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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Hey, Hi

Those of you who read this blog, all what, four of you, and keep an eye on the Feedjit thingy might wonder who the frequent visitor person from Flower Mound, Texas might be.

Me too.

Cheers dude.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Is this so sad or what? I notice INDIVIDUAL readers. Then again if you only have four readers, it can't be that surprising or particularly difficult a task.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

My God, checking the stats. Next thing you know I'll be Googling myself!

E@L

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Damn

We have meetings all Sunday, yep all Halloween, for a product launch on Monday.

Sunday, I'd rather be here - the Bangkok Acoustic Guitar Festival!

When I first heard about this, I was majorly excited, I was really counting on seeing Tommy Emmanuel for the first time live.

These other guys look pretty hot as well. The tune that Andy McKee slaps out in the video sounds like a Michael Hedges song, but I don't know which one. Sungha Jung's version of I'm Yours is exactly how I'd like to play it. If I had talent.

Sigh.

Should I go get that Taylor left-handed acoustic guitar I saw in the Siam Centre?

E@L

Typical Thailand Story - Bruce again!

Hi E@L

I have to tell you something. The reason I haven't written for so long is that I have been in Thailand ever since forever and something has happened, well two things actually.

Firstly I have fallen deeply and madly in love. She is a lovely woman... well, she's a not technically woman at the moment. Almost is. She certainly acts like one, the walk, the coquettish smile, despite her deep voice and immense hands and feet. Adams apple too, you know the drill. Like I said, she's sort of almost a woman at the moment and you wouldn't know she's not, not when look at her through the eyes of love as I do, apart from the anatomical stuff I just mentioned, or if you read the gender thing on her ID card, which the concierge at my hotel seems to find so amusing. (She must be a popular girl, because he already knew her name.) She comes up really cute in an LBD (and out of one too, so long as she keeps a towel draped across you know where). She is so shy! It is cute. She hasn't got any bosoms yet but when the hormones I am buying for her kick in, whoah, eh?

And there's the jewelry I pay for, she looks great in it with her LBD, though I haven't seen her wearing that diamond bracelet recently, maybe she has misplaced it... Her Thai brother (obviously a close family as they kiss a lot) has a new motorbike, maybe she dropped it from the back of that. And it is so sad, her father needs another operation, his fourth in the past few weeks, and there are those new tyres for the village buffalo, etc... The drama never seems to stop up there in Isaan (or did she say Laos?) so I chipped in a coupla thousand dollars for those emergencies too. Funny, I thought she said she was an orphan when I first met her, when I she was writhing under all that wax in the BDSM bar.

She will be a real woman when she has the chop: I can't wait. I have been storing up on KY for those first tender moments. Some very good hospitals for that sort "aesthetic" surgery here in Bangkok by gum! At the moment though, it is pure love, platonic and profound. I do get a bit worried that she is still sleeping with about 400 older German and Australian men, men who don't seem as sensitive to her emotional needs as I do. But she is pulling in heaps of money I guess, so who cares, right? She says she doesn't get "paid" much, and I am not sure where those meagre earnings go but sometimes she has this white powdery crystalline stuff under her nostrils and she acts a bit weird, but I doubt that has anything to do with it.

~~~~~~~~~~

The second thing is that I have decided to go through the change with her. Who needs penises, right? Half the world gets on without them already. Why shouldn't my lady and I get rid of ours? ...

We've decided that I should go first. She said she'd wait for me up in Isaan. Or was it Laos?

regards

Bruce.

Trouble Up Mill

You can't stay in Thailand for too long (or E@L can't) without a tad of tummy trouble. Over the last several weeks in Bangkok, things have been... hand, outspread, waggles ... variable in the lower reaches of E@L's - what shall we call it? - of his GI-tract. Can't say what causes this issue most times, but every few days, sure enough...

And this has consequences, and not only for the housekeeping staff. Too much strain on the venous system in that area can result in... the need for certain medical preparations that might or might not have the letter H in them. We are sure you know the symptoms, so there's no need to elaborate. With such pathological conditions one has to be careful with the grade of sandpaper they provide in the toilets of the cheaper hotels. This hotel is OK (freaking near on Bht500/night, what!). Though certainly not the hospital he was visiting today. A hospital with toilet paper? What were you thinking? Next you'll be expecting soap, or asking for something clean to dry your hands on. Foolish person.

One has to be prepared. So one bring one's own (one's hotel's own) toilet paper and one finds some appropriate moist towelettes, such as one's usual baby-bum cleaners. Something soft, cool and pampering to staunch the flow of blood. Oops, and I promised I wasn't going to go into details.

~~~~~~~~~~

"Hmm, that pickled vegetable on my boiled pork and rice had a sour taste", E@L thinks. Too late, he had swallowed one small bit before he notices, but he pushes the remainder away as hordes of hospital personal, visitors and patients, some curious, some indifferent, weave around his chair in the heat of the old car-park that is now a clothing and food market, and a restaurant...

~~~~~~~~~~

After work that night, E@L stands up from the shabu-shabu table. There is still some tofu and a "rugby ball" of minced fish paste left in the soup-pot. Whatever, he thinks, I'm stuffed. And a gurgle of bowel-gas moves across his mid-stomach. Those pickles, he thinks. And as he stands, the rear of his braces (he's wearing braces of late - something to do with the Hip/Waist Ratio and gravity) snags on something and pops. The elastic flies up behind and hits him on the scone. Reaching around he grabs at the dangling band and finds that the leather strap between the two buckles has given away. He holds the end of his braces and sees the torn leather and the single intact buckle. The other one is still on the rear of his trousers. Useless.

He sighs.

He undoes the free buckle at the back and the buckles at the front and stuffs the braces into his bag. His trousers start to slide down, duh. With his bag in one hand he sticks his other hand into a pocket and tries to maintain some vertical force against this clownish behaviour of his trousers. His colleague sort of smiles, in that amused look of embarrassment that Thais have mastered. They move out of the MK restaurant and E@L fells something else going wrong in the internal parts (the GI-tract, remember) of his pants department - "Trouble up mill", he thinks - his bowels give a twinge of cramp and another gurgle.

"I just wann buy some breakfast," says Nit. "For my daughter tomollow." They are in a bakery part of the supermarket area (near the restaurant) on their way out to the car-park. She starts picking up various soft bready things. E@L thinks he is OK, he can last until Nit drops him at the hotel. Putting his bag down while Nit chooses dough, he pulls his trousers up over the lower bulge of his belly and they feel a bit tight there, but no, immediately they slide down a little bit. He can't take his hand out of his pocket or they will fall down. Another gurgle. Is this urgent? sometimes you can't be certain until it's too late.

E@L sees a toilet sign. He'd better go, risk whatever scene from Saw IV is hidden behind the door, just to be on the safe side. In the bag, below where his braces are, he has a toilet roll from his hotel and the sachet of those new moist wipes he had hurriedly bought yesterday at the Boots in Paragon. ("Yes, they OK for heemarrhoys," the Pharmacist had said, as she gave E@L quite a strange look. "What's your problem, lady?" thinks E@L. That fact that she now is aware of his is neither here nor up there.)

He tells Nit that he is off the hawng nam for a minute, just a minute, while she waits in the queue with some things like a small bread-rolls only with saveloys poking out the ends. How can anyone eat something so disgusting? thinks E@L.

'Next Toilet 3rd Floor' says a sign next to the toilet door. The MK restaurant and the bakery are in the basement of Robinsons Department Store, so as one expect, the toilet actually appears clean and tidy. Across from the urinals, there are three cubicles. The larger one on the left, which must be for disabled, is occupied. The one the right has a sign, A4 paper stuck on to the door with two pieces of clear Scotch tape - "Out Of Order" scribbled in English, and "Please Use Toilet on 3 Floor". Disabled, thinks E@L. There is another sign. This one is on the laminate of the partition between the door of the right cubicle and the door to the middle cubicle. This is also a piece of A4 paper. It is stuck on with two pieces of Scotch tape and it also reads "Out Of Order". E@L wonders why they would put two signs up for the one broken toilet.

The door to the middle cubicle is open. The floor is dry. The bowl look clean. The seat-lid is down. There is a flip-lid bucket for crap-soiled toilet paper, but - well, duh! - there is no toilet paper.

E@L kicks the seat-lid up with a shoe-toe and the water in the bowl appears of normal depth and clean. Gurgle... Spasm... Uh-oh! Lucky he didn't wait to get to the hotel... E@L quickly closes and snibs the door as he swings around, put his bag safe on the door-hook, allows his trousers to fall, tugs down his new Marks and Spencer cotton and lycra briefs (they had no shorts, he prefer the shorts) and...

HOLY CRAAAAAaaaAAAAAPP.

Pain. Discomfort. More pain. Saw V. Sore *. Whew. Teeth-marks.

Most of the damage can be mopped up with his roll of toilet paper, but he needs those moist wipes. He reaches up to his bag on the back of the door, fossicks, and takes out the blue sachet. He hadn't noticed before, but there is a green cartoon alligator on the front of the sachet. Huh? Whatever. He peels back the cover and removes a towelette. Over the obvious odours in the room, comes something else. It's a sweet scent. Playful, young. What is it? He tries to place it. It smells sort of... purple. Bubble-gum. E@L has bubble-gum flavored, he means scented toilet wipes. Sigh. Whatever. They work as well as any...

And no he couldn't taste ... get the full bubble-gum experience.

E@L rises and pulls up his underwear and trousers. He flushes the toilet. Water pours down and everything, ugh, spins around and around. And the "water" level rises and rises... Oh no! E@L quickly drops the lid and, as he struggles to hold up his pants, he takes down his bag, he open the door and tries his escape... and notices two half torn pieces of Scotch tape on the cubicle door.

(No, fortunately, the toilet did not overflow!)

~~~~~~~~~~~

When E@L finds Nit, she is nibbling a piece of her daughter's bread rolls that she has pinched off. She asks if he would prefer to take the sky-Train. Nononono, says E@L. Ok then, would be it OK if she drops E@L off on this side of the road and he climbs up the foot-bridge? Nonononono, says E@L.

E@L is still holding his pants up with one hand in his pocket (it all looks very suspect), he is standing in a bakery, he is wincing with four hundred types of pain, and he is trying to convince Nit to do whatever it takes to get him right to the hotel front door in her car; he doesn't want to walk anywhere, dammit he *can't* walk - his pants will fall down and he'll shit himself, doesn't she understand this?!

Then, I kid you not, E@L gets a txt from Mercer - "I have had an epiphany. The universe is the most elaborate Rube Goldberg machine ever constructed." E@L txts back the abbreviated version of the above debacle. "That's exactly what I mean! That's how the universe operates!" replies Mercer.

Sigh. Don't you hate it when Americans are right? It's so ... unexpected...



E@L

Monday, October 25, 2010

Yet More Reading

Laughed my head off (Nabokov's Invitation To A Beheading?) over Jess Walters' latest, The Financial Lives of the Poets. One of the first, perhaps THE first and certainly the funniest, novels about the recent financial crisis. Walter's previous novel, The Zero, was a post 9/11 book, a bleak (I'm guessing, it's on my shelf but as yet unread) story of the " fractured sense of reality" (according to Walters himself) in America at that time.

FLOTP is a post 7/11 novel, Walters jokes in the readers' guide at the end. Getting milk one night at a 7/11, failed web-based poetic financial journalist (advice about investing during the GFC - in free verse, sonnet form or iambic pentameter no less - hence the title), rapidly going bankrupt (how did all that money disappear like the ephemeral clouds?), about to lose his house now the everything bubble has burst and he's lost his real job, Matt Prior meets some stoner kids. They offer him a toke on a joint... and off we go... So funny.

Recommended to the max to pull you out of a blankness funk as well.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Speaking of solipsism and financial crises, Iain M Banks' Transition is probably the first post 7/11 GFC science fiction novel. A multi-verse assassin flits from body to body and world to alternate world while he double-deals with (and fucks majestically) the mysterious and eternal Madame D'Ortolan and her nemesis, the rebel Mrs Mulverhill.

Though his plot is set in a science-fiction world, Banks' is intent on aiming squarely at this one. Libertarian financial stupidity (we are on one of the *greed* based worlds), extremist Christian suicide-terrorists (15 years ago, say the word terrorist and you immediately envisage Irish Catholics), entrenched government sanctioned torture, it all gets a dystopian blast of satire from Banks' cynical laser-sharp verbal weaponry.

Recommended if you could cope easily with Inception and hate those Tea Party wankers.

E@L

More Lengthy Discontinuous Narrative About Thailand... and Books... and Clouds...

After yesterday's photo shoot I went down via BTS Sky-Train to the river again. No flood, how disappointing (from an artistic perspective).

I rested my new (Lumix) camera on the rail of Saphin Thaskin station and took a sharp(ish) photo yesterday of the State Tower in brilliant sunshine. This is where we went for dinner last week-end at Sirocco, the al fresco restaurant on the 64th floor. It was an awe-inspiring view and the food was sensational as well. It turns out that one of the Bruces with us harbored a not-so-secret-any-more death-wish and only just fought back his anxious compulsion to fling himself over. He could have been playing the risorial buffoon of course. Bruce is an awful kidder.


Up there!


Up here!


Down there!


The Bruces at repast.

~~~~~~~~~~

Being bored shitless here in Bangkok for the past three weeks (there are only so many times in a month you can maintain enough interest to b... your c... yet again - plus I have developed an annoying sweat [surely] rash) which puts a dampener/moisturizer on things), I have read a few books. Surprise surprise, eh?

One was a small tome I didn't finish a while ago, The Happiness Myth, where it is argued that drugs and sex and taking it easy diet- and exercise-wise are gonna make you happiest. A sentence jumped out at me where Jennifer Michael Hecht (mixed messages about gender here) quotes some expert or other:
..."obligatory exercisers [psychologically obsessed followers of Jane Fonda tapes and the like] often report the symptoms seen in athletes who overtrain... They include anxiety, apathy, chronic fatigue, decreased appetite, depression, hostility, mental exhaustion, mood changes, changes in values and beliefs, diminished self image, impaired concentration, emotional isolation, sore muscles and disturbed sleep."

That is ME today!

I overdid it and I am suffering; physically, morally and mentally. After doing nothing for, like, a month or twelve, I hit the Fitness First gym here at the Landmark and idiotically pushed 100 reps on the squat machine (need to get some snow-turning stamina). Now I can't walk up or downstairs without pain in my left patellar tendon - probably a whisper of jumper's knee. What a fool. I always had eschewed such energetic stupidity, telling my obligatory exerciser friends that a) there are only so many heartbeats in your life, why waste them and b) I want to have the best knees in the graveyard (we all die you see, now THAT'S what I call obligatory!).

This injury of course has made me moody, hostile, apathetic, etc, etc... (see above.)

And that's how I was feeling when I accidentally went into a book-store and, having heard from Izzy on FB about the design of the new Vintage edition of Nabokov's novels, picked myself up a copy of this particular edition of The Eye. Great cover.

Now, when buying books by authors like Nabokov, you always wonder if this wasn't one of his/hers that you'd read twenty or thirty years ago (or last week) and forgotten about. (I had bought Nicholson Baker's 'The Anthologist' on Tuesday - "Oh, his new one!" I thought - read three pages and realized I had it at home.) Pretty sure I haven't read The Eye in the past though. Nabokov. What a writer! His vocabulary is immense (OK he is a bit heavy-handed with it to be sure, but that is his metier) and his stuff cerebral yet funny. Nabokov is so sardonic, so deliciously dry and nasty -
"She had slender ankles and a graceful gait, which made up for many things."

I nearly snorted my kopi (see below).

I had a look through "The Annotated Lolita" too. Man, that is one dense book, full of allusions and amazing sentences. It is one of the books which, like Gravity's Rainbow or Ulysses, you're never going to get more than 10% out of without a guide. There was something on page 156 (where I had randomly opened the book) about white flies on some flowers. *White* flies? Humbert appears to have no idea what these creatures were, but the fastidious lepidoterist Nabokov himself would know them as the larvae of a certain type of moth. Why put the reference to the white flies in, except as a private joke? Point of view. Humbert, the narrator, is an observant fellow but not a bug collector. The author is, but they are different people, one real and one imaginary (not telling you which is who.)

If you prefer your Nabokov in small doses, this is only 100 pages.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

A small lift to my limp-induced (and did I say that I am incredibly bored) mood of complete apathetic blankness came when I saw a kopi and kaya toast in the basement of Paragon. A touch of Singapore! It was only Toast Box, the worst of the lot, but I enjoyed the sweet (really sweet) nostalgia anyway. Sipping on my coffee diluted condensed milk, I leaved though The Eye, and apart from the sentence quoted above, this one caught my, um, eye -
After all, in order to live happily, a man must know now and then a few moments of blankness. p7.

Blankness? Happiness? It was all coming together! All of a sudden, I felt light, free of concern and happy. Seriously, I did. I was happy because I was blank! Nabokov's witty sarcasm confirmed for me the positive side of being negative. It is a time of happiness, because nothing touches you and it doesn't matter, it is all outside you. I smiled at everyone. Why, because I am stupid, empty, blank, jejune. I am Forest Gump. Run E@L, run!

Limp E@L, limp!

~~~~~~~~~~~

Clouds billow over Siam station.

I love standing blankly, mind empty of other thoughts, watching through my sunglasses as clouds gather: they look so much more dramatic than without them. The edges become more visible and sharp (certainly more in focus thanks these prescription lenses), the puffy middle more tumultuous and roiling. They contrast against the paler sky: in fact this whole sky thing, the firmament that we typically ignore in the course of a normal day is more... obvious, more pertinent, at least to me. Aren't the clouds so three dimensional now? They weren't before - they were flat, distant, irrelevant and merely a shade of two of different greys out of the corner of your eye. But they are so DeMillean when viewed through my brown/blue colored glasses. They tumble and extend fluffy limbs out over and under each other, dark under light, thick, woolly and low under stratospheric diaphanous. They break apart in whisps on one side - I do not will this, it just happens - and steam into existence from the invisible moisture that hangs in the air at the other. Maybe this dissolving at one side and condensing at the other is how clouds really move, a sort of vaporous peristalsis. Or maybe it is the wind after all. Maybe both.

It looks like rain is what it looks like.

And so it comes. Roaring on the roof of the station, diffusing the buildings, pelting the pedestrians. My train arrives. I alight at Nana where the sun is brilliant and my glasses immediately fog over. The rain, out of a clear sky, is teeming nevertheless. I buy a juice, limp down the steps, tip the one-legged leper lady who cowers under a blue vinyl tarp 10 baht and I get wet walking to the hotel.

Should I walk, or run? I can't run can I? Not because of my knee which only bugs me on steps, but because of the dinky footpaths; the loose pavers, the steel or plastic pipes jutting out of nowhere, the irregularly raised and often broken-through concrete covers. Suicide for ankles. I recall the schoolboy puzzle. Who will get wetter? - the person who runs and therefore hits the rain head-on, or the person who walks, perhaps skipping between the raindrops?

Isn't it wonderful. Isn't it all just wonderful. And blank.

E@L

Due Preparations For The Flood



Flikr set.

E@L

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Frustrated

I've been in Thailand for the past three weeks and I've another two weeks to go. I do miss, I shudder to say it, 'home' - i.e. Singapore.

Well, I miss clean air. I miss my apartment and my books and my new guitar (nearly bought another one here, a Taylor - still thinking about it) and my couch and my bed and my pillows and my computer (MUST buy a mouse for this laptop!) and my TV and my wine fridge and GOOD cheese and crackers and GOOD orange juice and my part-time flat-mates and cooking and beers with my buddies (the three days some of them came across for a bit of partying were great and dinner at Sirocco was truly amazing) and my pool and walking past my gym and the view from my office and kopi and kaya butter toast and fighting with and laughing with taxi-drivers and a wider choice of clothes and my desk and the chair at my desk and more of my books and conversations with people who speak English and having dinner with people who speak English (or Singlish even) and brunch at the Ritz (seriously, I missed one) and my funny lady friends and the lady who says hello each morning while she works out in the gym as I walk past again and the security guards who think I have about eight girl-friends (work colleagues and flat-mates like Izzy!) and cable TV with movie channels and having my chess books near me when I play on Gameknot and my porn stash and having a laundry and walking to Orchard Rd to buy more books (not that I am skipping my literary retail therapy here - will need another suitcase!) and nasi padang (but no rice!) for lunch and lunch with my colleagues and watching the cruise ships turn on a dime out my window at HarbourFront and not going to the casino out of spite and being able to choose from a wide range of beers and a wide range of foods and feeling safe at night and parks and trees (oops, they're going, going, g...) and not having diarrhoea.

What I am sick of are beggars wai-ing me as I walk past and beggars with drugged children on their laps and food stalls that block the footpaths and twisting my ankle on the footpaths and shop stalls that sell absolute rubbish as they block the footpaths and those that sell frightening knives, nun-chucks, shirokans, night-sticks, stun-guns and those that sell DVDs of child pornography (true! - there was a raid the other week) and the sex/drug touts on the every corner of the footpaths and motorcycles riding on the footpaths and being forced to walk on the road not the footpath and not having footpaths at all and cars that nearly hit me when I walk on the road and people asking me if I want to buy things or have a massage (oh, OK! just this once) and people asking if I want to go somewhere in their tuk-tuk or on the back of their motorcycle and t-shirts that say 'same-same' on the front and 'but different' on the back (they are all the same-same but the same-same) and only beer chang and hotel soap and hotel breakfasts (the breakfast here at the Landmark is excellent, even the marmalade but it's not breakfast my way) and eating out every night instead of watching TV while I eat MY food and calling people without racking up enormous charges (not that I pay of course, it's a work phone) and not getting to the breakfast in time to get a copy of the IHT and not getting the su-doku out in the IHT when I do get it and impossibly dense traffic-jams and a city that floods every time it rains (not just sometimes) and having to see exploited prostitutes on the street unless I consciously go to places where I expect to see exploited prostitutes on the street and exploited baby elephants (not seen any this time though) and people putting their heads in the mouths of exploited crocodiles and politics that doesn't make any sense (oops that's EVERYWHERE!) and soldiers in camouflage gear with loaded shotguns at the train stations and security guards who let everybody through even though everybody makes the metal detectors beep and being able to eat out in the open air and having diarrhoea.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The other thing I am missing is the ability to sit down and write fluently on this blog. This is more of a longer-term issue. As I walk around, as I mentioned previously, the interior monologue is charging ahead like Stephen Dedalus's, noting observations and spouting philosophy and making comments and jokes on all the little things, the quotidian, the minutiae of stuff that would bulk up a story. But I can't seem to put it into any form of narrative. It's just small items and lists. That's all I seem able to write when I write about this country (IF I write about this country). Not only for this blog but for anything more extended as well. (The novel I am supposed to be writing about Bruce that my buddies [all called Bruce] and I were joking about last weekend [and I have been promising since I started blogging in 1994] for example.)

For example -

The mixture of old corridors and new equipment in the hospital, how easily I get lost walking between the disparate hospital buildings (why don't they have just ONE big building - that's what I call a hospital), the statue of seated King Chulalongkorn that I use a landmark, the slight step I always falter on as I leave Asok sky-train station and head for the escalator down to the Sukhomvit MTR station, the fact that I am out of breath as walk up the steps to said sky-train, the lack of toilet paper, soap and towels in the hospital toilets (and they wonder why SARS and bird-flu and MRSA get around), the bad behaviour of people in queues yet their contradictory and simultaneous politeness, the way water squirts from under a lose paving stone onto my trousers, the fact that girl I buy two juices from everyday always goes to put straws in with them even though everyday I asked her not to, bar girls that hold a sign reading "27 pretty girls, 16 ugly ones and 2 really fat ones", the stickers on the taxis such as fake (I hope) bullet-holes and ones like this:...



OK stop making lists, says Mercer Machine. He hates lists. I seem to love them, even though I don't ever start with the intention to write lists. In fact I don't ever start out with anything. All I wanted to say tonight is that I am frustrated.

And I am. Frustrated. And, you may have noticed, just a tad homesick.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It doesn't help that work here is a shambles. I am not getting access to decent patients (those will really good diseases!) and we jump from department to department and always miss the days when the most interesting cases (did I say "good diseases" before? I meant to say "interesting cases") are scheduled. It doesn't help that the distributors here seem to be treating my stay as the opportunity for an extended demo, when it is fact for data collection only (new system, need marketing images). So, day after day, things screw up and I finish at midday, or I stay but I don't get one single usable image, or something like the right probe is missing and the entire day is cancelled or the doctor goes to a conference and all the cases are postponed till next week. I should give up go home to Singapore I guess, but each day they promise that tomorrow or the day after the cases will be more "interesting". Plus it is not my call.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Next Monday is a holiday in Bangkok. Maybe I should go home for the long weekend, but that would cost money and it is not my call. Maybe I should play golf, but it is rainy season and the flooding from the north is headed this way. The Chao Phraya river has already overflown into some of the fancy hotels I was told today. Maybe I should go to Phuket to go snorkeling but it is the wrong season, the western monsoon. Maybe I should buy that Taylor guitar (there is also a left-handed Ovation) and learn how to play "Yesterday" properly, finally after all these years. I can play "Norwegian Wood" pretty well, and John Fahey's version of "In Christ There Is No East Or West", but are they enough to make me feel like a real guitarist? No.

Did I tell you that I am frustrated and homesick?* And that I have diarrhoea?

E@L

(and couldn't be bothered fixing the rest of the typos in this post... up it goes.)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Open Sez-a-Me!

Necessity being Frank Zappa's backing band, I managed today to find a unique (to me) way to open those fucking annoying hermetically sealed plastic(1) packs that almost everything comes entombed in these days. Of course I am a genius to come up this method and hereby declare that it is patent-pending in the name: "The E@L Alcatraz Clamshell Opening Method". Royalties shall be expected. Remember, piracy is theft. (I saw that on a movie torrented the other night. It was a Japanese movie, language was "the original Polish". I kid you not.) And re: royalties, please be generous, I'll need to pay the Mouse's salary next year.

Meanwhile, who was the fucking idiot who thought that making products completely inaccessible was a good idea? It used to be bad enough when conventional plastic wrapping first hit the streets. Initially it was Mars bars, sugar sachets and condom wrappers. "Just give me a product that don't have to open with your teeth," was my not infrequent complaint in those heady and anonymous years (pre-blogging) when calories, carbohydrates and sex where my main obsessions. Unlike now.

Well, yes, you can try and open one of the new-fangled hard cases with your teeth, but they'd better be the pearly white, razor-sharp choppers of a giant shark if you expect to make any impression (dental joke, haha) on the impenetrable plastic. Anything you do to these bastards without special tools is effort completely wasted, or might only result in the raising of dangerous jagged edges at the small hiatuses (hiatii?) that you might have made into the top of the package with your *useless and inappropriate tool of choice*. Other people (not sharks, I presume) have tried with varying measures of success. The recommended way discussed on Wiki-how is to use a manual can-opener(2). That's fine I guess if you are at home and have one handy. Ruley, ruley sharp scissors or finger-cutters, sorry I mean box cutters, can do it of course but the warnings the Wiki-experts give are valid. It is bloody easy to do yourself damage with these weapons, as well as with those resulting jagged shards. These edges come at you like aforementioned sharks (not shards) when, once you have made a significant enough breach in the casing, you attempt to use manual force (you're a tough guy, a little bit of adamantine plastic is not going to defeat you) to rip the rest of sealing apart. What happens is that the sundered edges do not conform to the anticipated path of release - the tear swizzes from the side of the package through to the middle and the rearing edges rip into your flesh like weasels.

Mothers.

Well I am not at home with my trusty toolkit by my side. I've been in this bloody hotel room for two weeks already and there are another three to go. I do not have access to my sharp scissors, my box-cutters, my fingernail-paring-shaped surgical needles and my silk 02 thread to repair my damaged body parts, nor my manual can-opener and neither my tin-snips. (Don't actually own tin-snips.) Which is good for my continued survival as I am sure Thailand is going to drive me suicidal (how much sex can a man put up with?) soon enough. I am lucky then that you can't just walk up to an apothecary here in Bangkok and ask for whopping amounts of otherwise dangerous prescription-only drugs - such as, for a random example, enough Viagra or Cialis to explode an elephant's trunk.

One thing I DO have, speaking of (not Cialis and not elephant trunks) fingernail parings, is one set of those trusty but dangerous-on-airplanes weapons - my nail-clippers. One of? you ask. Yep, I own two and I now keep this set in my travel bag and have another always in the bathroom at home, because chances are 1 to 100 that I would forgot to pack it otherwise. What am I, stupid? (No! I've already told you I'm a genius! Don't you listen?) Of course sometimes I pack the bathroom one as well and have two in my toilet-bag when I arrive and unpack. Chances are I'll leave one if not both of them there when I check-out.

Hey! Stop raving on you lot... See, look, pay attention.

Here is the E@L method, demonstrated in the photos below.

Step 1. duck into the bathroom and grab your sturdy nail-clippers - the ones you get at The Body Shop for $37 are fine - and take on the impenetrable polycarbonate(?) clamshell casing. Place clippers over the seam at the edge (they *just* fit), bite down a few times really hard, move one clipper's width to either side (to the right if you are left-handed and to the right if you are right-handed) and bite down again, hold firmly, then twist the clippers. You'll hear a crack (eventually) and the first of your chomps into the transparent tomb of whatever you have bought at the IT store is done. Continue (to the right if you are left-handed and to the right if you are right-handed) until one of the ends is completely open, then maybe give another clip around the side to release the corners, and you'll find it (relatively) easy (mind the sharps jagged edges! How many time do I have to warn you?) to rip the packaging apart. Unless you are a girly-girl.

Step 2(ish - might have missed some numbering there): because you failed to heed the multiple warnings re: sharp edges, step quickly to the bathroom again to staunch the blood-flow from the remnants of your digital artery using the cotton wool pads, the ear-drum puncturing devices, and the shower cap. Now go back (Step 3?) and remove whatever it was that you couldn't get to inside the package and use the fucking thing, after all that pain and effort.


You get the idea already don't you? The following photos are completely unnecessary.



Here they are anyway. Not everyone is intuitive as you.



Doneskies! And with hardly any blood loss!


Of course if you don't even have nail-clippers, you'll have to resort to your AK-47.



Once your package is open, please, please go after the guy who invented them and scatter a magazine load around his completely penetrable liver, as a favour to me.

E@L


1: Or is it that ultra-hard carbon stuff that the guys won the Nobel prize for the other week?

2: Addendum: now I think about it, I have tried using my can-opener at home - useless.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Progress

After reviewing the history of human endeavour and achievement against the ubiquity of war and hatred; all the religious, philosophical and moral dialectics which have driven us towards new political, spiritual and economic frontiers but which have destroyed countless hopes, aspirations and indeed great sections of humanity; the scientific discoveries whose incremental steps and giant leaps of paradigmatic revolution have allegedly enriched so many lives, unfortunately at the expense of billions of others and possibly the environment which sustains all life; all the movements in art and fashion which ignore the poverty and distress of their sources and which reap their success from the exploitation of the voiceless and the pillaging of irreplaceable natural resources that are entailed in the delivery of their transient emotional benefits ... a think-tank of international geniuses at the pub has come to the incontrovertible conclusion that, apart from the iPad, there's no such thing as progress.





E@L

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Best Of Times, The Worst Of Times.

Every day I walk past where a leather-faced, one-legged woman sits on the footpath. I think of her as old, but she might be my age or she might even be my mother's age. Her skin is so dark. There are several men in pink/orange vests hanging around nearby, drivers for the motor-cycle taxi "stand" under the steps to the elevated crossway. They hog the shade and chat. She sits on a piece of cloth, next to a phone-booth, in the sun. (I count nine public phone booths in this section of footpath.) Her good leg is tucked underneath and her plastic prosthesis is extended into the path to draw attention, but to not block anyone, well not much. She holds her mug out in the stumps of leprosied fingers. Sometimes I drop some coins, 10 or 15Bht, or maybe a 20Bht note into the cup. No-one else does this that I have seen, not even the Buddhist Thais. I am her target demographic.

I take the SkyTrain down to Asok, change to the MTR underground and head to Silom for a day at Chula Hospital. Soldiers in camouflage uniforms, hard black hats with tight chin-straps, large guns, shiny boots and gaiters. There are security gates, metal detectors. One soldier waves me away from the glass-enclosed entrance foyer. All the doors are blocked, save one in the basement of the car-park. He indicates for me to go around. I say no: I must wait for someone here, but he insists. I too insist though I don't have a gun to support my argument. There are some chairs near a drinks machine and some soldiers are taking a rest. I indicate that I will join them, wait here. I take a copy of the IHT out of my Samsonite satchel in order to finish the Sudoku puzzle I had started at the breakfast buffet in The Landmark. The resting soldiers smile and nod hello. One moves over a seat to give me room, moves his AK-47, so polite. The soldier who had tried to get me to go to the other door waves to say it's OK, he smiles. The Royal Niece is upstairs having her goitre removed.

I come back via Siam Station in the early evening, change trains around 6 o'clock. Music plays over a public speaker and thousands of commuters stop, everyone a statue. It seems weird to me, this frozen state, this nationalism.

At the very top of the stairs that I take down from the Nana station is a Sootra juice and herb drinks stall with a display of brightly colored plastic bottles of juices in crushed ice, and more in a refrigerator behind the server. I indicate a bottle of the chilled passion-fruit and beetroot juice, for 20Bht. The server is on her mobile phone, talking. She is only watching me out of the corner of her eye while she places a bottle in a plastic bag and takes the 20Bht note I offer.

At the bottom of the steps another beggar, a much younger woman, is seated. She holds a cup towards me in wai-ing hands and pleads with big eyes. She has a comatose infant draped across her lap. I walk past her, glowering, whatever change I have loose (maybe 20Bht) is still in my pocket. Within a second I feel guilty for my disgust and a second after that, I don't. I was unjustly accusing her with my glare and no doubt it made her feel bad, or maybe not. I know that while it is not her fault that she is so desperately poor that she has been given this drugged child to hold in order to grab at my sympathies and that post-colonial (not that Thailand was ever colonized) guilt, and that neither she nor the child will never see again any of the money that is placed in her cup.

As I slide past the motorcycle-taxi drivers, I hear a cackling laugh up ahead. The drivers are sauntering, hovering from foot to foot, joking with someone. It seems weird too, like there was stand-up routine and I couldn't understand the patter. The cackle is coming from the one-legged beggar, still in her place by the phone-booth. She spoons some curry out of a plastic bag into her toothless mouth, grins gleefully back at her friends, the laughing drivers.

We are all in this together, we all have a role to play, we are all doing our jobs in the Dickensian City of Angels.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Two years ago in Rangoon, I met a toothpick-thin, boisterous young Burmese man called Somerset. He had conferred this nickname on himself at age sixteen, after renting a collection of stories by W. Somerset Maugham from one of the bookstalls on Pansodan Road. By memorizing sentences from the collection, Somerset taught himself a somewhat formal and archaic English. Then he moved on to Charles Dickens. His identification with the works of these long-dead British writers was total. “All of those characters are me,” Somerset explained. “Neither a British nor American young man living in the twenty-first century can understand a Dickens as well as I can. I am living in a Dickens atmosphere. Our country is at least one or two centuries behind the Western world. My neighborhood—bleak, poor, with small domestic industries, children playing on the street, the parents are fighting with each other, some are with great debt, everyone is dirty. That is Dickens. In that Dickens atmosphere I grew up. I am more equipped to understand Dickens than modern novels. I don’t know what is air conditioning, what is subway, what is fingerprint exam.” Dickens In Lagos - Lapham's Quarterly
.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

E@L

Saturday, October 09, 2010

When I Was 12...



The list goes on here and here.


~~~~~~~~~~~



Check for June 1969 to June 1970.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Why?



Because The Last Airbender will be a classic in 30 41 years.

E@L

Friday, October 08, 2010

Tea, But No Sympathy



via (of course)

E@L

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

The Mouse To Return?

I missed an important call today.

I was working in one of the Bangkok hospitals, and I had my ringer down to silent mode. When we had finished and I was outside again, I went to return an SMS and that's when I saw the red sign on top line of the Samsung.

I checked the number and realised that it was from the Philippines. I only know one person there, apart from our dealers and this wasn't them. It had to be The Mouse, and it wasn't even my birthday!

Who is The Mouse? you ask. Long-term dedicated readers of this blog in its prior incarnations will know to whom I am referring. The Mouse: the tiny, silent one. My super domestic helper from when I was slaving for the Dutch in Hong Kong way back when, round 2000-2003. Then, after all sorts of bureaucratic crapola, she came for a few months to work for me in Singapore. Unfortunately for all of us, there was a tragic situation which drew her back to the Philippines to look after her daughter. With some money I gave her, she set up a small business (a rice stand) and was doing OK leasing it out. But she lives in a tiny village way up north and no doubt she is not getting as rich as she'd like to on her meagre income up there.

Also, I guess her daughter, Mousette (there's a photo of her somewhere in the archives, but I can't locate the post) then 7, has grown up enough now to be able to look after herself with the help of Grandad. Yep, the Mousette must be 12 now. Maybe now she is in a larger town to attend secondary school. The 4 hour daily trek to and from her old school might be a thing of the past. I hope it is - what a drag! I will ask the Mouse when I speak to her next time.

So, well, yes I did speak to her today, eventually. The phone rang again before I had a chance to return her call. Her voice was such a welcome sound and it brought back all sorts of memories; of her coming up behind me, mouse quiet, with a cup of coffee and some cookies and nearly giving me heart-attack; of her making enough lasagna to feed an army; of the day she came up and just stood beside me crying, of seeing her off on the KL bus, her face at the window as sad as anything you could imagine. Her English is excellent, her accent soft and pleasant (unlike her screech-prone sister-in-law), she is smart as a tack, has a degree in electrical engineering(!) and prefers Saul Bellow to Martin Amis. She can cook like a chef, clean like it was her own stuff, pack my bags AND iron my underpants. What more could a single man want?



She told me that she wants to start working again, maybe early next year. She asked if I would be prepared to take her back. Well, duh! And when I say working, hers would be the easiest domestic helper job in Singapore! I am only there about 40% of the time, even less so far this year. However, for me the reassurance of having someone COMPLETELY trustworthy there makes me worry a lot less about people coming and stealing my, err, books... And my new guitar. It is also fantastic to have someone always(ish) in the house to receive the tradies and registered mail, et such.

Good news for the reestablishment of some sanity and stability at E@L GHQ!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The archived posts on The Mouse and related topics I could find:

The Mouse tries to kill me! (Down the bottom, as it were, of the post)

Bureaucracy

Setting up insurance etc...

The Mouse Arrives!

Bad news

The day before she leaves.

How I felt when she left

Dinner and Mouse - mainly the relevant discussion is with Skippy-san in the comments.

Update 6 weeks after she left

Problems with Doris - the Repo-Mouse

Doris II - Danger Mouse!

Still missing The Mouse

~~~~~~~~~~

There may be more, but it is tough to search if the key word is not in the blog title, and I didn't use tags in those days. I still don't, really. Criminal.

~~~~~~~~~~

Current part-time maid, Super-Joyce was another great find, bright and chirpy, honest, all the right things, but she can't cook for me obviously, unless I ask specially, and then it has to be a Tuesday or Friday.

The Mouse will be full-time. I hope...

E@L

Monday, October 04, 2010

The Chronicles of Riddup Riddup

The delicate ecological balance of the earth tips this way, tips that way.

Slight changes in pH of rainwater or vodka, of the dust in our crop-DDTers, of the level of methane exiting cows' bums, of the algal blooms in watercourses, carbon-pencils in the hands of bipedal carbon-based lifeforms, the bleaching of white whales, shifting the El Kabong effect, rat urine on the top of Coke cans, etc, etc...

You know, the stuff the doom and gloom merchants toss at us every generation to make us fear, tremble and buy more useless flu vaccines and Donald Rumsfeld happy.

When I was young, we were not going to make it out of the 60's 70's because of the bomb and pollution and Gough Whitlam and long-haired men in floral bell-bottoms passing you a joint or several... Actually I am not sure we did. This all might be a drug-addled hallucination and I might still be at University, back (or presently!) in 1976!

But seriously... Pollution. Climate Damage. Disaster. No, laughing matters. (oops a comma slipped in there!)


When the balance tips too far one way, some of the inhabitants of Gaia are going to suffer. The creatures which act as the canaries in the coal-mines for imminent environmental armageddon, such as say, canaries in coal-mines, we just don't see hanging round the coffee machine any more. It is the Silent Spring we all feared.

Or the silent drainage ditches and fetid waterfalls and rain-soaked pathways at night in your typical Thailand beach-side Resort and Spa where typically E@L is forced to accommodate himself for the arduous demands of his, phew, tough employment contract.


Frogs. No silence here.

When frog numbers thin out, when they croak it as it were, the end is nigh, as it were. Frog scarcity is the black swan that should tip the point of our crowd wisdom into snap-out-of-it mode. They can only last so long in boiling water, right? And we are in it with them on this crumbling planet, in it up to our thick, chinless, green-skinned, warty (speak for yourself!) necks.

The problem in Hua Hin? World environment is looking like lasting until the Sun goes red dwarf, if the frog population here is anything to go by.

Bloody riddupy things are driving me cray-zeeee with their incessant brdl-brdl-brrdliing... Great choruses of bass profundo, tenor and alto croaks - c.f. Beckett's Watt for an actual(?) frog sonata - the toadular and frogular lepping beasts are bu-bu-bu-burping away all night just outside my door.

They certainly don't sound anything like the little wooden frog things carried and abused by those (allegedly) hill-tribes women, those terrors of capitalistic persistency in stupid jingly hats, garlanded in cheap beads and with trays of unspeakably horrible hill-tribe manufactured trinkets to sell at you in Thai markets. I can pick those fakes amphibian vibrations easily. When the women run a short stout stick across the corrugations on the back of the pseudo-frog to generate a brdl-brdl-brdl-brrrdling sound it is just so unrealistic. Seriously. Those tourist trap toys sound nothing like the REAL frogs outside my hotel door, ho ho, don't you worry about that!

But tonight, I was lying down for my rest at last, after a weary day - most importantly eating fistfuls of the most amazing almond and raisin cookies ever, at the Dusit Resort - during which day I was stabbing large needles in the general direction of olives that had been hidden inside chicken breasts (don't ask, it's a living), when not trying to chat up the girls from the other companies that is... tonight those amphibial sleep interrupters outside were just driving me up the peach-coloured walls...

Their racket was almost making the room quake. Frog noises high, frog noises low. Fast frog noises, slow frog noises. Moist frog noises, dry frog noises. GIANT frog noises, small frog noises. For Chrissake, how many frogs ARE there outside my door? All the bloody frogs in Thailand, and then some, it sounds like!

Picking up an empty plastic bottle (fruit-flavored yoghurt drink, what I tipple as a night-cap, religiously) I opened the door to threaten the wee beasties with a thumping, and a yelling at...

"You bloody frogs are keeping me awake! Roll on Climate Change if it will shut you buggers uuuuu........p????" I screamed as I opened the door, only to be confronted by...



"Hill-Tribes Women" in the Hua Hin Nightmarket - Photo? - Yi sip baht, yi sip baht, her, me, same-same.


E@L

Saturday, October 02, 2010

God-Man and Human-Man Team Up!



Tom the Dancing Bug - via the hilarious collections @ Me against them.

Books Again

Books. I have been busy doing nothing. I have read four - is it five, six? - in the past three weeks.

Beware: spoilers ahead, maybe.

More about The Merry-Go-Round in the SeaMore about By Night in ChileMore about The Housekeeper and the ProfessorMore about QuicksandMore about Elegy for April


The newest, greatest Australian novel -Bereft by Chris Womersly is rather over-rated. First world-war soldier and hero comes home to where he is thought by his family and the small-town's inhabitants, particularly the policeman his uncle - cue the woooo music - to have murdered his sister 10 years earlier. He didn't do it, or did he? No, this other guy did it, the one is chasing an inexplicably fore-sighted girl who lives in the hills, where the soldier too - Rambo-like but nothing like Rambo - hides out. Surprisingly (or not, given the hysterical praise quoted in the blurbs and the reviews), the prose is not magical, not Cormac McCarthy-like at all. It is just words, words like mine - well not like mine exactly - sequential, impersonal (is this what is supposed to be McCarthy-like?), it seems adjective-less, adverb-less, though I am exaggerating a bit here. Nothing special, nothing different from anyone else in the novel-writing work-shop, from any over-edited writing excercise.

The end is an anti-climax, not one twist nothing surprising or quirky or memorable; the murderer is just the person we expected it to be, as we knew in fact - we were fucking TOLD - from the first third of the book.

I really don't get what is about Australian book reviewers. I rarely agree with their opinions which are universally positive. Are they in the pockets of the publishers, or am I tasteless and stupid? Don't answer that.

Lesson? Beware the Next Best Thing - not a new piece of advice, that. Read the classics. At 53 and feeling like death is around the corner (my family history? you have no idea!) there is no time for contemporary, transient fashion, no mater how enthusiastically hyped. Except maybe some of Bolano, or David Mitchell, or. Only time can tell. Life is short, the struggle hard, success fleeting - there's plenty to read already without all the new stuff. Including blogs.

~~

"The Merry-Go_Round In The Sea" by Randolph Stow (the late Randolph Stow - maybe he didn't press the lift door close button in time) is a classic (early 60's), it is magical. Its prose ripples and hums, surrounds you subliminally like the roar of cicadas in the bush. It is suffused with nostalgia and love, with a flood of amazingly delicate sensory images. With description, with real people. A young boy (Stow's age - this is something of a semi-autobiographical bildungsroman) grows up in small town in Western Australia where there is a rusty old - wait for it - merry-go-round, and where there is a wrecked ship sunken in the harbour with a spar that sticks out of the water like a broken - wait for it - merry-go-round in the sea.

The boy's hero-worshiped cousin (absent father syndrome) goes jauntily off to the second-world war. At the end of the war, the PTSD soldier returns; changed, emotionally shrunken, lost, severely affected by his horrific four years as a prisoner of war in Japanese camps (partially at Changi in Singapore, partially in Thailand). The cousin and the now adolescent boy can no longer connect. But the ending here too is, I feel, something of an anti-climax. The expected suicide - at least I expected a suicide - does not happen. But this is good for the boy - Stow often just calls him 'the boy' - obviously in Stow's life although people died (grand-mothers, sickly aunts) no-one committed suicide.

Lesson? There are books you should have followed up from your reading lists at school. We did "To The Islands" in Year 11 or 12.

~~

Other books:

Roberto Bolano's "At Night In Chile" - a rich stream of consciousness reminiscence by a dying priest. Reminds me of parts of Beckett (without the humour) or, even more closely, Hermann Broch's dream-like "Death Of Virgil" (no humour there either). Mesmerising. Really must try again on "Savage Detectives."

Yoko Ogawa's "The Housekeeper and The Professor" - reminiscent of Ryu (not Haruki) Murikami, a short novel set in a small Japanese seaside town in the off-season about a teenage girl and the kindly(!) older gentleman she visits. A twisted perverse emotionally chill ending. (The sort of ending that could have lifted "Bereft" out the ordinary bulk of the soon-to-be-remaindered first editions.)

Yunichiro Tanazaki's "Quicksand" - tragic lesbian triangle set in 20's Japan. Widow confesses to a famous novelist (wouldn't be Tanazaki himself would it?) what went wrong. Somewhat dated, but the morally ambiguous ambiance of Tokyo at that time is interesting, if not fascinating.

Benjamin Black's (John Banville) "Elegy For April" - nowhere near as gripping as the first couple ("Christine Falls", "The Silver Swan") in this series about an alcoholic abused-by-Catholic-priests-as-a-child pathologist in 50's Dublin, but still pretty damn good. Interestingly for the protagonist in a pathologist-as-crime-solver sub-genre, Quirke (quirkey, geddit?) rarely uses his infrequent autopsies for solving the plot. For a start, in this one, we know the April is dead not missing from the beginning, or why do think it's called "Elegy"?

~~

I only read excellent books (as a rule, but not always obviously) so all except Bereft are highly recommended.

Bereft is OK, just not as good as they say. Moderately recommended.

E@L

Rain

It is raining; a long "shhh" that is both distant and near. There are memories dull and deep that this sound evokes*. It is hard to place where the "shhh" comes from, the present or the past. I turn my head this way, that way. The rain's loud hushing is coming from everywhere, everywhere outside that is; the trees and bushes and flowers, from the pool surface, from the paved paths, from the air itself. The rain's hush is so loud, so continuous, so all-enclosing that it takes an effort to hear it, to realize that there is a sound. Water for fish.

Golf is out of the question, I guess. Did I bring my full set for nothing?

Thunder grumbles loudly, ignoring the rain's request for silence. I want to write something, I want to sit outside while I write it. On the balcony, pebbles have been laid in white in a single large floral pattern, maybe a tree shape, against brown background pebbles. Half the balcony is exposed to the weather, half sheltered under a rendered-concrete, not quite terra-cotta, more peach-coloured roof. There are four narrow windows in the wall at the left side, spaces between columns of the concrete. The wooden chairs and their single green, square cushions are wet however, as is the wooden table. Even though the furniture is several feet from the rain, splashes from the large drops that fall from the edge of the balcony's roof onto the pebbles are leaping back at the table and the chairs, or they sneak through those narrow open spaces between the columns, hopping from the pebbles on the floor of the balcony next door. The roof-drops make a cracking sound as they explode against the pebbles, a sound like turned-back knuckles. There is no rhythm to these drops, they fall at random. After I wipe the water away with my bathroom towel and pull the table and one of the chairs even further away from the open half of the balcony (hardly a balcony really as the three steps at the end take you down to pool level, there must be another word for it - porch?), I move them toward the glass door to my room.

The splashes continue to leap at the table, at me where I sit, even at the laptop. There are splashes like tears on the screen as I type. You should see them. It is raining heavily now, then it becomes softer. The "shh" is almost a shout, almost a whisper.

Thunder rolls from the clouds like a god turning in his giant creaky bed and the rain picks up again, heavy and inevitable, like death, like metabolic syndrome.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

I wanted to write today, if not on some novel or short story at least in the blog. Be funny, be grumpy, amuse, but nothing comes easily this morning so I describe things. When I am not writing, internally heard passages of fiction-like observations come into my head, but I have no chance to write them down as I am walking or shopping or drinking beer or eating or getting a blow-job in a massage parlor. I can never remember them later. Mostly.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Is it off season in the back-lanes of Hua Hin around the Hilton? The many beer bars are sparsely populated, only a few customers in this bar, one in that bar. Many bars are empty. The girls who are still awake, who have not given up hope at 10pm, these girls call to me, bar after bar. (Are there more bars here than last time?) Hello, they call. Welcome. Hey mister, come in.

Some girls are pretty, most are not.

Taxi!"

~~

"The blustering wind scatters leaves like seed on barren ground, it bends the trees in supplication. I stop the cross-trainer, take a breather, look out the gym window to the road by my flat. I see a yellow bird, a small-to-medium sized bird. The strong yellow, makes it easy to find and see it skitter from a branch on this tree to a branch on that tree. A yellow bird. How beautiful.

Maybe it eats its own weight every day. Steven Wright wonders: how does it know how much it weighs?

I start the cross-trainer again. My heart rate is displayed. It is in the fat-burning zone."

~~

"The roar of cicadas, I notice this roar finally. It is amazing, it has built up so gradually that I didn't notice it, like a frog in heating water. It is deafening: If I was talking to someone, if I was with someone, I would have to shout.

The eye-burning vapour of eucalyptus leaves. I walk on soft sand that has been spread across the prepared walking path through Litchfield park. Hardly natural up here on the top of escarpment. Scrambling across rocks not strictly on the trail to get a better view I observe the thin waterfalls, the deep pools at the base of the cliffs. There are safe cascades sometimes, where girls in bikinis and men in surf-shorts bathe languidly. Dry season, low water, no crocodiles. It is safe for those sybarites in the pools. No-one will be eaten today.

I did not bring my bathers, my togs, my swimmers on the drive from Darwin (speed limit 130kms/hour! Outstanding in a rental!) The bathers are in my room. I berate myself as the dark water looks so cool, is so inviting."



~~

"Under my big toe, on the ventral surface of my right hallux, something feels uncomfortable, a slightly piercing pressure, a princess's pea. When I lift my foot and prod under the breach at the font of my sandal there only a small leaf caught underneath, a soft and innocent leaf. Soft? The neural sensitivity is returning, perhaps; a leaf like this shouldn't bring such pain. Maybe the drugs are losing their potency in my system. This makes me a little bit sad, makes me a little bit angry. The drugs stabilise my mood as well as try to kill the pain. Every emotion is a little bit."

~~

"The siren sounds and everybody - 100,016 everybodies - take a large breath in. How can so many people be suddenly so silent? It is like a film, unreal and false, believable despite its cruel unbelievable essence. Some players fall to ground and lie on their backs to stare at the sky. Clouds are gathering, I wonder if they notice. The players who are still standing place their hands on their heads and walk around in a stupor. Some are crying, some blank-faced. Even the players lying down have their hands on their heads. Why? Is this the response to frustration, to disbelief, to resignation, to the realisation that 140 minutes of grueling, body-breaking effort, of continual effort, of hard non-stop running up the extensive playing field (amazing fitness), of leaping and crushing and fast twisting, turning, slipping away from the ball-hunger of the opposition team keen to bash you down and steal the Sherrin - all this has been in vain. OMG, has all that hard physical and psychological preparation of the entire year been wasted? A draw in the Grand Final? It cannot have happened, yet it has.

Rain falls within a whipping wind as we walk home from the ground. Appropriate."

~~~~~~~~~~~~

I am still getting splashed by the rain. It's heavier again. The roar of the hush continues everywhere around me, like cicadas in the bush, like the birds (are they yellow) in the trees on Orchard Rd.

I wonder what to write about.

E@L

* plagiarised from Ogawa's "The Diving Pool" which I am currently reading while not typing this.

Faster Lifts : Faster Stupidity

What is it with people and lifts? What is the rush?

When the light on the call-button is lit - obviously someone has pressed it already and one of the lifts will eventually be on its way - why do they have to press it again? The lift is not going to come any earlier because of your redundant poking. Why does the next person come up and, even though they have seen the last person press it, even though the light is still on, why do they press it yet again? The lift is fucking coming, all right? Shit-for-brains.

Leave. The. Call. Button. Alone.

~~

What do these impatient and hateful people, those who force their way into the elevator against those coming out, what do they hope to gain? Why is this millisecond of aggression so important? They're only going to amble off casually once they get to their floor anyway, chat absent-mindedly on their phones, take emails on their phones, read texts on their phones. What is with the fucking rush to get into the elevator? It's not going to get you to your floor any sooner.

Why? Because I am still at the back of those waiting to go in. The lift is not going to leave until the last person squeezes in, and that's me. Maybe I'll even poke my ample tummy - the tummy you stare at with such contempt, you are so disgustingly rude - into the infra-red beam that senses people coming in. Your pushing and shoving will be wasted. I am taking my fucking time, just to fuck you up, wankers.

~~

And you, hunched at the side of the lift's interior, why do you hover over the controls floor-buttons in the inside of the elevator as if they were a secret set of controls? Why do you block me? I want to press the button for my floor. Maybe in your mind these are controls to make contact for a 1.21 gigawatt burst of stored static electricity to surge through giant glass discharge balls, to send artificial lightning into a dead body, to bring a hybrid monster to life?

Or do you think your are lift operator? Maybe you have lift operator genes in you? Do you dream of an oversized, two-pronged lever to close the lift, like in the good old days? Are you a throwback to the grandfather on your mother's side, the grandfather who was a lift operator? Maybe your grandfather was Dr Frankenstein, working-part in a department store?

Get out of the fucking way, let me press the button for my fucking floor, crazy pricks!

Step. Away. From. The. Buttons.

~~

Why do people feel they have to press the door-OPEN button while the other people are coming in? Do they think they are in-charge, or that are being nice. This is an automatic lift with sensors, with retractable inner doors that trigger the reopening of the door if someone or something obstructs them. Anyway, the door is already open, stupid. It is not going to close yet as the infra-red beam has not been broken and the mechanism of closing cannot start. I can open a 99% closed door by running my hand in, either breaking the infra-red beam or holding back the inner pressure-sensitive doors which forces them to make contact with the door opening trigger. I don't need you help to get in. I am adult. I have a University Degree (equivalent). I can get into a lift by myself.

This is not your ancient HDB lift, one that stops at every second floor (Grandma in her wheelchair has to carried downstairs, welcome to Singapore) and tries to crush Grandma and any slow moving grand-children when it guillotines closed unexpectedly. This is a modern building, it's not going to happen, this is the modern world. Wake up to the 21st century. The ironic thing is that you are rude and aggressive everywhere else in your mean and petty life; I know your type, arseholes.

~~

Why do those patently rude people press the door-fucking-CLOSE button - jab, jab, jab, jab - when people are still coming in or even while people a few steps away are approaching the lift and who obviously want to go up or down, whichever way this lift is headed (or footed I guess, going footwards, down). You are the nice person in his true colours. Bastards, I hate you.

~~

Why do they all press that door-close button repeatedly - jab-jab-jab-jab-jab - even if the door has started closing already? Once a second or two elapses since the last person broke the infra-red beam, then, according to the design chosen by the lift-making company, the time-circuitry that controls this door is initiated, and the door has commenced to close. The urge for them to press this button seems irrepressible. What mechanism? Maybe there is a small spring-controlled wheel with a dropout area which allows the magneto to contact (the old way), maybe these days there an electronic program on a chip to to do it, but whatever - nothing these people can do will change this timing once it reached its closing sequence. (Industrial lifts have a longer time before they close.)

OK, the lift might close a bit sooner if the close button is pressed immediately after the last person has just entered, in the short insignificant time before the timing mechanism kicks in by itself. Then the spring will be released and the timing wheel will spin a bit faster and allow the contacts to be made a fraction earlier, either that or the hypothetical program will be over-ridden, but what is the fucking rush? The door will close automatically anyway, in fact it's already fucking closing, dickheads.

Stop. Pressing. The. Close. Button.

~~

Stop. Driving. Mr Grumpy. Crazy.

~~

Hell is other people in the lift. I hate all vertical commuters.

E@L

c.f: James Gleick, Faster

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