Friday, December 31

The Final Few Hours

Here I am at the office, internet connectivity finally resumed, and only some odd hours away from the next year. It's strangely quiet, perhaps due to the fact that somehow everyone's on some sort of leave.

God, what a year it's been. As much as we'd like to hope and wish the new year will take us out of the low we're in after the events in the Indian Ocean, the fact of the matter is that come the 1st of January there will still be work to do, and the fact that it's a whole new year will be scant comfort for the lives affected by the devastation of the tsunami.

This morning I heard that it started snowing in the Emirates (Link), an occurrence that has prompted some people I know to say that the end of the world is near. Personally, I don't think so, but even if God decided that the Earth's time was up and that we'd gotten all the chances we'd ever get - what could we do anyway? Our lives, our world has always been on lease, and sooner or later we all pay our dues.

Someone asked me if I had any regrets before 2004 ended. "What, apart from not being able to tell Asha Gill she's such a hottie?" I replied. Of course, I'd have settled for kicking a certain local film director hard on his arse for producing some of the worst bilge anyone could have, and market it as under an "educated" auspice.

Bah. Anyway, in perfect honestly, I would have to say no. No major regrets. Were there things I would have done differently? Perhaps. People I'd have preferred to tell certain things? A couple, yes.

There will always be some things that will rankle me to the bone; missed opportunities, unanswered questions - but if 2004's taught me anything, it's acceptance. Acceptance of life and the way it goes; of friendship, of love, and how IT goes and most importantly, the acceptance of who I am as a person. To me that, more than anything is priceless..

Another 8 hours to go. So long, '04. You've been...tumultuous. I pray for all of us, for safe passage into '05, and for a safe year throughout. See you on the other side, people.

Over and Out.


This entry would have ended here, but for this (Link). It's amazing how after we can build so many things, suddenly run out of money for simple compensation to the people who were most hurt by the tsunami. I'm speechless.


Thursday, December 30

Shorter Days, And Parties

Here's an interesting bit of news I found today:

Our days may be permanently shortened by a fraction of a second, and the earth's rotation increased in velocity due to the recent seismic activity (Link) in the Indian Ocean. So it may be true what I read earlier this week - that the earth literally "jumped" in orbit.

Wow. Anyway, here are some unified torrents of amateur videos taken during the tsunami, all consolidated here thanks to BoingBoing (Link).

In the meantime, there's been some heated discussion over whether or not we should be celebrating the New Year with a big bang. Some have proposed parties for the bereaved (Link, which I personally think is rather iffy, but I don't know) whilst others laud the PM's move to not hold any national level celebrations, at least. Either way, I have a feeling that the usual hotspots will be doing business as usual as 2005 kicks in - and it's pretty much a personal thing either way. I DO feel strongly that we shouldn't be seen to be holding a big national bang; for form's sake at least. Surrounded by nations that have lost so much more, doing so would be like thumbing our noses at them, and that would be in serious bad taste.

As for the Ox, he'll probably be indoors on New Year's Eve, hopefully with some friends, just thankful for the fact that he's alive - and remembering that there's always a lot of work to do with the time he's given.

For next year.


PPS and Bloggers In the Media

PPS (Link) made it into the mainstream again!

The article on Star's TechCentral (Link) described the deluge of information related to the tsunami last Sunday and how bloggers rose to the occasion to provide updates almost as they happened. Several bloggers were interviewed for the article, and it bodes well for the emerging usefulness of blogs to provide a stopgap (as they say in the article) while official reports come in.

Good job, PPS, and good job, bloggers.

Over and out.


Wednesday, December 29

Before and After


Walking along a stretch of beach. It is another ordinary day in a string of ordinary days. Something catches your eye - there is something different about the water. You squint into the distance, and you see something like this. A friend of mine who was in Penang at the time told me that what caught most people by surprise was the fact that the water suddenly receded into the sea, first - causing them to look.

And then, the wave.

Images from DigitalGlobe (Link) via BoingBoing (Link).

Images of the Sri Lankan coast taken by the QuickBird Satellite - just before the first wave struck. DigitalGlobe has made a series of these images free for distribution on their site.


Tuesday, December 28

Simply Appalling

I was just reading some other bloggers' thoughts on a very distasteful Maxis mass SMS (Link, and link) when I got one myself. The first thing that went through my head was - wow, and you didn't even wait. Asia Tsunamis?

My God. Talk about insensitivity. Thank you so much for restoring our faith in human greed.

By the way, if anyone is interested, information on the Star's relief fund is here (Link).


Missing: Parents

A brief visit to SE (Link) brought me to the Phuket International Hospital's website (Link). They have a listing of patients who were brought in post-tsunami as well as some pix of several children who are still missing their parents (Link). There's also a direct link to the Phuket Disaster Message Board (Link) where survivors/family members can post messages looking for their loved ones, or to tell anyone who may be looking that they're okay.

Hopefully this info will be of use, and if you know of someone who can benefit from this, please spread the word. The Ox will be monitoring all channels as usual, and will be posting updates as they become available.

Have just recently found out that a former colleague who recently returned to his native Indonesian hometown of Acheh is still incognito. Though he has officially left the faculty, he is a good worker, and one of the better colleagues I've had the pleasure to work with. Here's hoping he's alright.


Things I Found Off The Net

I'll admit it now - I'm probably one of the people most unaware about the tsunami episode. Its genesis, the aftermath, everything. In a sense PPS deserves some kudos for functioning as a clearinghouse of information, and as Idlan mentions, it's a good showcase of the power of blogs as compared to mainstream media (Link).

Today, catching up on some links pertaining to the incident, I ran into this one, courtesy of BoingBoing (Link). It's a living document (Link), with updates from all over ranging from photofeeds, firsthand accounts and aid sites. An invaluable aid for people like me to catch up on things as they happen.

In the meantime, regular programming ensues, so don't forget to check back with the Ox for more updates.


Best and Worst Of! And Paranoia Agent Impressions

There's about all of three days left in 2004, and man what a year it's been. For all the gamers out there, Gamespot (Link) has prepared their annual Best and Worst of list, and as usual it's an entertaining, informative and in-depth affair (Link). They start out with a full year in review, with listings of all the top news stories (sorted monthly) and then they jump in straight to the awards.

Regardless of what one thinks of them in general, Gamespot always manages to come up with an exhaustive end of year report and this one is no different. There's enough information in there to satisfy the hungriest gamer, and it's a good look at the amazing year that 2004 has been.

In other news, I managed to catch the first two episodes of my Eflix (Link) anime rental, Mousou Dairinin, or Paranoia Agent. Directed by Satoshi Kon (Millennium Actress and my bet for one of the best animes ever, Tokyo Godfathers) this is one of the most unusual anime series I've seen in a long time - and I mean that in a good way.

Paranoia Agent eschews all the usual trappings of anime for a character based storyline that not only has a different protagonist for each episode, but is extremely excellent in exploring the dual nature of our mental states. Describing the plotline is difficult, simply because you won't be able to suss out the full story until the final episode. Roughly the series revolves around mysterious beatings that happen to seemingly random people, carried out by an elementary school boy with a bent baseball bat and roller blades. As these victims survive their attacks they realise that somehow their darkest fears are unlocked, driving them into a higher state of paranoia - and what's worse is somehow there is a connection between them all, one that will keep you guessing till the end, as I am. Even this early in the viewing the characterisations are so unique with no one being actually good or bad - they're just shades of grey.

These are my first impressions, and God are they favourable. Don't take my word for it though. Check out this review (Link), or better yet, try and get your hands on an episode. It just might change the way you look at anime forever.


Monday, December 27

Eflix Updates

I have to say I'm already quite impressed with Eflix (Link). My second delivery of the month just came by at about a quarter to eight, and I didn't have to lift a finger (well I lied, my fingers had to do some work choosing the titles I wanted for tonight, and here they are). The bloke came, took the DVDs I wanted to return and gave the new ones I requested.

I don't think it gets any simpler.

Battlestar Galactica, and the first disc of Satoshi Kon (Paranoia Agent)

Still, I'd be a fool to recommend anything without giving it the full Ox treatment - and for that we'll have to see how the first month goes. Stay tuned as I put the store through its paces and you can be sure I'll be giving out unbiased reports (or as damn near unbiased as I can make them) on the strengths and weaknesses of this outfit.

Till then, have a safe week - and let's have a brief moment of contemplation as we pay our respects to the souls of those who have had their lives snatched away from them during the recent earthquake-fueled tsunami, and to their families, and everyone who are even now wondering about the circumstances of their loved ones.



Tsunami, and Buyer Beware

First of all:

I only got wind of the earthquake and resulting tsunami late yesterday evening, and therefore would like to extend my most heartfelt condolences to the victims and their families. Growing up ingrained with the knowledge at school that we are safe from the Ring Of Fire the news came as an unexpected and sad shock.

When the world moves, everyone keeps quiet. Perhaps it's time we did some listening.


It's come to my attention that Sony and Nintendo's next gen handheld consoles have both entered our markets, and some unscrupulous vendors are taking advantage of that. A conversation with my favourite vendor revealed that some outlets were already selling Sony's PSP for a staggering RM 3030.00 (which is honestly three times what it's worth) and already some really rich (or stupid) people were all over themselves grabbing it.

Here's the deal, people. Nintendo's DS retails for about USD 150 everywhere else. In an ideal world, we'd be buying it for RM 600+, but we don't live in such a world; therefore you can get it anywhere from RM 888 to RM 1000. Sony's PSP would retail for about RM 600 as well if we converted the price from the Yen, so when I heard that the RM 3000 unit was already snapped up, my head just went into a spin.

I mean, seriously guys. That amount of dosh gets you a widescreen CRT unit, or a laptop, or a good home theatre kit. But then again, it's not my money. So here's a word of advice for all you hopeful owners of either of these wonderful machines:

relax. There are hardly any games out for either anyway, although the DS does play Game Boy Advance games. Give it a couple months, dust off the PS2 and log some more time on it before rushing all out to spend all your hard earned dough for the dubious distinction of paying three times more for something than it's actually worth.

End of public service announcement, have a nice day.


Sunday, December 26

Vicarious Visions

I've been told that happiness is an elusive thing, that often times the moment you realise you're finally happy it evaporates into thin air, and that perhaps we were never really made to be happy.

That thought, more than most, scares me to death.

This past weekend however, I've been fortunate to see some things happen to some good people. Things that seem to remind me that events don't necessarily need to happen to me to qualify for that indeterminate feeling. I can be outside looking in - still a little envious, a little apart, but somehow indescribably fulfilled.

Weird. Maybe it's just denial setting in, or it's another convoluted way my brain deals with things these days. Or maybe it's something to do with my distaste for loose ends. I love happy endings - and the ghastly thing is, having given up on them for myself, I'm actually leeching off vicariously off of others.

Sometimes (like this weekend) I can even walk away half believing that things will be alright. Someday.

Until next time, sleep well, friends.

Have a good week.


Friday, December 24

The Night Before Xmas

I am bloody tired. It feels just like a couple hours ago that I stumbled out of the car (thanks, Fische!) and into the apartment.

The whole day's been a bloody whizzbang, from morning to night - but it's been a good one, overall. This knowledge comes from the simple fact that I am actually looking forward to Monday morning - and that only happens when I am well and truly sick of being a bum.

This whole Motoblog thing (Link) is new, scary and downright draining, but I knew what it would entail before I signed up - and like it or not I'll have to make sure the juggling act's pulled off as flawlessly and smoothly as any Chinese acrobatics show (with or without the freaky contortionists).

In case anyone's looking, here's where my nose will be pending further disturbances:

Good night.


Eflix Updates: Sign Up, and The First Few DVDs

It's been a long day, and I am back.

A little worse for wear, but definitely back. Anyway - to business. Hot on the heels of this post (Link) as promised I hunted down the premises of local DVD rental company Eflix (Link) and finally located them hiding in a little shop lot in Hartamas. I was delighted to find that the shelves were filled with a lot of titles - some of them were those I'd been looking for a while.

A short talk with the proprietor, and several minutes later I was busy filling out my details for the signup. It's all very simple, really. Eflix offers several different packages (all with free delivery within selected areas in the Klang Valley) and once you've selected your package, a quick payment process later you're able to select and borrow your DVDs. You don't need to be at the shop to sign up - any internet enabled PC would suffice.

Now the only reason I actually went to the premises was to see just what kind of an operation they were running. I'm happy to say they're legit - and they have the stuff to prove it. For testing purposes I opted for the RM 40.00 a month package, which entitles me to unlimited DVD rentals with a limit of two titles per rental. Since I paid via credit card, I got an RM 5 discount to boot. Those of you without a credit card, or would prefer not to use it, fret not - a manual option is available via RHB's online banking, but with an additional RM 100 deposit required. As the proprietor explained, there are two delivery sessions every day, one during the daytime, and the other after working hours.

You can opt to change delivery times or addresses at any time by logging into your personal page at Eflix's site. As of today I walked out with a copy of Stephen King's IT and the Japanese movie The Suicide Club. With any luck, by tomorrow I'll be testing their deliveries - or failing that, next Monday.

In the meantime, stay tuned as I give Eflix a full once over, so till then, have an excellent Christmas (if you're celebrating) and if you're not just have a bloody good weekend anyway.



Thursday, December 23

Breakfast Bonanza


It's my final morning in JB (with any luck I will be speeding back up to KL this evening) and God do I miss that crummy little estuary. I miss the lights, the DVD sellers, the noise and exhaust (not to mention all the little bits they like to toss out their cars) that my fellow drivers seem to contribute to the world oh-so-voluntarily.

My spider sense tells me that when even THAT particular facet of KL seems appealing, I know I'm sick. But then again, you guys knew that already.

It's about two days to Christmas - and down here (well, in the parts of JB that I was in anyway) there's a distinct vibe going by, even though most of it is fueled by some creative advertising on the part of Singaporean TV (I am now officially interested enough in jewellery! Damn you Lee Hwa!). Note to self - never go unaccompanied on trips like this next time, mind is too impressionable to be able to separate fact from advertising (Soo Kee Diamonds!).

Anyway. I'm blogging via the slightly pricey (oh who am I kidding) internet access the Sofitel Palm Resort provides, and barring some strange connection problems yesterday, it's been relatively smooth sailing all the way, with the best part being - surfing away questionable content after breakfast on the MPx.

MmMMm. Mobile titillation never looked so good.

Ahem. Well, I never promised to be really really good, and I fully expect my huge shard of coal to be waiting for me come Xmas morning, but would we expect anything less?

I think not. So in the meantime, until I get my arse back up there, have a nice, safe one - there's plenty of Xmas to go around.



Wednesday, December 22

Gasp! Ash.ox Is....

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, the deed is done.

I have gone where I never thought I'd venture:

The world of commercial blogging (Link). Now now, before we all get into a tizzy and write long angry letters to me complaining how I've sold out, here's the thing -

Think of it as an experiment. Don't just picture the Ox having a whale of a time with a new sponsored tech toy, whizzing by the hotspots of KL (and various other locales) dipping into every wifi enabled spot simply because he can, or snapping various discreet pics to be uploaded to the brandspanking new Motoblog (which he will be doing anyway). While you're all snug and safe in your homes, the Motoblog team will be out there, living their lives in full glorious Technicolour powered by Windows Mobile, wifi and Bluetooth, letting you all peek into just what exactly goes on in our lives (as if I'm not naked enough already).

So yes, spare a thought for the relentless Motoblog team, come and drop by once in awhile, and content yourselves with the knowledge that not only am I going to irritate the hell out of some people on THIS blog, I will be wreaking fully sanctioned havoc on another.

If that doesn't put a warm tingly feeling in your hearts, just remember, it's Christmas.



Monday, December 20

The Haunted Hall and Bikini Bottom

In recounting my adventures of the past week, I have been somewhat remiss in mentioning some of the minor details concerning my sojourn in this southern part of the country. Chief among these was the fact that the college where I am invigilating is reputed to be haunted by restless spirits - especially the examination hall where I am obliged to spend several hours a day with the students, and then several minutes at the end of each paper alone, as I collect and organise their answers. It is a huge testament to the power of the human imagination that as I was unaware of the hall's reputation during my first day here (not to mention the sickness I was afflicted with rendered me quite unable to be aware of anything besides my bodily functions) nothing in particular struck me as being perculiarly creepy, but once the fact was made known to me (in addition to the curious case of the posessed girl barely a couple of hours before my arrival) I began to view the rather large hall in a strange light.

I would be apprehensive when left alone in the hall, especially since there is only one entrance/exit, and making use of this particular portal required one to walk in close proximity to two doors that opened up into separate dark storage areas. A toilet adjacent to these storage spaces made up the third entity, and one cannot but help but remember the tale told to me at the clinic where I got my blood test of several students seeing a lone figure sitting down at one of the desks that lined the hall. Of course I only grinned, but being a survivor of multiple instances of questionable supernatural activity, I quickly learnt to prepare packing everything before the exam ended, pick the things up in one smooth motion and walk briskly out of the hall with no intention of turning back for anything.

This modus operandi has served me well in the past week, and I see no reason to change it. The simple fact that my dreams were also of a very dark and frightening disposition throughout (no doubt due to my fevered mind) served to further make my muscles tense up every time a paper ends each afternoon.

I comfort myself now with the thought that after Tuesday, I will only have time to attend to myself (and the Sofitel's largish pool seems like an extremely suitable venue for this activity). Yesterday afternoon I chanced upon a sweet young thing (or perhaps it is better said that she chanced upon me) as I was lounging on a deck chair by the poolside. Clad in a dark bikini and sun hat, she asked if she could have the chair near mine - I of course, affecting to be the perfect gentleman (also noticing the generous expanse of creamy flesh afforded my view) agreed almost immediately.

To make things even better, she pulled out a book and began reading. At this moment, my own nose was buried deep in Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, and several glances from time to time to her side was very helpful in easing the fatigue brought upon by reading.

Alas, things weren't to stay rosy for long. After apparently falling asleep for about 15 minutes, she woke up and was about to jump into the pool when she changed her mind. I saw this as an excellent opportunity to ask why - when she replied the water was too cold.

As to the thoughts that coursed through my mind at this - I will refrain from comment. The gentle reader will be able to form their own opinions.

It struck me as odd her being alone, and I remarked as such. However, it must be said that I am rather proud of being able to hold my composure as she replied that her boyfriend was out on the golf course (the alternative being opening a hole in the ground and disappearing, but that seemed highly unlikely).

Luckily for me, a friend called to tell me he was nearing the lobby, so I bid a wink and a farewell to the highly desirable young lady and walked off. In the meantime of course, I couldn't help but wonder what would make a grown man leave such a delightfully proportioned companion for the company of grass, metal and wooden sticks, and a little pocked ball. There were of course, other thoughts, but since this is a family publication, I will leave it to the active imaginations of my readers.

Then I remembered that the mysteries of life are many, and that it would serve me well to see what other surprises I may find at the poolside. Interesting, and I have several more days.



The Final Ten

It's ten more days to the new year. I will be twenty-seven in six months. This is about the time when I generally get wistful and things have a tendency to unravel. There'll not be any soul searching necessary to find out why this time, though. The answer's obvious enough.

I've gotten used to solitary experiences for so long that nothing really hits me anymore - until of course the realisation sets in that for the umpteenth time, I will be coming home to an empty house; and the fact that it affects me, more than anything simply reflects how much I have changed again in the past year.

Being missed is perhaps as much a part of being alive as anything else. We take delight in knowing that our continued absence distresses someone, that our presence is wanted - that we are part of something other than eking out a living. In this somewhat festive season I've been reminded again and again that it doesn't matter what you have, or who you are. It's who you come home to that makes all the difference. In my mind, I've mapped out every single step I will take when I arrive at my apartment - to the smallest degree.

Steps to door, swing luggage inside, switch TV and home theatre unit on (if they're not already), bring suitcase into room, switch on Internet - that pretty much describes what I do every day after work. It will also be the scenario (albeit with some changes) I will act out when I finally arrive home after this southern trip. I've done it so often that it's become ingrained in my reflexes.

I realise - now more than ever how much of a double edged sword this detachment of mine is. It is both a boon and a curse. A boon - because I am for all intents and purposes untouchable, and a curse because the very nature of being detached means that I cannot allow myself the perceived weakness of succumbing to the very loneliness I abhor. In every person I meet, I am constantly calculating the complex mix of gives and takes - sometimes I even see the end of the relationship beforehand, and so I pull back.

Some people have told me that I set impossible standards in the company I choose to keep; and to this I reply that if I do, it is only because I know the people around me would expect nothing less (but then again, I am somewhat insane). The truth of the matter is of course much simpler - I cannot allow myself anything less.

I appear cold to some, thoughtless to others. I can be impossibly blunt to a fault - traits that would otherwise estrange me from decent human company, all for the express reason that there is still something I am looking for that I haven't found in a long, long while.

Or perhaps a more accurate description would be that I'm not even sure if I am looking. Whatever it is I've lost or found, I have only this to say - there is nothing quite like the feeling of coming home. You don't have to live there. All it takes is a person's gaze, their laughter, the embrace, that warm feeling of welcome, that rush of God, I hope you don't ever have to go again, ever, and for a brief moment you are safe.

It will be awhile before I can allow myself that luxury - and until then I will continue as I have been. A little lonely, a little frightened, even; but eyes and ears open, always open. There are some lessons I will have to learn yet.

Have a happy festive season, from the Ox. May you find yourselves safe with the people you love - and always remember: the cold is outside, and it is an envious thing.



Saturday, December 18

The Ox Updates! Part Three

Friday, December 17th

I woke up - and I instinctively knew the worst was over. Sure, my head felt like someone took a lopsided brick and introduced itself repeatedly and vehemently to the side of my face, and my throat didn't fare much better - but I could think, and that certainly counted for something.

As I managed to swallow what meager morsels of breakfast I could stomach (and to no fault of the hosts - the Pan Pac breakfast spread would have made me giddy on any other day) I realised one very horrible thing:

I had virtually no voice.

Whenever I opened my mouth to say anything - this hoarse wind would come out, and nothing else. Fearing the worst (the worst being that I'd end up fixing some sort of a gadget to my throat in order to talk), I figured the best way of going about it was to keep bloody quiet.

Thankfully, the staff at SAL were ready to take over. With me residing as head invigilator, they pretty much did everything, leaving me a very thankful Ox at the end of the day. Even Pakcik Nik (my JB taxi guy) was used to my being ill, and he whisked me back to the hotel in no time. Thanks to the antibiotics and other meds the doctor prescribed, I was able to enjoy a somewhat normal dinner, before plonking off to bed at about half past eight.

Yeah, I think I need to rectify that too. Anyway - this is Saturday, I'm feeling much better, and I have a whole day to myself tomorrow. Too bad I'll be switching hotels - but the new one has a spa....and WiFi, which means I can probably blog without resorting to borrowing college PCs (and the pr0n, think of the pr0n).

So God willing, I will be rejoining all you other sods online the moment I get there. God knows this has already turned out to be one of the least normal work trips I've taken - but then again, this IS my life we're talking about, and normal jumped out the window back when I was ...oh..5?

Catch you around, people. Have a good weekend.


I REALLY have to recommend Susanna Clarke's first novel to any fan of fantasy and magick. Neil Gaiman calls it "the finest English novel of the fantastic written in the last seventy years". Though I may not have Mr Gaiman's unquestionable experience in the writing world, I am inclined to believe him - simply because it is unputdownable in its humour, wonder, and sheer Englishness of it all. I'm barely through a quarter of it, simply because I have to force myself to ration it out, hoping it will last the week.


The Ox Updates! Part Two

Thursday, December 16th

I have to say something about the Taurean fortitude. Us Taureans will generally run out of energy way after the bubbliest critter has given up the ghost - sick or healthy. We're usually built like some sort of a farm animal and have the stamina to boot. However, once we take a hit, we take it bad - and the next few entries will reflect that.

Morning found me half delirious (I dreamt I was pleading with the aircond unit to please ask permission before assaulting my poor body), head blistering and throat an unmanageable ball of hurt. I ran down to breakfast, swallowed some Panadols and hailed the first taxi out of JB. As we proceeded (and I had the good fortune to have gotten a sensible driver) I could feel my head getting lighter and lighter, and my voice disappearing.

I knew I was in trouble. When I finally wobbled into the college, I could barely speak. My head hurt so bad all I wanted to do was kill people (it kind of made sense then that by killing people the pain would go away) and the coordinator took one look at me before making up her mind: I was to be ferried to the doctor ASAP.

A warm thank you goes to the staff of SAL College in JB, for their wonderful hospitality to a person in dire need of medical attention. The first exam wasn't too bad - the Panadols were taking effect, and I was coping. But then the weather turned hot as hell, and I could feel myself slipping into a deep red rage.

Fortunately by then, another staffmember was free to take me to the clinic, and there we headed, me pillioning on his trusty Honda EX-5 (God knows how many times since 1998 that make of bike has saved my arse) wheeling in and out of consciousness, able only to recite one thing to myself: Don't Fall Off.

Everything else once we got to the clinic was a blur - the registration, the doctor's surprise that I'd allowed myself to run about with a temperature that would have gotten me warded anytime else, a blood test that was alarmingly low in platelet count, the discharge with a plea that I return on Tuesday for a follow up and then it was bumpity bumpity on the bike again and all of a sudden, I was back at the college, the exam for the day was over, and the taxi was waiting.

It has to be said here that the staff at the Kulai Health Centre deserves the highest kudos for their professionalism and kindness, something I'd not expected in a long while. That evening (at about 530), I ordered room service, forced a pizza down my throat, scarfed the pills and the antibiotics, dozed, woke up to puke half the pizza out, went to sleep again, and stayed there until 545 am the next day.

Things would seem to get a little better...

(to be continued..)


The Ox Updates! Part One

First of all: my apologies for the lack of updates. As I'd expected, this trip turned weird on me even before I left. The following post will be a summary of the past three days - so please bear with any inconsistencies and digressions, the reasons will soon become obvious to the gentle reader.

Wednesday, December 15th

After managing to squeeze everything into my sisters' huge bag, I set off for the airport at about 545pm, courtesy of my trusted Taxi Liason, Mr Ho (who has never even been 2 minutes late in the year and a half that I've used his services). I was still feeling pretty miserable (I had no idea that until Thursday I was running about with a temperature of 39 degrees) but the prospect of the trip (and an awesome travelling companion in the form of Susanna Clarke's compelling Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, thank you, Kiddo!) got me energised. I arrived and checked in with time to spare, got a bite to eat, and waited.

I got a whiff of our very own Malaysian hospitality as the crowd pressed in to board the AirAsia flight I was flying on. A large mat salleh man with a cane who obviously had trouble walking tried to alert someone he would like to get on first, especially since the crew announced boarding priority should be given to the requisite pregnant women, children and handicapped. I'd like to say the crowd parted like the Red Sea for Moses, but no such thing happened. The rest of the passengers just stared at him (one auntie even made to scold him), even as he raised his hand and asked for help. Luckily for him, a member of the crew spotted his upraised cane, and let him through.

Anyway. Once that was over and everyone rushed in before the seats were all taken up (I suppose that was why they were all running, I mean, just because you've bought yourself a plane ticket and a boarding pass who's to say you've even got a seat? There's third world mentality for you) there was another wait - this time due to a "small hydraulic problem". My fever addled mind was already contemplating what falling out of the sky would feel like, and I wasn't very much aware of the flight proper taking off after about half an hour.

Much later than supposed to, we touched down in Senai - I lifted my huge bag (it's all exam papers, I told the curious woman next to me) got on a taxi and sped off to the Pan Pacific in JB proper. Now when I say sped - I mean it. The driver of the cab I was in saw fit to assault the roads at a screeching 130 km/h. If I'd been any more sober..I'd probably have jumped out.

Thankfully, I didn't, or this would be the first ghost blog in the world.

Checking in at the hotel - I didn't really have time for anything else. I was already shaking so horribly all I wanted was to drop into bed and sleep - but that wasn't in the cards. I had to finish ironing my clothes, unpacking, and THEN wrestling with the weird power outlets they had in the Pan Pac AND the bathroom lights which decided to all go out on me before I finally collapsed into bed, a Fisherman's Friend in my mouth, and weird dreams in my head.

(To be continued..)


Wednesday, December 15

Life in Widescreen

At work (briefly) before I shove off to prep for my trip down south later today. The worst of the fever's gone, although I do get wobbly from time to time - but that's just me.

There are a couple loose ends to tie up, like how I'm gonna trunk the exam questions without going over the luggage limit (smart boy, Ash) but otherwise I AM kinda looking forward to the whole gig, the unavailability of a shag partner notwithstanding (uh huh). Then there are the students' book payments to delegate bladibla....ugh.

That's it, I am leaving. Oh and anyway, do stay tuned. The Ox will be blogging live from down south (mmMmM) at least every other day and who knows? There might even be pictures!

Signing off (at least until I get all pissed off again) for now,



Tuesday, December 14

Somethings, They Just Happen

How would you compress two years of longing into 30 seconds?

I guess I might as well come out and say it.

I saw the Ex tonight. She came by to pick up some of her things she'd left from 2 years ago - the books, the gifts, the knicknacks, the boxes. As I write this, barely 20 minutes have passed since the last goodbye, and I can remember everything:

The way she looked, the way she walked up the stairs, her laugh, that gleam in her eyes when she sees a book she likes.

Everything. As we loaded the three odd boxes into her mother's MPV, it looked like the evening was about to pass without incident. As she drove me down to my car, she asked if I would take her for a spin in Nikita.

I did.

And as that two minute ride ended and I got ready to walk her to her car, we hugged - and all of a sudden the world fell apart. My vision blurred, I could feel my shoulder getting wet and her small form sobbing. At that one moment - I would have given anything to be able to have all that again - the old life, the one where I knew where everything fit, and where I was part of something bigger than myself.

But then, as it always happens, I realised the futility of it, and told her what I've been telling her since I first knew her that rainy day in '99:

That she was beautiful, and smart, and that I already forgave her.
And also - that she should live. For herself.

I don't think I can ever UNlove her, simply because she was an integral part of my life for so many years. However, I do know that my life has proceeded to where it is now in no small part because of what I went through with (and without) her. It's been a long road to recovery, and I still have a ways to go, and who knows? My Singleton days may be numbered yet.

So, kiddo, if you're reading this, you know I meant every word. Take care now, and God bless.

Good night.


Fiasco: Resolved?

Update on the fiasco:

I came into the office today, feeling a little better and hoping (against hope) that something had changed regarding my travel plans. No such luck.

For one thing, the bloke (whom we'll call Mr Arse) decided to take leave today without informing anyone else at his department of my situation. Not only that, several calls later to the same department confirmed my suspicions that no one else had any effing idea of how to handle the situation. There was only one thing left to do. I had to make the bookings myself.

Fast forward 20 minutes later, and I'd made the necessary bookings with Air Asia (cost me a bomb), got reservations at the Sofitel from the 19th onwards and managed to sort out my transport to KLIA tomorrow (my favourite taxi man, Uncle Ho). Several other long distance phone calls later and I'd managed to get myself a room at the Putri Pan Pacific in JB proper from tomorrow night onwards.

Now, if I can do all that within a couple hours, why the bloody hell can't HE have on Friday last? Did I mention that because of his stupidity all of this is coming out of my pocket first (which explains the Pan Pac, I obviously think I deserve to stay somewhere nice) and therefore I'll be a lot poorer than I expected to be?

Anyway, at least that's settled for now. My head's banging up again, so till next time, take care, folks.


Monday, December 13

Fever Update: Fiasco

I knew they'd do this to me.

It's day two of insanely massively high fever day, and I've been in and out of consciousness for pretty much the past 36 hours (my sister maintains that I was delirious last night, and I'm inclined to believe her, simply because I dried a wet cloth with my forehead) and trust me - this is no condition you want to be in when you've got a week long trip in a couple days which may be spoiled through the biggest case of ineptitude I've seen yet this year.

Here it is: throughout last week I was trying to get in touch with the bloke who was supposed to be in charge of all the bookings and what not for my upcoming JB trip. He seemed to never be in the office, and when I finally got him on the line it was Friday morning (bear in mind my trip is for this Wednesday). After I explained the situation (surprisingly he already had my name, so what else was he waiting for?) he said he'd "get right on it" and promised me lodgings at the Sofitel in JB as well as flight arrangements.

A quick search on the internet revealed that the Sofitel would do very nicely for a week's stay, and I was supposed to call him back Monday morning, which I did (feeling slightly better). The news that greeted me this morning was far from good, however.

Me: I want to enquire about the status of the bookings you made?
Him: Oh well, I was just about to take action today.
Me: You DO know I am supposed to fly out on Wednesday?

I think that sums it up. Anyway, a couple hours later I get this frantic call on my mobile from him explaining that since the Sofitel was booked up to the 18th, he'd reserved the Dragon Court Hotel instead. At this, alarm bells went off in my head, remembering full well the kinds of hotels I stayed in on my trip throughout most of Johor last year, and by God I wasn't going to spend another night in a cheap ass hotel.

Yeah call me snooty, but I think I deserve something a little better, especially since it wasn't MY fault he couldn't get reservations. I quickly got on the net (and get this) got a total of TWO listings for Dragon Court Hotel, which apparently was located in a Wisma something or other - which does NOT bode well for me (I mean, from my experience last year I learnt that I definitely need a place with laundry) and as I said - I'd like to stay somewhere nice for once. So I did the only thing I could: I called the fellow up, explained to him that fine, I'd stay in the Dragon Whatever for the first few nights but I'd prefer it if he could make arrangements for a transfer to the Sofitel anyway. As expected - he got wishy washy. I told him that yes, I'd pay for my transport and I didn't mind transferring on the 18th.

Honestly though - I have a feeling that I'm gonna end up in the good old Dragon Whatever anyway. Oh and also, he'd not made the flight bookings as of this afternoon, which doesn't bode well for me at all.

I tell you one thing - whatever grouses the public has against the civil service, rest assured they do the same to their own. In a weird way, that's equality for you.



Sunday, December 12

Ash.ox is Down!

It's official: I am sick. Nose running, there are elephants stampeding in my head, and I feel totally and utterly shite. To celebrate, have a totally deprecating entry:


As I lie in bed, the sun blinding outside, all I want is for someone to fuss over me, ask me if I'm okay, and feed me porridge. Okay, maybe not feed me - but you get the idea (and stew would do fine, too).

/end of whine.

Anyway - that aside, I don't feel very sociable. So before anything happens, I would like to apologise to anyone who may be calling in concern simply because I may not know who you are through the haze in my head and therefore snap at you.

I am truly sorry. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to bugger off and get well before my one week trip to JB.

Yeah, that's right. One week. Later.


Saturday Night Madness (No Sex, Though)

Saturday night, and I'm at home.

No, this is not something new. I happen to like it here, and I think so will some other people (whom I will not name). Besides, there's something brewing on the horizon that's taking up a lot of resources on my side, but expect updates as soon as I can get them - although this doesn't necessarily mean that the Ox will cease and desist his views, overinflated opinions and of course, questionable linkage spanning multiple sources of questionable (and not so questionable) content.

There. I fit three of those words into one sentence. Nice, innit?

Anyway - God bless the Chinese. Just when we thought that Pizza Hut finally had the last say about us filling our salad bowls at their superlatively monitored salad bars, the good old people up there have found a way to help us all fill our bowls (and tummies!). (Link). Thanks to BoingBoing for the pointer! And then if you absolutely must have a roboto synthesised voice read to you, try Feedspeaker (Link). It takes up your RSS feeds and reads them to you in a nice, soothing, warm (okay, I'm lying) robotic voice. Try it!

And finally - you know you want this:

The precious seconds of the puppet sex scene in Team America, now available for viewing (Link)! I know it's the weekend and technically everyone shouldn't be at work but I'll give it an NSFW anyway. For anyone who's not seen the movie, I recommend it simply because it's damn weird, and though there are some bits that work better than others (look out for Matt Damon's lines) it's a fun ride at the very least.

Okay, I've gotta go, folks. There's work to be done in the morning, so cheers!


Friday, December 10

Ash.ox Does Eflix Part One

Everyone knows I love movies on any format, and these days I seem to love DVD more than others. Therefore when a friend mentioned Eflix (Link), my curiosity was more than piqued. A Netflix (Link) clone here, in Malaysia? It sounded too good to be true. Too good, in fact that I decided that before I hastily urge my readers (yes all three of you again, hello) to all register for this service I would personally give Eflix the Ash.ox treatment.

What this essentially means, is that I will be putting Eflix through its paces and finding out if they really have what it takes to get recommended, at least by this movie buff. So in the meantime, keep tuning in as I venture into the hitherto unknown realm of legal online DVD rentals which will begin very, very soon -

or actually, as soon as I get my pay this month. Aheheh. Till then, have a good weekend!


By the way, if anyone happens to listen to the radio ad for Female magazine's special screening of the final two episodes of Sex and The City, can they tell me if I'm wrong in thinking the ad purposely censored the ad by replacing the actual title of the series with "a popular original HBO series" right after mentioning Samantha, Charlotte and Big? I mean, what's the point when you've got the theme playing in the background and the characters' names spouted left right and centre?

Or maybe I'm just too paranoid as usual..


Thursday, December 9

Nikita's Day At The Doc

It's been a good day.

For one thing, I managed to get Nikita checked and serviced, Jordan (for some as yet inexplicable reason) mentioned me TWICE in his blog, and I managed to have some quiet "me" time - all in time to start the ball rolling for classes tomorrow. And yesterday I think I just cemented my status as a wannabe pop culture mediaphilic geek. Yeah, I'm still trying to figure THAT out.

There's also something else, but I think it's just the good vibes. Anyway, as promised, here are my impressions of Nikita's first 1000 km at EON's Glenmarie service centre:

0730 hrs (the 24 hour notation added to make this post seem cooler than it really is):

Arriving at the service centre for the first time, I was kind of amazed at how big the place really is. The reception was quiet, testament to it being a working day. Having gotten my ticket from the two staffmembers at the desk (only 2 numbers away from the current one) I sat down for a total of three minutes before my number was called and I was asked to go to another booth where a stocky guy in a jumpsuit was going over my details.

"First 1000 km?"
"Uh huh."
"That will be the standard oil and filter change, tuning etc, and then ending with a complimentary engine and body wash. You have a choice of semi or fully synthetic oil. There'll be a price difference."
"Fully synthetic, please (yes, this is me,I don't really know about cars and I only vaguely remember someone telling me it's better to use that, so shh)
"This will take two hours. Do you need to go back to work? We can call a cab for you."
"No thanks, I'll wait."

(I honestly think that was the extent of the conversation I had until the car was ready at about 10, but anyway)

0800 hrs:

Having exhausted the reading options they supplied (several copies of the Sun, and one of the NST that mysteriously disappeared) I decided to nip outside for some fresh air, call my dad (yes kids, fathers like to know how their sons' cars are doing, remember this well) and walk around. I was pleasantly surprised to see two ATMs that I hadn't noticed earlier sitting outside the reception area, since I conveniently forgot to withdraw money after last night's excitement, and they both worked.

I'd just finished my egg sandwich and Ribena earlier, so I was a bit surprised to see a fully functional mamak stall operating just nearby. Good news, this - especially to people like me who have a tendency to get, er, hungry.

0930 hrs:

By this time I'd been approached by one of the mechanics who motioned for me to come outside. The car was essentially ready, he said, only he wanted to know if I wanted my registration numbers blasted on all the windows for about RM 20.

"So why do you have to tell me here?" I asked.
"Well, if we include it in your bill, it's going to cost you RM 40," quoth he.

I'm a sucker. I folded (so THERE Jordan, I'm not so smart) and paid him the requisite amount. The astute reader will notice that I am reporting these events as they happened - foibles included.

1000 hrs:

The car was ready, and I saw the burly guy again for confirmation of the details and to collect my bill. He was quite friendly, and explained that the slight delay I may have perceived was due to the computer systems being unstable earlier in the morning, but the system was up and running already now.

As I lined up at the counter, I scanned the bill and noticed that there wasn't any details about the blasting procedure. Besides the regular gobbledygook about tunings and changes (okay, one gets used to them after 7 years on the road) everything came down to a neat RM 183.78. I paid up, collected a slip to present the guards at the gate (interesting security method) and was on my way (although actually I was there a wee bit longer since people had started filling up, and there was quite a queue).

So the question is: what did I learn today? For one thing, their efforts to display all ongoing work and estimated time of completion on a big screen in the reception is a good thing. It tends to make us tetchy types a bit more relaxed seeing the list of cars getting done was actually moving. Also, they open on the dot. I was expecting them to be drowsy and disorganised so early, but I was wrong.

Like someone said on yesterday's post - they DO tend to try and make you put in all sorts of stuff, which I declined with the exception of a fuel additive which my natural curiosity made me agree to. Potential customers would do well to remember this. Other than that, it's been a generally good experience, and I may decide to stay with them in the long run, or at least until they muck up and I learn my lesson.

And oh - did I mention I got a nifty electric power drill made in Germany (apparently for all the cash I spent on the fully synthetic)? I'd always put off buying one of those - I guess I don't have to now.

Well, technology calls. I'll see ya laters, folks.


What, no pr0n? Of course there will always be mind stimulants, dear reader - else who'd come and visit me but prudes and bigots? First of all there's BroadSnatch (Link), an interesting little way to get all sorts of random videos from the interweb into your PC OR your personal media player (and via RSS to boot!). Then, you may want to move that iBook off your legs, lads, because it may just fry your sperm (Link) ! No wonder everyone's calling them notebooks! And finally, bukkake invades the UK's phone ads (Link)? Those irrepressible Japanese have done it again!

All hail the internets, and thanks to BoingBoing for the good reads today!



Wednesday, December 8

SOS or Scam?

Something I saw in the KLUE classifieds today (Link):

hi a singlemum..not married pregnant 9 months and will due within this 2 looking for a minor loan of RM 600 to top up my saving to deliver my baby.hope anyone here can help me.i will pay back.tq

Whilst the paranoid cynic in me has bells, alarms and whistles all going full blast and yelling "fraud!", some part of me is wondering if this woman, known only as hanie - is really in trouble. I hope she's not - because a classifieds page like KLUE's attracts all manner of people, and we never know who they might be.

Still, this one has enough warning signals in it to warrant a dismissal from me for now. In the meantime, I think I'll just reply to her message with some links to Women's Aid.


Eating Crow, and Enjoying It

I had a nice helping of crow on Monday.

Early this week, Nikita had her first 1000 km, and I'd made it a point to get the checkup and servicing done while I'm still relatively free. Logging on the network, I remembered seeing an online appointment booking feature on EON's site (Link), which I utilised.

As I confirmed and sent the email, the system returned a message that went something like:

"Thank you for using our services. A customer service representative will contact you within 3 to 5 working days."

Now, since I'd made the booking for Thursday I was naturally a little suspicious of this claim (plus the general perception of services in Malaysia notwithstanding) and decided I'd make a personal call to the Glenmarie service centre, just in case. A couple minutes later, the call was made, the appointment set, and I was just about to get back to work when an unknown number came through the line.

"Is this Mr A___?"
"Yes, who is this please?"
"This is N__ from EON, we received an email from you about an appointment booking at Glenmarie for Thursday?"
"Yes, ah -"
"But our records also show you placed a call to the service centre."
"Yes, you see, I - (at this point I needed desperately to bullshit my way out of this) I thought I'd sent the email out a couple days ago, so I decided to call and check."
"I see. So the appointment is set then, at 8 am Thursday the 9th."
"Oh. Er. Yes. It is, isn't it?"
"Yes. Well thank you for using our services, sir, have a nice day."

Now, from a purely systematic standpoint, should I emphasise how flabbergasted I was? I DID of course expect them to be able to trace my mobile number from my licence plates, but having the call returned THAT quickly set my head spinning. At a time when confidence in our customer services are at an all time low (Link), it's heartening to know that some of these expensive systems these companies install do work, and are utilised well.

I'll be blogging the review of the first 1000 km service very soon, so keep tuned!


Tuesday, December 7

That Spongy Thing

One can't help it if the first thing one sees when he opens up BBC for his daily fix of news are two rather - er- scintillating articles, can he?

Today, they're both about men of course. More accurately, rather, men and their penii (I so dislike the word penises , plus this makes me sound smart).

The first one is good news for a fraction (optimistic?) of the male populace out there: a new operation can boost the size of men afflicted with what doctors call a micropenis (Link). Essentially occurring once in every 200 males, the new procedure can not only help with the obvious (yes, we are talking about yucchy sex) but also improves urinating ability, and God knows when that're pretty much screwed.

The UCL team has been refining a technique called phalloplasty, or penile enlargement...This involves cutting a flap of skin from the patient's forearm and shaping it into a penis four or five inches long...Following surgery, all patients were found to be satisfied with the cosmetic appearance of their penis, with four patients able to urinate standing up and four able to have regular sexual intercourse.

Well, whatever works. In other news, some other scientists have found out another potentially disturbing bit of news: The penis isn't just meant to be inserted and inseminate - it's actually also a semen removal tool (Link).

The team from the State University of New York believe the thrust of the penis during sex may help to clear a woman's reproductive system of a previous lover's semen....Lead researcher Professor Gordon Gallup told BBC News Online: "We theorize that as a consequence of competition for paternity, human males evolved uniquely configured penises that function to displace semen from the female vagina left by other males.

You know what? I think I'm going to be seriously thinking about having breakfast. The things these people think up - although I can bet you they had loads of fun experimenting with all those latex penii and artificial vaginas. Bah. Scientists.

Oo-er. I'm hungry. Later, folks.


Wakka Chikka Wakka Chikka Baby

Just because I can, here's a link that's NOT pr0n, but interesting nonetheless (Link):

It's completely safe for work by the way, unless your office has something against downloading legal mp3 tracks. I quote:

"Even if you have never seen a porn movie in your lifetime, almost everyone in the world knows what the 'Wakka Chikka Wakka Chikka' represents... Each person, upon hearing it, mentally interprets the 'Wakka Chikka Wakka Chikka' in their own way, fueling a range of emotions from lust to disgust. This CD represents 17 individual artists' interpretations of the 'Wakka Chikka Wakka Chikka'.."

Ooh yeah. It's all good. How can it not be when the title is Various Artists - Wakka Chikka Wakka Chikka
Porn Music For The Masses Volume 1 ?

And in case anyone gets upset - here's a link to a nice little copyright commons project. Called How to Survive a Zombie Epidemic, it was made by splicing Romero's classic Night of The Living Dead with scenes from another student film called Amid The Dead (Link).

In the meantime, I'm out.


Monday, December 6

Monday Starts Off With Pr0naoke!

During the drive to work just now, as Baz Luhrmann was telling me the benefits of sunscreen I glanced outside and saw a flock of birds heading somewhere (north, south, don't ask me, I still get lost in KL) in a perfect V formation. It was somehow amazing, and I realised that though this may have happened with some regularity all my life, it was the first time I actually noticed it.

And then it occurred: my very own Reader's Digest moment.

For some inexplicable reason, I knew things would be okay. They will be difficult, but they will also be okay. Don't ask me how, or why. It's a Reader's Digest moment, remember?

Anyway, as a distraction, have some pr0n. Oops, maybe not exactly pr0n, but pr0naoke (Link). Heheheh.


Sunday, December 5

Nikita: Drive One

It's been a long weekend.

The trip to Malacca was cancelled, but in between work, errands for the parents and other things culminating with a very enlightening session with some mentors this afternoon, this Ox is now very, very tired.

Thank God I have CSI: NY to come home to.

Last night, there was that niggling feeling again. The one that starts at the base of your brain, wiggles its way onto some of the more forward parts, burrows in and begins to assault you with waves of unreasoning panic and terror, but mostly melancholy.

And I'm talking about the deep, dark despondent kind. So at about 10.15pm, I took Nikita (that's her name, although my brother insists she's Motoko from Ghost in The Shell, but anyway) out for our first late night drive.

Here are some of my observations during the drive until I entered my apartment complex again at 1.15 am, with background music provided by the playlist on my MuVo Tx FM:

10.25 pm

Does anybody know the way to Atlantis?
What the wind says when she cries?

- New Radicals, Someday We'll Know

The Federal Highway was a blur. Colours, cars zapping by, some thinking LookbabyI'msofastaren'tI, others with brows furrowed in thought, and others still laughing, talking. Everyone heading somewhere, needing to be with somebody somewhen. Nikita purred, and I restrained myself from pressing her too hard. There is a time and place for everything.

11.00 pm

Step out the front door like a ghost into the fog where no one notices
the contrast of white on white

- Counting Crows, Round Here

Petaling Street. Mostly closed, but still open. I'd parked underneath the hotel formerly known as the Impiana, and walked the short distance to Petaling Street proper. A football match of sorts was on, probably one of the local leagues. The streets were still thronged with gawkers, sellers, people checking their trinkets or DVDs, restaurant boys calling gwailos over to sample their delights (but more importantly, their beer) and everywhere I looked there were people busy with something or other, lost in their particular worlds.

We carry whole worlds inside us. Little planets and galaxies of thoughts, all sparkling in their very own tiny constellations. If only we could see, would we be driven mad?

12.00 am

I got a hole in me now
yeah, I got a scar I can talk about

-Matchbox 20, Bright Lights

Jalan Hang Tuah. The aftermath of the football game is so very obvious. Supporters from the losing team line the streets and LRT stations. Some lounge against the walls, a wild animal look in their eyes. There is tension in the air, and somehow it comes through the A/C vents and permeates the car. It is not a good idea to linger, and I refrain from maintaining eye contact.

12.30 am

And I feel, so much depends on the weather
So is it raining in your bedroom?

- Stone Temple Pilots, Plush

Jalan Raja Laut. I can never really understand which part of mass illegal gathering/racing appeals so much to the young Malay psyche. Surrounded, they look at me like I'm some sort of dinosaur. Nikita's not a Maserati, Ferrari, or even a Honda, but a touch to the pedal and the both of us are off, leaving the kids to their dreams on two wheels.

12.45 am

Kerinchi Link. It doesn't take a lot for a Kancil to flip, so when one did, I watched in the five seconds it took me and Nikita to zoom off. Nothing much has changed, I am still a little disturbed, a little hurt, and a lot confused.

But as with anything, they will pass. Maybe this sudden emptiness will too, come morning.

One thing's for certain, though: I think me and the new girl are going to work out just fine.


Saturday, December 4

Saw: Reviewed

Come tomorrow I'll know if I really need to drive down to Malacca for work, so I'm on perpetual standby. It must be said that having waxed the car, I am altogether reluctant to leave for anywhere I don't have to.

In the meantime, it's time for a long-delayed movie review! Tonight, it's Saw.

You're right. Not many people have heard of this, and for some bloody good reasons.

Reason No. 1: It probably takes the cake as one of the most effective thrillers this year.
Reason No. 2: It's bloody good.
Reason No. 3: Takeshi Miike's definitely got some potential competition in the west now, if only they don't sell out.

Saw opens very simply: two men (Leigh Whannell and Cary Elwes) wake up in a dingy, dilapidated toilet, their feet chained to opposite ends of the room. They have almost no memory of how they got there, only that they feel like they've been drugged somehow. There's a dead body in a pool of blood in the middle of the room, and soon they find a package with two saws. There is a game in which they are the main players, and it won't end until one of them is dead. Add in a time limit, a slightly out of control cop played by Danny Glover and the fact that one of them HAS to die by 6 o'clock, and Saw turns into something I never quite expected but enjoyed a whole lot.

It's hard to review a movie like Saw without giving anything away. There's simply too much risk that something I write here will tip the balance of everything and end up with people not only knowing what the twist is (as improbable as that actually is) but also spoiling the fun for everyone. The short version of what I'm trying to say is this:

If you like thrillers of any kind, especially very visceral ones, then please give Saw a look.

It's tight, slick, unpretentious, gory, sick, darkly funny and serious all at the same time, and all without overwhelming use of jump-cuts and other tricks all these kids are fond of these days. The story is worth a second sitting simply because once you know the twist (and trust me it comes at the very end, seemingly out of left field) you'll want to see the little clues the filmakers scattered all through the roughly 100 minutes of the flick. The payoff may be a bit jarring to some (I know I haven't been so upset at an ending in a long while) but the whole experience, whilst not flawless, works. The editing is taut, and more than once I caught myself holding my breath, my fingers clenched. Now THAT is good suspense.

A word of caution, though. As with most of the movies I tend to favour, Saw is very generous with its depictions of brutality and violence. The plot contrivances in which these graphic maimings/killings occur stretch the limits of our disbelief, but simply because we need to believe that no one could possibly be that violent, or that sick. All in all Saw is a worthy addition to any thiller lover's collection, and I can't wait for the DVD release.

Highly recommended.

Ash.ox gives Saw a 4 out of 5.


Thursday, December 2

Sex and The City: Museum Style

I know, it's a bit early - but I figured this would be too much fun to not post. TIME regular columnist Joel Stein tells us what he thinks of Manhattan's Museum of Sex (Link). Not only does it cost a bomb to enter (USD 17) but it falls short of the mark in many, many ways:

There's a cover from a sixth edition of Margaret Sanger's Family Limitation and a display of Wonder Woman comic books under the rubric of lesbian pornography, which is particularly lame when you consider that someone could have gone to Times Square and got some better examples of girl-on-girl action.

Sad, because this has so much potential (and it's in New York, goddamit! I need an excuse to go to NY, but now..) but it just turned out to be so...boring. I think I'll stick with those Japanese museums. At least they're honest about their fetishes, and don't try to ruin it by being all smart and deconstructionist.

In the end, Stein says:

And that's the problem: no matter what they do, academics always ruin sex by refusing to stutter. They intellectualize it until you realize why they spend so much time alone "writing dissertations."

Uh huh. Academics, unite. More action, less time finding the significant 0.2 deviation, please.
Now if you'll excuse me, I'll be looking for some David Lodge.



Wednesday, December 1

Euthanasia, Babies, Dolls and Real Hearts

The Netherlands scores a first again. After being the first nation on earth to legalise euthanasia, the country has revealed that it has proposed guidelines for terminating the lives of fatally ill newborns - and has been secretly carrying the procedure out at a certain hospital (Link).

As Yahoo! says:

"The Groningen Protocol, as the hospital's guidelines have come to be known, would create a legal framework for permitting doctors to actively end the life of newborns deemed to be in similar pain from incurable disease or extreme deformities."

Creepy. Of course, it's difficult to write this without giving in to preconceived notions and values, but for some reason this all vaguely smacks of something pre- post-apocalyptic (am thinking films like Equilibrium) future, before characters who look like Van Damme prowl the wasted streets and highways, looking for damsels to save and special chosen children with maps on their backs.


Anyway, on another note, I found something that actually surprised me today. It's dolls, it's retro, and it's definitely NSFW. Who knew that in the early days before the internets and bittorrent and direct downloads and power rangers kids (or perhaps their elder brothers and sisters) could make their own pr0n?

Here, have a looksie (Link). It seems that in the good old 70s (I have a feeling the 70s were the single coolest time in the history of mankind) dolls had a far wilder time than just cruising picnic Barbie! I'm not talking about hints of fig leaves here, folks. We're looking at adult-pr0n star proportions, and apparently some creative minds back in the day decided to stage reenactments of their favourite er, activities by adding genitalia to commercially available dolls and then photographing them.

Creepy, also, but kinda kinky. I'm gonna give this a +1 on my personal scale just for the sheer....wackiness of it all (besides, I remember a time when I too got a bit creative with some er - oh no you don't- ed.). But then again, if semi-pr0n links don't float your boat, then maybe this will.

Something for the inner conservative in all of us (Link). May true love, and real values triumph over all! Er, I think I should be taking my meds now, and CSI's on.

Night, folks.


Midweek: It's All Coming Back to Me Now

Academia seems to like branding. Mention Oxford, Cambridge, Carnegie-Mellon or MIT, and for some of us, our eyes glaze over in that brief recognition of all that these names seem to convey. Since they can't really advertise like other businesses, they continually attempt to revamp something or other as they grow older, in the hopes of remaining in "tune" with the populace, or failing that - the parents who eventually send their kids to these institutions.

Sometimes, it's as simple as changing a logo. UCLA tried it recently, but with mixed results (hint: most of them were negative). Part of it has something to do with the fact that after spending USD 98 000 on it, all they could come up with was an italicised version of the university initials. I suppose there's more to the story of course, but I have an eerie feeling the blame doesn't really rest on the design agency (especially since they decided to forgo UCLA's inhouse one for an external contractor).

Sometimes it feels like academia is spelled with a B-U-R-E-A-U-C-R-A-C-Y (note to self: must not do that again, it's hell to type). Anyway.

In other news, (as if it isn't painfully obvious) we must remember that lava lamps should NOT in any case be placed on hot stoves, like what this bloke in the US did (Link). Apparently the unfortunate sod placed said lamp on the stove where it exploded and sent a shard of glass straight into his heart. Something us CSI fans can no doubt appreciate, but one puzzling question remains thus:


Finally, did Apple ensure you can't put naughty photos on your brandspankingnew iPod Photo (Link)? Tokyo based blogger Kevin seems to think so, since he realised that the iPod would play album art from other albums whilst going through his playlist. Essentially, this means that even if you think you've hidden those naughty piccies of you and that sexy new PA while on vacation in Redang pretty well, chances are while your iPod's blasting Dave Matthews or Nick Cave to the amazement of your other colleagues, you're in for a nasty surprise.

Workarounds should be in progress, but this DOES hamper those of us who'd like to make the iPod photo our very own personal stash of pr0n.

In any case - it's raining, and I have absolutely no mood for work. What oh what shall I do?