And maybe they are. Or perhaps they never were anything more than blank gritty grey slates that do nothing more than jolt the little basket inside your head.

You know, the one with the little silver eggs.


Tuesday, June 22

Xbox Modding and...a Gmail Invite!

WARNING: Certain parts of this post may be constituted as illegal, so don't blame me when the MPAA comes and kicks down your door.

It's almost the end of the month, you're very nearly broke (so you can't buy DVDs) and the only way for you to watch a movie is by being part of an insidious network called P2P and actually downloading stuff. Now normally this is a fine arrangement, but I've gotten so used to watching vids on my telly that actually hunkering down to squint into a small 15" monitor just doesn't cut it anymore.

What's a movie buff on a budget to do? Simple, if he has an Xbox. The Xbox mod community has come up with a homebrew software called the Xbox Media Player. It's designed to play almost any form of media (even the sometimes iffy Xvid format) on the Xbox. What this means is that an Xbox owner will be able to access VCDs, JPEGS, MPEGS, mp3s, OGGs and God knows what else from a home network or CD/DVD. Great. This sounds like a solution, and therefore my newest DIY project is born: The OxBMP! If anyone's asking why don't I just burn the files to a VCD or something, the DivX and Xvid formats give better A/V quality, and right now it's a shame to lose all that high definition glory (besides converting between them to VCD is a pain in the butt).

To start using this wonderful software on my modded (read: warranty void) console, I'll need several cheap (and other free) items:

1) A crossover cable to connect my NIC on the PC to the Xbox's ethernet port.

- This is rather cheap, and can be gotten from any reasonable PC hardware depot.

2) The XBMP software

- Unfortunately, due to legal constraints, only the source code is made public and users will have to compile the code themselves using an SDK (of which there are several types, and I have none). Thankfully, there are several torrents floating around that have the full compiled binaries, and I may be able to snag one of them.

3) FlashFXP

- This is an FTP software that's highly recommended by Xbox modders for transferring files to and from the console. It's not free, but there's a 30 day demo that should be more than adequate for my needs.

4) Tutorials!

- As of the time of writing, I'm knee deep in several tutorials that explains exactly how I'm supposed to install the blasted thing and hopefully make it work. All of these are free for the downloading.

Right, so that's that. Wish me luck as I attempt this endeavour (and try not to screw up the console in the process) and if you're still reading this, I thought I'd offer a little reward:

A Gmail invite!

And it's very easy to get, too! All you have to do is give me a short idea/plot outline for a horror movie, preferably less than 100 words and the best idea submitted to me via email (check the link at the sidebar) will get a nice shiny new Gmail invite! So if you're interested, give it a go!

I await your entries while I figure out this whole shebang.


Monday, June 21

Adventures And Moody Mondays

Ladies and gentlemen, a surefire way to kick start any somber Monday is by leaving your keys inside a locked car. This also serves as a reminder to never pursue gloomy thoughts/visions while driving to work, because seriously folks it throws everything out of whack.

Welcome to another week. What would have quickly escalated into a disastrous day for me was saved thankfully by all the TV I watched when I was a kid. I thought about panicking, decided not to, and went and bought a nice long metal ruler.

Okay, so I lied. I bought THREE rulers, because you never know (plus because I broke a friend's in the process of trying). Anyway, thanks to the aforementioned TV, all it took was 10 seconds with the long metal ruler and I was again in posession of said keys.

Sometimes you wish life's other problems would be as easy to fix.

Like the fact things that shouldn't still bother you do, or that some facets of your life will never truly be yours again. There's no multi-tool or magic ruler to fix those, no matter how hard you look. And no matter how good you are at video games, no amount of thumb dexterity or peripheral vision enhancement will help.

Some things will suck regardless of how you look at it. They'll suck today, tomorrow and ten years from now, when you think they're done with the sucking. And as always, there's not much you can do about them except treat them as the sometimes irritating, more often saddening milestones (or kilometre-stones, if you're Brit) you have to pass through as you go towards paying the ultimate cost of living.


Saturday, June 19

Movie Reviews: Triple Whammy

Since it's the weekend and I'm effectively stuck at home (with the exception of two occasions) I thought I'd share some mini-reviews of what's screening at our cinemas. This summer is a hotbed of big budget releases, and here are a few of the ones I managed to catch (and download..shhh):

The Punisher
An apt title that turns out to be more of a comedy than an action film, and was it just me or did Malaysia see fit to put in a little card at the end of the movie that said "Frank Castle was captured and jailed" right after the aforementioned hero swore to rid the world of bad guys? What, our audiences can't think for themselves? John Travolta schmoozes through another take as Howard Saint the essential bad guy, Armageddon's Will Patton turns in a passable performance as his sidekick Quentin Glass, and there are several other notables including the lovely Ms Rebecca Romjin. Of course, where would we be without the titular hero? Taciturn, dark and brooding he exacts his punishment somewhat underwhelmingly as the scores of weapons he has barely sees any use (look out! A bow and arrow in a building? What happened to silencers?). Recommended if you're going through a boring Saturday, and you've definitely got to watch out for the hilarious "burning skull stunt" he pulls near the end.

A 3 out of 5

Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban
Third time's the charm for Harry and his mates. Alfonso Cuaron manages to breathe a new, darker life into the franchise by actually turning his characters into people, instead of inflatable book-alikes. The kids have grown into their roles really well, and the supporting cast (even the new Dumbledore) manage to turn this outing into something that actually feels like a feature film. Unlike Chris Columbus's "look ma! I can do magic!" approach, Cuaron infuses Hogwarts with underlying magic at every turn, not to mention the fact that the kids actually go out and about the school grounds. Purists may balk at the turn the film's taken, but I only fear for the fourth one if the rumours are true that Cuaron may not be directing.

A 4 out of 5

The Chronicles of Riddick
I found myself liking this more than I probably should have, which may be because I've recently rekindled my interest in the entire franchise by playing the video game (which a lot of reviews have stated as one of the best titles of 2004). Vin Diesel reprises his role as the mysterious Riddick as he becomes embroiled in a battle against planet-destroying religious fanatics all the while shaking off the bounty hunters on his tail. Watching this I could not help but draw parallels with the first Conan movie, in terms of narrative and plot structure. The action is satisfying (albeit a little over the top) but all in all this film is perfect popcorn material, plus it may just make people a bit more curious about the prequel, which has now attained cult status among DVD collectors. A word of warning: Judi Dench twirls around like a forest elf more than once, and that may prove to be more difficult to stomach than any violence.

A 3.5 out of 5

Right. That's about all the time I have this week, so if you'll excuse me, I'm off to leave my PC on while downloading some more movies to review.

Ash.ox out!


Thursday, June 17

Sign Of The Times

I never considered myself to be any kind of a prude (to a reasonable extent of course). My experiences in life so far have taught me to be wary of passing judgements too fast, since there's always another side to any story.

However, something just strikes me as being wrong about this picture. Give it a looksie, and see if you can see anything out of the ordinary.

No? Look at the girl nearer to you, and look at her hand.

Sure, it looks natural enough, except that the girls were no older than thirteen. I took this picture during dinner in SS15 tonight. The girls came into the shop, sat down and after several minutes of furtive glancing the taller of the two got up, bought a ciggie, lighted it and sat down.

I've been around some form of smoker for most of my adolescent and now adult life, and I can tell a seasoned puffer from someone who just wants to be cool. Unfortunately this girl belonged to the latter. Now you may say what's the big deal? It's her choice.

True, but at 13 how many of us were informed and mature enough to make smart choices? Maybe I'm getting old, or maybe my tolerance for these things have gone down considerably. What I do know is it doesn't matter if it was a boy or a girl (I think the fact that a group of boys were sitting nearby helped). It still looks unnatural to me.

Times really have changed. Perhaps in Subang, you need to be cool to continue existing. God knows I see it in enough adults. And speaking of adults, the shop worker made a travesty of the "illegal to sell to underage person" sticker.



Cheaters Beware!

Bad news for serial womanisers/cheaters. If the technology moves faster, we could be seeing the end of cheating on your partners as we know it sooner rather than later! According to scientists in the UK and US:

"A single gene inserted into the brain can change promiscuous male rodents into faithful, monogamous partners, scientists said Wednesday".

Riveting stuff. Get the full article here.


Gmail Giveaways! Now In Apple And Grape!

Seems to me everyone's giving away Gmail invites these days. There are whole websites devoted to swapping almost everything under the sun (and even under clothing, ahem) for a chance at a 1 gig email account. I can see the excitement. The thought of a thousand megabytes of space just sitting there for our emails, with no pesky "You Are Using More Than Half Your Space" mesages every few days just makes us salivate doesn't it? Even us Malaysian bloggers are doing it, with interesting results (just look at sashi!).

So now I've got a couple invites left, and I'm thinking should I do it too? Offer an invite as a prize for something that would be entertaining (and warranting the prize, of course) to my poor bored soul?

This idea is intriguing indeed. So now all we're left to do is figure out the exact nature of the contest. Should I ask interested readers to photograph themselves doing weird stuff (like themselves near their PC displaying my blog while eating a sandwich), or have my very own wet-shirt contest (where I'll likely arrested and sued)? Hmmm.

Deep thinking is required, it seems. So yeah, if anyone's got any ideas on how best for me to give away my invites, I'd like to hear of them! Just write them in the comments box or send me a mail if you're shy. In the meantime, I'll see what else my twisted mind can think of (although honestly reader submitted wet tshirt pics rank high for now) so you guys out there have a good week!



Tuesday, June 15


Note to self: getting up at four thirty can be very good for the body, but hell on the mind. Therefore, will blog in disjointed threads ala Bridget Jones, wanton sex goddess bladibla...but without the sex. At all.

Early part of day spent in blur of sorts as took dad to Harun Din's clinic in Bangi and spent rest of it bonding with parents. Since this is not routine or normal, am still adjusting to whole concept (plus illnesses in parents always help kick sense into brain). Prodigal son is transforming into v.obedient son. Ramifications and consequences so far unknown.

Drove to Bangi at about 5, after being last to wake up (damn you, internet!). Session with healer was faster than expected, owing perhaps to early presence at the site. V. lucky to be early, as large numbers of people were congregating outside clinic, clutching bottles of water and each other. Whole affair was quite methodical: fill in form with name and short synopsis of complaint/illness, get issued a number and wait for turn. When called, said healer (having speed read the sheet) will go through specific prayers/Quranic verses pertaining to each individual case, plus advice on things to avoid. V. efficient, only wish own office was equally fast. Bah. Water off a duck's back, it is. Too early to tell if any favourable results, but hoping it works for the best. May send dad to do another series of tests in different hospital. Mum seems inclined to agree, which is good.

Took dad, who felt slightly better for breakfast, and as noted above, decided to just hang around with parents (unusual, but warranted) for the rest of the day. Throughout whole morning and afternoon was struck by how dad insists on propriety and covering of aurat, something I may not be able to guarantee 100% if the choice were up to me (although if marrying stalker this is already in the bag). Also, v. strong political views may limit potential mates to similar like minded individuals(?).

Creepy. But if similar individuals turn out to be wanton sex goddesses with sense of humour, then am not so creeped. Note to self: compromise is necessary, but with any luck may end up with mate who prefers sex to be functional.

One more note to self: do not think these thoughts too often. Nads shrinking in fear.

On other note, Yahoo is giving 100 megs of space for emails, increasing total space on both accounts to 1.1 GB. God bless healthy competition. Back home the only healthy type we have is for text messages on mobiles. On second thought, God bless us (we need it badly). Are we doomed to be a country of twitching text-crazy designer-wearing zombies?

Since am sleepy, will now lay on bed and fantasise about intelligent, funny naked women with nice tits engaging in witty repartee. Er. On second thought, maybe not.



Monday, June 14

No Stone Unturned

My father has an appointment with Ustaz Harun Din at 6.30 am tomorrow morning.

For those unfamiliar with the name, Harun Din is a religious healer of some repute, and lately a quasi-prominent political figure in Malaysia. That aside, he has quite an impeccable reputation for ferreting out 'disturbances' from otherwise invisible quarters, something that many I know will attest to.

I've said this before, and I'll say it again. I'm a guy who likes his science. So does my dad, who also happens to be a doctor. Still, something has to be said for the power of faith (and prayer) in alleviating pain and sickness. It's either that, or the power of hysteria. Standing where I am right now, I can't say I'm inclined towards the latter.

The reason we're going is mainly to find out if my dad's strange bout of illness has a non-earthly origin. No, scratch that and call it a non-medical origin. What else can you call a sickness that according to medical specialists should not happen at all? I for one, am curious, simply because I have yet to see Harun Din at work (although I've listened to him give talks and heard stories of his exploits) and a part of me is intrigued to see if there is another darker explanation for what's afflicting my dad.

Of course, when all is said and done it may be an obscure infection after all (the final test results will only be back in 6 weeks) and if that's the case, medical science will lead the assault on it. If it turns out that it's not...

Talking to my siblings over the weeks I've realised something we all share: each one of us has seen or heard something inexplicable in our house for as long as we can remember. There was the strange figure walking around at night outside, the fiery ball that burst into flames in the kitchen, and most recently another figure flitting about, seen by my 15 year old sister. THAT surprised me more than anything because she had no reason to make it up and just out of the blue told me when I was home last week, as easily as if she'd been telling me about a new episode of an anime. I remember her asking me what I thought of it, and honestly I didn't know how to answer her (she's also deaf in one ear, so less possibility of hearing things?).

When something happens so often no one bats an eye, I guess. Tomorrow I'll attempt to document the process of diagnosis as thoroughly as I can, you know, for science.

And to find out if there's something else behind all this.


Where We Go From Here

Emily wrote something that inspired this post, and it's only coming to me now. Or rather, I've only woken up to it.

These past few days I've spent thinking (or as Zarina puts it, navel gazing) about the nature of dreams and plans, and how reality has to assert itself, often ignoring the social niceties of the process (if any exist). I've also spared some thought on the ideals of youth, and how responsibility and pragmatism (usually) hold sway.

Before I go on, a little update: my stalker is back. The relevance of this will be made clear as we continue.

Being the firstborn can be tough (or not). Some of us are born with whole silver platters in our mouths, not a worry in the world. Others slog our way up, dealing with filial issues and other responsibilities while expected to perform in our studies, get good jobs and take care of our siblings. I'm firmly in the latter camp. Not that my life is so terrible, but I've begun to wonder at my stubborness in wanting things out of life.

With my father struck by this mysterious illness (we're seeing Harun Din tomorrow) suddenly the questions come: how will my siblings continue school if something does happen (God forbid), who will take care of the family, and all that. I'm the only one with any semblance of a job, and right now there are three other people who still have a long way to go before they can even graduate.

So the result of all this thinking is rather clear: I've decided to not live in an illusory world where I have a job doing what I like, fall in love and get married, travel, you know, those special things you tell yourself are in store for you. Instead, I'll swallow those childish fancies and concentrate on taking care of the family, and making sure my siblings get through university.

It's rather straightforward, really. In this scenario, I stay with the uni, go for my PhD sometime next year, maybe get married before that (since this stalker actually likes me I figure it has a better chance of succeeding, nevermind I actually abhor talking to her) come back as quickly as I can to get confirmed and pave the way for my brother and sisters. Sure, it sounded painful when I first thought about it, but now it looks like that's the only way to go.

Dreams fade, and mine just did. The natural pragmatic lean of my Asian upbringing has finally caught hold, and all I can hope for is that my siblings and later, children will never have to question their aspirations or shelve their visions aside. So the ending I wrote for myself in my head a long time ago (you need those to go forward) needs to change.

We humans are adaptable, I heard. With enough effort I guess I can adapt to this, as well.

And probably I will.


Sunday, June 13

Riddick and Malaysian Idol

That faint wailing sound you hear is my bank account going banshee on me.

Yes folks, I have finally grown enough cojones (look it up, wontcha) to put a stop to my heat infested apartment once and for all. Seriously, all drama-comedy tricks aside I've suffered major monetary damage today as I (thank God) found someone able to come to my apartment and fix the bloody electricals that have been haywire for the past couple of months (white lie). It's been a festering sore in my side, this seeming inability for almost everyone I call to actually come over and fix things (for money!). However, the elusive and expensive silver lining in this cloud finally appeared and I have now an official handyfixit company.

Never mind that it took a big chunk out of this month's rent money. Note to self: speak to landlord about this.

Mm. On another note, it seems everyone and their cockroach wants in on the slice of reality pie. Akademi Fantasia is on its second leg with a special concert tour by our very own multitasking-non-English-speaking diva (no points for guessing), ntv7 has Audition and finally Malaysian Idol begins screening. Whether it's a last ditch effort by the stations to boost viewership and ratings or another symptom of our "let's jump on the bandwagon-lemming" disease, by now most everyone will have a favourite show and a cause to donate their hard earned text credits (50 sen, sir at least) to. More power to the people, I say. And IMHO, Roslan Aziz is one mean bugger, which probably suits him.

Which brings me to my next most favourite thing on the earth (whoever guesses what the first one is gets a mystery prize): movies! Now that the blasted school hols are finally over (did anyone keep count how many bleeding times I bleeding used finally) I can finally make plans to venture out to the cinemas and partake of 2004's summer offerings. In no particular order, I haven't watched Shrek 2, Day After Tomorrow, Harry Potter or the Punisher. Strangely though, what I am rather excited about watching is a little summer action flick called The Chronicles of Riddick, due to begin screening on the 17th of June. A prequel (of sorts) to 1999's sci-fi/horror fest Pitch Black, it features Vin Diesel reprising his role of galactic antihero Riddick in another adventure that promises lots of bald, growling action.

The reason behind this sudden interest is that in the past two days (as part of a de-stressing program) I've started playing The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay on my Xbox. I'll just say this about the game: it's probably the best movie tie-in video game I've seen in a decade. And it kicks arse on almost every level. The fact that Diesel's own development company, Tigon Studios had a hand it its inception is just an added bonus, and puts him next to Ben Affleck on the geeky celebs list. I won't bore everyone on how good the game is, I'll leave it to anyone interested to read for themselves.

Anyway, tomorrow's a new week and I'm meeting the new batch of vict- er, students in the afternoon. Wish me luck as I battle time in a race to complete various jobs I've had to put on hold due to pure laziness and the fact that I was in Perak for one whole week.

Cheers, people.


Mulled, Like The Wine

So you're back.

Tired, worried and a little stressed. There's a dull throb in your chest cavity where you suspect there was something. Once. Oodles of work to do, bills to pay, the filial worry gene kicking in (responsibility, anyone? I'll have mine with the fries) and that familiar itch that tells you you're horny as hell.

Welcome back, boyo.

You tell yourself it's just the stress of a long week, of the travelling and the face you put on so nobody else worries, and so everyone will be at least a little less frightened. Then there are the glimpses of something (nothing, you try and say but everyone's seen them at least once) you can't pin down, as if someone sent a personal Dementor hovering just out sight in the inbetween places where it's dark and scary and most of all everything smells of sad.

"What's the name of the word for the precise moment when you realise that you've actually forgotten how it felt to make love to somebody you really liked a long time ago?"

Delirium to Morpheus in the Sandman: Brief Lives, Neil Gaiman

You tell yourself that life is like that, that for every little nugget of forgetfulness you managed to glean out of the sorry gravel that time pushes constantly in your direction there is always an equal (though you suspect more) price to pay in gold.

Sometimes you wish some doors close for good.
You do know better, of course.

In the end, the wishing never helps, the doors close (and open) of their own accord, and time sweeps you up, broken dreams and all.

Good morning.


Wednesday, June 9


Came back from the hospital just now with rather good news. My dad passed most of the medical tests including an echocardiogram. However, a couple hours ago we just found out that the root of the problem may be a form of infection from tuberculosis that attacks the kidneys, thus accounting for the fever and other symptoms.

Not untreatable, but it may mean a longer stay in the medical centre. It's the doctor's opinion that he may have gotten infected by a patient during work. Currently reading what I can on the subject.

More updates as soon as I get them. Thanks for your support, folks.


Tuesday, June 8

Going Home Again

Looks like I'm going back up again. My dad just got admitted into the Ipoh Specialist Centre for more tests, and my mum's starting to panic. I may be gone for the whole week, so to everyone, be safe and God bless.

Ash.ox out.


Monday, June 7

DVD Review: Zatoichi (2004)

After watching the unsubtitled VCD a couple months ago (and crawling through the translation with my brother) I finally landed a copy of the Region 2 DVD for Takeshi Kitano's Zatoichi. My hands just about trembled as I fed the disc into my player and all I can say at the end of it is that it was worth every minute.

Kitano's reimagining of the Zatoichi mythos (it was originally a series of movies spanning 30 years) may not sit well with fans of the original, but it's certainly worth a watch if only to marvel at the love that was poured into this outing. Part drama, comedy, action movie and musical (!!), it's a refreshing change for the genre, and one that bodes well for other forays. The original series told the story of a blind wandering masseur who for some reason or another always managed to get himself into trouble. Luckily for him, the titular character is also a skilled swordsman, using the blade hidden in his cane to dispatch his foes in brutally satisfying ways.

In this remake, Kitano casts himself as Zatoichi (blond, no less) as he winds his way into yet another unnamed village. There he strikes up an acquaintance with Oume, an old peasant woman, her bumbling nephew Shinkichi and two travelling geishas (who are more than they seem) and gets into a confrontation with a rogue ronin (played by Tadanobu Asano no less). Needless to say, there is evil afoot and before long, the gambling hero-masseur draws his sword to uphold justice. And what beautiful justice it is.

As spiral remarked in his review earlier this year, Zatoichi is less about the brutality and violence (although there are equal amounts of both) and more about the rebirth of tradition. It's evident in almost every frame how much Kitano tries to stuff in every conceivable aspect of traditional folk lives, from their work and social interactions to their various (and incredible) entertainments. It's as if by doing this Kitano is trying to leave one last indelible mark on the landscape, before the Japanese viewers of today forget their heritage, swamped by pop culture and video games.

Perhaps the most telling instance of this is just before the climactic final battle, as Zatoichi passes by a scarecrow left in the middle of the path, he picks it up and plants it back into the field, therefore moving himself out of harm's way in the process. It's almost a silent challenge to the wave of modern cinema: up yours, he says. After the battle, as the film wraps up with an explosive tapdancing routine from Japanese group The Stripes one sees that the whole film is a paean to a receding era, and one that Kitano insists must go out with a bang.

Now, in case you action fans were wondering if there actually was any killing in this movie, rest assured there is. The swordplay is bloody and brutal, with most enemies despatched in three strokes or less (the way it ought to be, IMHO). There's none of the protracted fight scenes we're used to (I hate to spoil it guys, but even the final battle is over in about..2 seconds). Kitano opted for CGI blood, but it doesn't really detract from the whole experience.

Now, on the downside, there are some plot elements that don't seem to gel, and we don't really get to know the characters except for a brief expository flashback that occurs periodically. The special effects are a bit ambiguous too, at points. At the end of the day, Zatoichi provides a good dash of humour, action, drama and of course music that gels into a tight, entertaining whole. Sure, the acting isn't overtly spectacular, and the humour might fly past anyone unfamiliar with the genre but if you're sufficiently curious, you may find it to be one of the sleeper hits of 2004, and end up being pleasantly entertained.

Ash.ox gives Zatoichi a 4 out of 5.


Sunday, June 6

Porn As Drug Of Choice 2

You know, I guess I'll just go right out and say it:

I don't mind porn (and this post was inspired by YOU, sashi, so I'm hoping to hell you're reading this).

Okay, so I lied. Jikon's little rant had a part to play in this post too, so there.

Sure this makes me somewhat disgusting, perhaps, but seriously any red-blooded male (or at least one with a working penis) will be at least intrigued by the premise of seeing naked women (men optional) frolicking on screen, no matter what he tells you, girls. And before any of you start pointing fingers and calling me a demeaning, misogynist bastard, this post is not meant to justify anyone's habit of buying or watching said material, or even the act of producing it.

This post is about how even a casual watcher of porn such as myself has limits. I won't lie here, folks. I've bought enough porn to stock a third world country, and you know what? Almost all of it wasn't for me. I admit I had some stock of my own, but they were mostly for people who didn't have the gumption (also pronounced balls) to buy their own for fear of violating some obscure religious tenet that forbids them from actually physically buying the stuff or (more probably) the fear of being found out by their girlfriends who think they're such angels.

Maybe it's because I've never really been bothered with it. Whatever the cause, I've been around the block (remember when Petaling Street actually sold porn on VHS?) and I'd like to think I've seen every conceivable type of porn out there with the notable exception of the near-mythical snuff film (for the uninitiated, snuff films purporterdly show people actually being killed). Yup, if it involves naked women performing sexual congress with various animate/inanimate objects and/or living creatures, I've probably seen it (though I can't say I'm actually better off doing that).

The thing about the porn distributors in Malaysia is, they're damn perceptive on what's hot at the moment. So when the whole "Kisah pramugara terlampau" and other Malaysian artistes/students engaging in hanky panky were being splashed all over the papers, you would be accosted by peddlers touting the latest pelajar sekolah, datin xxx and even Siti Nurhaliza porn videos. Most of these were fakes of course, Thai/Indonesian productions cleverly masked with Malaysian music and different covers. Still, a lot of people fell for them, and such being the nature of the content, who would dare complain?

Yes, I've seen the authentic ones (these were passed to me by people I know) including the ex-steward, the supposed Datin, a popular actress and the model spycammed in her home, and honestly if you were really hard up, all you need to do is fire up your favourite P2P app and type in amateurs, or summat. Real Malaysian porn (though it exists) is very small in number, perhaps because most of them are now stored in hard disks. This shameless usage of celebrities' names is something we're not unfamiliar with (and honestly, doesn't it intrigue you to know what a particular celeb does on his/her own time?) but I think the line has to be drawn when it involves a dead person.

One could argue that the whole idea behind porn is the dehumanisation of the actors/actresses. We turn them into objects, stripped of their names and personalities. They exist purely as sexual creatures, and our actions are somehow excused (weak though this is). When people willingly tape themselves for the purpose of making money (and these can be big productions indeed) it's one thing.

But when the late Noritta's name is now part of a marketing ploy by our vendors to push some other VCDs, it's another. So yes her name's been splashed all over our dailies, and what we can read from them alone would make Judith Krantz blush. But no matter how promiscuous she may have been in life (and regardless if it's really her on the discs), if you're reading this and you later get offered to buy a copy of it, please. Decline.

There are other movies out there. It's a matter of taste, really. There is a line between crass sensationalism and marketing, and this reeks profusely of the former. Maybe it would be better if we stopped buying porn altogether (it's been a year and a half since I last bought any, and I don't miss it THAT much).

So yes. As contradictory as this may be, if you do purchase porn, at least make sure it's not some shoddy rip off preying on your curiosity. It's terrible, really.


One-One Thousand, Two-OneThousand...

It's amazing when one of those little things from Driver's Ed you never thought would be important ends up saving your life (and your wallet).

And more than once, at that.

Of course, the gentle reader (I'm being nice here) will ponder which part exactly from that marvelous point in our lives I am referring to. Simple. It's that oft-spoken but rarely remembered "one-car-length" rule, sometimes also referred to as the "one-one thousand" principle. You know, the one that says to ensure a safe driving distance from the car in front of you (or optimum safe braking distance) all you need to so is chant "one-one thousand, two-one thousand" in that order while noting a reference point that the vehicle ahead passes. If I'm not mistaken, if you pass said point before the two count, it means you're way too close and if someone puts on the brakes the chances of you rear ending the person is slightly (very?) high.

Now if the above sounds absolutely foreign to you, don't be too hard on yourselves. I doubt most of us even remember Drivers Ed in Malaysia (unless it's the really pretty girl in jeans and t-shirt whom you'd have loved to say hi to but were too shy and- oops!) and we were all just raring to get into the car and get it over with.

Anyway. On the way back to Perak Saturday morning (about 845 am) I was staggered by the sheer amount of cars on the North-South Expressway. It seemed to me at the time that the whole population of Selangor and KL decided that it was the best time to hightail it up north and to points beyond, turning what would have been a 75 minute journey into one that lasted almost two and a half hours (including the 30 minutes I spent in my hometown stuck behind cars trying the old trunk road). Somewhere after Tanjung Malim traffic picked up again (which essentially means I could drive faster than 60km/h) and though the highway was packed, the traffic was moving rather swiftly. So swiftly in fact, that while I tried to maintain that safe distance (knowing my Kancil's braking distance, it was more to save my own arse) several other cars in front of me were driving really close to one another.

Then the inevitable happened. All of a sudden, 3 cars ahead, someone stepped on their brakes, hard. The resulting occurrence, whilst obeying the laws of physics were quite spectacular. All three cars in front of me crashed into each other with the exception of little old me. I managed to roll to a stop safely, as did most of the cars behind me. As the bewildered and dazed drivers got out of their vehicles, I couldn't help but mouth a silent prayer of thanks. That was scary.

It was scarier because I'd had two similar incidents in the past year alone, one on the LDP and the other on the same highway. Now, I'm not uber-careful or anything, but at that point in time, I thanked God for making me so anal, and for making that bit of info stay in my brain.

Sure, we all hate road hogs. Even I do. But in my opinion at least, there's a difference between being careful, and just being a plain rude hog. The drivers I passed got off with lighter wallets and perhaps a slight headache. Others may not be so lucky.

So in the end I guess it would help us to remember that little adage:

The life you save may be your own.

Have a good week, folks.


Thursday, June 3

Going Back

I'm worried.

My mum called again, and apparently my dad's not feeling too well. By itself, this would be nothing new, since he's always extra busy whenever school hols are on and he tends to get a bit tired. A few days rest, some meds and he'll be alright.

This time, though, she's a bit disturbed. According to her my dad only gets sick when he comes back to the house. At the office he's alright, but every night for a couple weeks he's been having strange temperature changes. He's gone for blood tests and the like, and is supposed to go for another checkup tomorrow. I may go back this weekend, just to see how everything's going and also to allay my mum's fears.

You see, she's scared that someone's trying to hurt the family. Again. Normally I'm not a superstitious fellow, but in the last 10 years I've seen, heard and felt things that for all my scientific background I can't explain. This includes several episodes when we first moved into our new house of feeling malign presences, for want of a better word.

And then there was the time that strange red ball flew into the house and exploded in the kitchen. Call me silly, but I know only too well what someone with enough time and effort could do to another. Plus, coming from a family that has branches dabbling in water spirits and the like, my late grandfather instilled in us a kind of belief in the unseen (also his arguing with disembodied voices in the middle of the night kinda helped). Granted, my dad's not been the most unnoticeable persona in our small town. With his strong political stance and sometimes barbed comments (now I know where THAT comes from) it's inevitable that at least some people feel a bit..threatened. Perhaps enough to seek help from more sinister beings.

Of course, all this could be unfounded, and it may just be my dad's contracted some sort of viral sickness or flu. The visit to the specialist centre tomorrow may clear everything up. Still, I'm ready to go back, if only to make sure he's alright, and also to see if there's something else lurking around the edges.

And yes, just to put my mother's fears to rest.

Later, folks.


Wednesday, June 2

ITune, Do You?

As American Idol blares outside my bedroom, I can't help but think of the many ways music in my life has changed, and with it my perception of what constitutes good music. I admit this will sound really old and lame, but for some reason a lot of the newer stuff people like to listen to these days are beginning to sound really repetitive (so yeah, I'm not cool anymore..was I ever?). For instance take that new Sarah Connor (is that her name?) tune that's been getting a lot of airplay. In my head the background bass track sounds suspiciously like an earlier Mary J Blige song. Then when I started listening really hard, I realised a lot of newer artistes are sampling songs that are barely 5 years old and rehashing them into new tunes with somewhat newer rap/hiphop/what have you vocals. Me, I'm no music expert, but when samples are taken from a song you remember moving your shoulders to barely two years ago, you just know the well of originality's either dried up or no one can tell the difference anymore (and that is a scary thought, ladies and gentlemen). However, when you consider the alternative (which are songs by groups that name themselves after cutlery and revolve around A minor, E minor, F, C and G chords) you can't help but embrace whatever MTV decides is cool for you).

Thinking about this takes me back to the music I thought was cool when I was growing up. Back then (I really sound old now) the first tunes I sort of remember when I was really small was Abba, simply because my mum played a whole lot of it on the stereo. Then there was Olivia Newton-John and other post-70s singers who I don't really remember. The 80s, for me at least was characterised by Duran Duran, Billy Idol, David Bowie, Elton John, John Cougar Mellencamp (though I think he dropped the Cougar later), Michael Jackson and a whole lot of Solid Gold programs with groups like Modern Talking, Depeche Mode..the list goes on. Interspersed with these groups/singers were jingles/themes from TV shows like Matlock, McGyver and the lot. On the local side we had Sharifah Aini, DJ Dave (whoah), M Daud Kilau (he was weird), Sudirman and our own Dato' Shake. Man, those were colourful days.

As I went through primary school, I remember my seniors were all into groups like Search and Wings, and big hair plus really tight pants were in. I never really understood that though I thought Fantasia Bulan Madu was alright, and so were the other rock anthems of the day (too many to mention).

Then the 90s kicked in and things started to change. The Malaysian music scene was getting more and more rock bands with cracked vocals, Ramlah Ram was big and Muzik Muzik was on TV3. We started to see music videos on the telly, and all of a sudden, pop was really really cool. Then when I was in my second form I got introduced to a whole lot of really weird music (this is what private school does to you): the rebellious underground Thrash and Hardcore movements. This was when I delved into the darker side of the line, listening to groups like NWA and Public Enemy while on the other hand I was banging to the mixed sounds of Iron Maiden, Morbid Angel, Anthrax, Metallica, Guns N Roses and even freakier stuff like Morgoth, Dark Throne, Deicide, Cannibal Corpse, Infectious Maggots, SilKhannaz and other death/thrash metal bands that sounded like they came out of Lovecraft's nether regions after a really bad serving of haggis and grunted things like what they'd do to your God if they found Him. There were days when reality fizzled out and we just absorbed the drums and the guitars...

Then on tamer days I'd listen to Dr Alban, PM Dawn and Snow (anyone remember Informer?). Due to my somewhat sharper ears, the seniors would task me with writing down the lyrics to various songs, so I guess I pretty much trained my hearing back then. Before I knew it, the age of grunge and sub-pop came about, and I was listening to Bleach ages before the kids went wild with Nevermind and Cobain became a cult hero. There was the everpresent Nirvana, STP, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and all the other bands eager to jump on the wagon. So we waded through Alice in Chains, Cinderella, countless local attempts like the Pilgrims and so many more it all just blurred together into one monstrous pogo-ridden mass.

But boy, was it good. Then I aged somewhat, and in my later secondary years still entertained mostly rock music while the pop scene continued to shift into its many permutations. I discovered the Counting Crows, Bush, Soul Asylum, Silverchair, Urge Overkill, Sonic Youth, NOFX, Rancid, The Ramones, Sex Pistols..if there was one good thing to come out of my boarding school education it was that my musical tastes ran the gamut from nasyid to chants about God-killing and angsty grunge idols.

In uni I pretty much stuck with the same kind of music, and it's been relatively unchanged. In fact for the past several years I've not really paid attention to the so-called music scene. These days I just listen to anything that sounds good, and thanks to the internet (and P2P) I find that I tend to dig up a lot of the older stuff. Hell, I've even discovered a liking for big band music, and that's really cool.

Remembering all the different influences in my life shows me just how much importance I attach to each genre. It's like they each have a tie-in to a particular period of my life (like all I have to do is listen to Charles and Eddie's Would I Lie To You and I'd remember stuff back when I was 14) So whatever kind of beat rocks your casbah (even if it is Sarah Connor or one of those other hiphop maestros) I hope they help you find your happy place (or places) since we all could use them these days.

Cheers, folks.



Fresh from another tension-filled episode of Law and Order: SVU and I'm feeling restless again. It's been a relatively stress-free week so far, but that may be due in part to the fact that I've been rather naughtily putting things off. Bad habit that I've never really been able to shake, actually. There are course outlines to write, notes to draft, DVDs to review and games to finish but I just don't feel like doing anything. This is when I thank God for books, and the one that I've been reading this past week has certainly sparked a lot of activity in my cranium (well aside from trying to pin down for certain whether looking at Lindsay Lohan's boob slips is legal or not).

I watched Contact (the one with Jodie Foster and Matthew McConaughey) when it came out years ago, and though I thought the general idea of the film was cool, I felt that the movie seemed kind of rushed. Having almost finished the novel, I now know I was right. There are far too many things to be explained than can be done effectively in a two hour movie. I grabbed the slightly dogeared paperback at the neighborhood Books For Less for exactly 7 bucks to read during the train ride to Singapore, and it's been drawing me in ever since (and I never thought reading Carl Sagan would be so..satisfying). It's a complex book, and one that tries to tackle issues we've all had trouble with sometimes: religion and science, are we alone in the universe, who lives in a pineapple under the sea...you know, things like that.

Like any geeky teen growing up on a steady diet of 80's pop culture (and Ultraman) I was a firm believer in the existence of UFOs and aliens (Of course, I blame Steven Spielberg as well, but hey, he was only trying to make ends meet). In the course of time, what started out as a blind acceptance of every other unexplained report in the papers and magazines became a more critical outlook, no doubt inspired and fueled by the early seasons of the X-Files and volumes of Readers Digest special edition books. From little grey/green men in shiny discs, my perception of what is in store for us out there had evolved to the point where I won't be surprised if they turn out to look like Pentel ballpoint pens riding giant marshmallow engines. To this day, the thought that we are somehow alone in the near infinite reaches of space is one that doesn't sit too well with me. Maybe it's my youthful naivete, or just one of those hopeful things we do to make ourselves feel slightly less lonely. After all, the thought that we're the only kind of life (intelligent or otherwise) floating on a blue rock somewhere in a spiral arm of the galaxy, all by ourselves is a bit freaky, innit?

Contact is a novel that addresses these issues not conclusively, but plausibly. Grounded in hard science, physics and astronomy (at least as far as is applicable to our knowledge) Sagan's book, though fictional poses to us a question: what would we do if we were to suddenly receive a message from the stars? Would we panic and cease normal living? Would doomsday cults and messianic promises see a new high (as in Sagan's novel)? What would religion have to say about it? Perhaps more importantly, would we be ready for what we'd find?

It would be exciting, I guess, and scary at the same time. As I read through the book, I tried to remember the last time I actually looked at the stars, and for the life of me I couldn't really remember. When I was a kid, I remember lying down very quietly on the ground outside my grandmother's house looking up, and letting the sky just fill my vision until I dug my fingers into the ground trying not to fall into the sky (to my surprise, the protagonist of the book did the same in her childhood). I remember how quiet it was, and how small I felt. I also remember wanting so much to fly up into that blackness and see what was in store for me. As Sagan mentions, the more we move into the cities, the less we look upwards at the sky as we hurry with our complicated, busy lives. There is simply no more time, we think.

Sure, we look at the moon and tell our other halves what a lovely night it is, or we anticipate an eclipse or meteor shower, and then we hurry on with our lives. The sky must feel lonely, all alone up there. We grow up and we forget the things that once filled our little heads with awe and wonder. There are bills to pay, relationships to fix, mouths to feed. No one has time for awe anymore.

Perhaps there is no one else out there. Perhaps we are truly alone in the universe. Until we know any better, I'd like to think that maybe we do have some neighbours up in the big black sky. They may not look like us or even be any kind of friendly, but it sure makes me sleep better at night, thinking of all those little jeweled worlds with all their stories.

Maybe in some of them they tell stories about us.

Find some perspectives (and a few chuckles) in here. Song taken from Monty Python's Meaning Of Life.


Tuesday, June 1

80s Children: This Is For You

For the inner child in all of us. This page hosts video intros of some of the best series we grew up watching in the 80s. Captain Power, Buck Rogers, StarCom, you name it. And MASK! MASK!

*grows wide eyed with wonder*

The good old days..oh the good old days.
*runs off to watch the intro to Battlestar Galactica again*