Friday, February 27, 2009

The Deaf Post. Pardon? Pardon?? WHAT??

The phone E@L is travelling with is the E61i, for two reasons: a) he bricked Spikes's old iPhone the other week and he hasn't been in Singapore long enough lately to get down to SimLim square for someone to unbrick it, and b) the iPhone is only 2G.

Reason he dislikes the Nokia and prefers the iPhone: he can actually HEAR people when he is on a call on the iPhone. Its speaker is nice and loud. The Nokia's speaker is tiny and hard to locate precisely over his delicate shell-like... He has to press it so hard against his head that he frequently turns the stupid thing off. What's with the on-off button being on the face of the phone, right next to the speaker? Others with this phone have had the same problem.

ALl this week, when talking on the phone he's had trouble. He's been saying, "Speak up! Shout! I can't hear a freaking thing on this shit phone!"

So out for drinks last night with two of HK's Tech Gurus - HKPhooey and Spike - naturlich E@L checked out what pocket communication devices they were using. HKP was on the latest Blackberry and Spike had 2 iPhones with him! (No questions from anyone about this.)

Neither could come up with a convincing sales pitch for either choice, except that Spike wants to write an iPhone app like the farting thing that kept him so amused for most of the evening when he wasn't double fisting the jambon iberica and shouting at women passing on the footpath below. A successful app - sell a few million at 99c each and retire is the plan - would enable him to import his own pigs and avoid hassles with middle-men, like the chef at Uno Mas.

So anyway, WHY can't E@L hear anything on the E61i? Is it an E61i problem or an E@L problem?

Today he was at a health screening clinic with his employment. People were getting complete insurance check-ups, including a simple hearing test. Naturlich E@L asked for a freebie; hearing test that is.

"Sure, no problems," they said in Japanese (it is a Japanese clinic in HK).

Result: that Led Zeppelin concert in 1973 has a LOT to answer for... All the high frequencies are gone, lost forever in the cacophony of conversations from all around. E@L finds it really hard to follow what people are saying as soon as there is any background noise.

Bummer. Still, it doesn't help him decide what phone to buy next. One thing though, it will have to be a LOUD one.


Fuck Off Chinese Blogspot

What the fuck is this!?!?!?!?

Fuck off with the chinese orredy! It has taken me about 250 freaking clicks to get to where I can fucking read the instructions on my own blog! Hey, blogger, would you fuck off with the lcoal language bullshit. I had the same trouble in Dubai, the same trouble in Thailand. Check the default language for my profile you wnakers!



Clicking randomly on these chinese characters, I think I may have marked my own blog as a politicaly suspect site - a red flag appeared there, somewhere! Oops, wonder what that means? Back to the old blog?


OK, so I may have been out with Spike and HKPhooey at Uno Mas (the old Klong, for those of you of my vintage) - great tapas, great beer, poured into a little glass bowl/cup - and then out with others (scarey, when the Sticky Fingers band started playing their Queen medley: "Ooooh, I want to take you home tonight" three Western fat bottomed girls women [lovely people but technically 50'ZDs] turned their big moo-cow eyes towards me... longingly... desperately...), and overall I drank way too much to be able to focus or you or them, or indeed take anyone home, and of course I have to work tomorrow...

That's HKPhooey pouring a beer...

Recommended - Uno Mas, I mean!... not drinking too much when you have to work next day!


Thursday, February 26, 2009

HK for a Few Days

Beautiful clear skies. Excellent steak at, mmm, where was that brilliant restaurant agaan? Ah, that's right... Woollomooloo in LKF. I had Boeuf en Croute, aka on the menu, Beef Wellington - how 70's is that? Nice Shiraz, too, Leeuwin Estate.

I'm in my heaven, all's right with the world.

Cheers, you lot.

However, I haven't had a chance to get down to Wanchai and catch up with all the bad boys, do the expat vortex thing yet. Might not, in fact, as I have limited time.

I did get to see where my restaurant group is putting in its next venue. It's at the top of 256 Hennesey Rd, new building next to Caltex House - we will have a rooftop bar area. This is the view:

Not bad, eh? Stop drooling you people, just get up there and spend money, let's kick start this economy, Wooloomooloo restaurant by Wooloomooloo restaurant. This place should be open just before R7s, which, incidentally, this year, I may not be attending. Working - in Pattaya of all places.

Speaking of steaks, I had an absolutely desengauno experience at the overpriced Brasserie Wolf in Singapore last Saturday night. I went there feeling like a nice chunk of fillet steak, and after I fucked up the order and asked for the *rib-eye fillet*, which is actually what I would called a *Scotch fillet*, though I really wanted was a *tenderloin fillet*, which is what I would call an *eye-fillet*...

... and got something that looked like it had been boiled last Thursday and reheated in a microwave this afternoon, with the XX grill grid just painted on as an afterthought. I sent it back (nearly in tears) and got a smaller, thicker version of the same sad thing. Neither piece of meat sported that "just grilled" flavour, the crisp caramelised juices on the outer surface of a recently heat-seared piece of steak which makes your mouth water... This was dead cow. Grey, sad, horrible. Worst steak(s) I have ever had.

The Woolies steak tonight, need I say it? was superb.

There are only two people who can a steak the way I like it: me and the guy at Woolies. OK, OK, Greg from the upcoming Chilis in Singapore, he can BBQ a mean EYE fillet.


p.s. did I mention that I have an slight financial interest in the Wooloomooloo restaurant group?

p.p.s. no vegemite at the Excelsior breakfast buffet!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Harry Nicolaides Freed

Harry Nicolaides was pardoned on Thursday. I missed that. Great news, except to hear that his mother has had a stroke. No doubt due to stress.

Yet another slap in the face to the guy who should never been arrested.

Yet another kick in the balls to the credibility of Thailand. Sending refugee-seekers off to die in boats, jailing a guy for telling five (seven?) people what everyone in Thailand already knows: their Prince is a sleaze-bucket.


Oscar Drama: Results Revealed

No they weren't. I'm bullshitting you.

But, like who would give a fuck if they were?

Even if the kids from the Slumdogs of Mumbai/Delhi/Kalicut/wherever win gold-plated Rolls-Royces, there's still going to be a squillion desperate poor people living under plastic and tin sheets in 6' by 7' hovels (with televisions), shitting and pissing on the side of the road in India, dying of malnutrition and simple, preventable, treatable diseases, and I won't be watching the Oscars.

Even if Kate Winslet wins for "Best Tits in Holocaust Movie" the attempted genocide of Jews will have been committed by more or less literate Germans (and if not actually assisted, then certainly not hindered by people like the future saint Pope Pius XII) and nothing can change history, unless it is more convenient when making a movie of that history to change it a bit. In the book, the Winslet character, a German worker at Auschwitz, uh-huh, learns the truth about the extent of the Holocaust through the books she studies while learning to read, Primo Levi and the like, while in the movie she reads benign shite like, what, Jane Austen?, and I won't be watching the Oscars.

Even if a drunk, naked Hugh Jackman falls off-stage, piercing his genitalia on the steel bras of Madonna Ciccione, I won't give be watching the Oscars. Well maybe I'd catch that on YouTube once the fuss had died down.

Because like most Dog-fearing, anti-gambling, anti-globalism, anti-AynRand atheists, I couldn't give a shit in a shopping-bag made of American Express cards about the fucking Oscars. If the movies are any good, no doubt I'll hear about it elsewhere, and then I'll pick them up in a market Soi next time I'm in Bangkok.

And if the movie houses crumble, as at least some seem to be doing, either let Obama bail them out or let the free market save them.


Saturday, February 21, 2009

Woke Up This Morning,,,

And found that on top of all my unpaid tollways fines in Sydney last year, I also have a chance to assist the Victoria Police in making their budget.

Doing 107km/h (read 109km/h) in a 100km/h zone.

I licence demerit point, $142 fine, plus a $33 processing fee from Hertz.

Damn. Like 107 on 6 lane freeway is fast and/or dangerous...

Another tourist trap - Australians take their speed limits seriously.


So Den De' Money Run Out...

In answer to Momentary Madness's Alabama 3 blues videos, here's an Australian version of some ole timey song (Sleepy John Estes, did he say?) called 'Ragged And Dirty' - which is how we're all going to be before this L shaped recession is over...

Does the interview bit from 3:15 on sorta re-tell the story of the current economic crisis or what?

Man, C.W. Stoneking is just the out-of-this-world best...


As for his incredibly outback Australian accent (this is closer to how Hugh Jakcman should have been talking in "Australia - The Ad"), someone has commented on You-Tube: "He was born in Katherine to Californian hippie parents who met at a music festival. His parents went their separate ways and he grew up with his father who taught school at the Aboriginal community of Papunya."

Another YouTube comment: "Listening to C.W. is like being inside the coffin at a funeral march in New Orleans."

When I heard him on the radio (TripleR, not TripleJ) last year, I thought I noticed an extra layer of Mississippi drawl (for the public perhaps)...


Thursday, February 19, 2009


Image of In the CutImage of Christine FallsImage of The Girl With The Dragon Tatoo Image of The Courage Consort

Yes, it's been one of those "Please wait in the corridor" kind of weeks.

Plus I don't like Kuala Lumpur AT ALL (Truly Asia = truly shitehole) and my hotel is a shithole, (a shithole within a shithole!) so I just sit in various nasi padang restaurants and coffee shops by myself reading in the evenings.

Productive. Only 3500 books in my library to go.


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Vignettes From The Career Of E@L

Malaysia 2009

A 7-8 year old boy sits back on his mother's lap, facing inwards, towards her with his legs astride. A Womans magazine is laying open across the front of her chest. The boy is explaining each page to her with the brash confidence of his innocent youth, gesticulating and pointing to the things he sees as he turns each page; makeup, perfume, whatever... His imagination in full flight, his creative powers growing stronger. The mother is looking in his eyes, she tries to suppress a smile, she is going 'uh-huh' and 'mm-mmm' as he lectures to her.


Strangely, a bell rings with a strong clear note. E@L hears people give a small cheer, a prayer of thanks. He looks up from his book. A bell? What the...? It is the ring of a real bell, a big one, maybe 20cm high and 15cm across; he see it now, a ship's bell hanging from a supporting frame off a column in the waiting room. E@L hadn't noticed it when he came in. Why would you notice a bell in such a place, a fertility clinic? It's not something you would expect. You might see 'something' vaguely and not be aware of what is in your vision. You can't be aware all of everything all the time. A bell!

The Nurse who rang the bell is smiling at E@L, and nodding - as if that explains anything.

"Someone is pregnant," says his colleague. "A positive pregnancy test."

E@L wonders if ringing the bell is an old Malay tradition at weddings or honeymoons, or whenever it is couples announce get successfully impregnated the more traditional way. Weird really, this getting pregnant but not from fucking.

It is a big deal, going by the murmer of approval that ripples through the crowded waiting room, it's a bell-ringing ocassion!


Beijing 1998

Cleaners advance though the exhibition aisles like a machine. A dark-skinned leathery faced man at the front of the group sprays the dust and dirt with a mist of water from a container on his back, like a fire-fighter. Two older ladies behind him use wide-beamed two-handled mops made of v-shaped flat boards to spread what is now mud across the width of the floor from booth to booth. A thin layering of moist scum left behind them dulls the surface of the linoleum which was previously clean in at least some spots.

"That's not really doing much in the way of, like, effective cleansing," observes Bruce, standing on the elevated booth platform. He enounces the syllables clearly: 'EEE-feck-tive'.

"It's not so much a cleaning, as a redistribution of muck." says E@L.

He stands beside the old hand Bruce, learning the ropes. It is E@L's first trip to China.

"If only they could redistribute their wealth as efficiently as they redistribute their filth," says Bruce.


In the old Beijing airport two days later, E@L idly watches another cleaner leaning on her hinged dirt-shovel and her rubbish trolley. She is staring into space, day-dreaming. Then she notices that E@L is watching her and she stands up straight with a start.

While still holding eye contact, she casually bends forward to pull an empty Snickers wrapper from her bin. She then throws the wrapper onto the floor in front of her and, as if under a spell, moves forward to sweep it up with her hinged dirt-shovel.

It is only after this that she looks away and rolls her trolley off to clean another part of the terminal, leaving E@L even more bemused than he would have thought possible.


India 1999

A rainstorm threatens to flood the huge marquee where the exhibitors are stationed. The booths are all raised on platform 3-4 inches above the floor (actually a car-park) but the electricity cables run on ground level underneath the booths and out into the various walkways towards the electricity generators. A conference official calls out to some of the laborers who had assembled the marquee and the booths and who have remained hanging around looking for jobs as general gofers, extremely poor and desperate slum or street dwellers, they are paid a pittance for their labor.

He makes them lie down across the doorways to the marquee. They act as human sand-bags to staunch the rush of rain water into the marquee. Exhibition visitors have to step over them to go in or out of the tent.

This lasts about 2 hours, until the rain has eased and the threat of flash flooding has receded.


E@L is thirsty and his mouth fired up after the curry luncheon. All week serves of drinking-water have been supplied in small sealed containers, like you get on planes. It is the last day of the conference. He is talking to a German colleague as he grabs some water, failing to realise that it is an ordinary open topped plastic cup.

"Did you see vair zat come schfrom?" asks K.

"What?" asks E@L.

"Ze vorter, it was not in ze normal containers. Zey must have run out."

E@L leans over to look behind the flap of the marquee. A man is scooping water into cups from an open blue-plastic 40gallon barrel in the sun.

"Oh shit," he says. His cup is empty, he has swallowed all the water without thinking.

On the plane later that evening, it hits him. The world contracts, his vision narrows, sweat breaks out on his lip, on his forehead. He has an aisle seat in Business Class. He just makes it to the toilet in time.

Oh shit, indeed.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Wine Hawker

OK, I've gotten to the point were I really enjoy much of the Singaporean food on offer in hawker centres. For quit a while I'd not been enjoying the hawker centre food. I'd gotten a bad food poisoning from some nasi padang at a temporary Kopitiam near Bugis Junction one time and been very wary ever since.

Having said that, a friend once was HOSPITALIZED with food poisoning from a McDonald's here in Singapore, so nowhere is safe. At least you don't risk cholera too much, as you do in Hong Kong's island eateries...

I've always been a fan of regional Chinese and of Thai and Indonesian food, not to mention Indian, but my appreciation of the mix in Singapore has been growing only slowly. Not sure why. The whole concept of the small shops only confused me. Maybe that's because it's like finding a reliable winery and a favorite grape, not to mention a stand-out vintage… you have to keep on the go testing and tasting and keep an ear open, something which I never did. As a result of my lack of research, I'd grab some char kway teoh or chicken rice from just any old stall and… I end up not being impressed.

Unfortunately, living so near Newton Circus Hawker Centre has also impeded my gastronomic progress as well. I was always told it was a shithole - all you can get are the common or garden murtabak and various cookie-cutter fish/prawn/crab dishes, all overpriced, and the place is noisy and smoky and the constant touting (even though banned) is bloody annoying. But, hey, when it's 9pm and I haven’t eaten, off I'd go for a short walk and there's some convenient fast Chinese food. I'd walk through the place with my headphones in, blasting out the touts with some Audioslave - "Somedays Ain't So Easy"… grab some fried rice with salted fish and some cereal prawn and be relatively happy (two large Tigers as well of course).

But now I realize not only is the place physically horrible (despite the recent multi-million dollar "upgrade") but there is nothing interesting to eat. There is nothing different or original or even particularly Singaporean about this place. Just to get a *laksa* you have bargain and cajole because it's often not on the menu. There is no fish-head curry, no Hainan chicken rice, no herbal chicken…

Don’t bother with it.

My familiarity with the Singaporean cuisine and , um, cookin', and the corresponding fascination with it has grown by going to lunch with the office staff a lot more often than I first did and by listening to their recommendations. OK, it’s only to the various Kopitiams in Harbourfront and Vivocity, or across the way to, um what's that food court's name?, the one opposite the still empty Merrill-Lynch building.

A few times I have gone out with local food-lover PC and some others to places like the Geylang eateries, to the Old Airport Rd and Maxwell Road Food Centres and have always found something fascinating, delicious and worthwhile. (Problem at Maxwell Road - which has some fantastic stalls - is that most of the chairs are fixed in the ground and so close to the table that my fat belly doesn’t allow me to sit comfortably. Which is a pity, because it is here that Anthony Bourdain recommends chicken rice.)

There is one GENERAL crucial problem with food centres though, one that affects everybody, not just people with huge peri-abdominal spare-tyres and Hugh Jarses.

There is nothing to drink except beer (with or without ice). OK, there's coke and twenty types of iced tea, and fresh sugar-cane juice, but I mean DRINK, like alcohol...

You know what I'm talking about. That's right; there is NO WINE for sale. Wine is not traditionally associated with hawker food, so it has never been available.


Another thing that I've found terrific about Singapore in recent times is - how ironic! -the growing Trendy Wine Bar culture. Wine bars and wine shops are popping up everywhere, some terrible, some really good. It's great to see, it give me a lot more option for conversational evenings (or afternoons on the weekend) , and makes me think that Singapore is finally growing up.

Aside: Comment from a sales-person at one the now ubiquitous Denise wine-shoppes: "This one is a bargain. It's a Cabernet-Shiraz-Merlot blend- you get three wines for the price of one!" Ah thanks, but no thanks - your incisive knowledge of viticulture has scared me off… NOT!

Unfortunately my sinuses no longer allow to drink too much red wine these days so I don’t venture out on the vino as often I once would have done. I know it's the preservative in them, but what can I do - some have it some don’t and not all the labels mention their additives. I tend to start with white anyway, not because I am girly-man, but because the non-chardonnays tend not to have so much of the sulphur dioxide (preservative 220).

Nevertheless, when Dempsey Hill first took off, before it got full up with yuppies and tai-tais and banker-wankers, the original bars of Wine Company and Wine Network were great escapes and I used to love going there. You could sit amongst the tall trees, look up to see stars (not a lot, but certainly more than Hong Kong) and hear birds singing, feel the mountain mosquitoes biting, grab a nice bottle of either South African or Western Australian wine and pretend that blighted neon shopping-mall hell of Orchard Rd was a million miles away, not just a few hundred yards.

But I can't drink without a snack…

… and the snacks at ALL of the wine-bars I have visited were and still are just plain terrible. Absolutely shocking.

Cubes of cheap dry cheeses pierced with a toothpick, dehydrated pizza-ettes, a variety of boiled frankfurters… What is this, the seventies in suburban Melbourne? It's like a scene from "Ice Storm". I feel I should be wearing earth-tone clothing and beads.

When there is a real restaurant attached to the wine bar, such as Wine Company @Evans (and very good food it is!), it has a predominantly (but not exclusively) Western menu. Despite the opportunity, they have decided to go with the cliché that wine needs Western food…

Conclusion: generally the food on offer in most wine bars is a disgrace to Singapore, this supposed foodie hub of Asia.


Two problems - where there is good food, there is no wine. Where there is a reasonable choice of wine, there is really bad food, and certainly limited Singaporean food...

What is needed?

Well, I guess you could try a wine bar that serves -a range of Singaporean hawker snacks but I have a feeling that would be messy. You'd have to think of a new way to structure the delivery of the dishes, so you don't get food all over your cool wine-drinking clothes.

Tell you what would be better, a wine stall in a hawker centre!

Yes, brilliant! Why has this not happened before?

I guess it's that word I used above - TRADITION. Singaporeans have never consumed wine with hawker food. The perception is that wine should be taken only with a proper restaurant meal, which may indeed be Chinese, Thai, Malay or anything, either that or else in a wine-bar, with these shitty European snacks from some hippy time warp, not with our wonderful spicy, oily, sweet, fatty, fishy, noodles and rice.

Why not?

Why not offer the chance matching hawker food to a range of wines? Let's think out of the box!

Anyone got any money to help set me up?


Yes, so that's what I'm going to do - I'm going to get a wine import license and a hawker stall license and set up my stall in Maxwell Road (or maybe somewhere with air-con, or somewhere at least where my arse fits on the seat) and make a fortune selling wines to tourists and locals to match the marvellous Singaporean dishes!

What to match with Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice, for example, when you've waited in that inordinately long queue. I am thinking something fresh; a nicely chilled Pinot Grigio perhaps… But friends will then say I am always thinking Pinot Grigio these days. Oh well whatever...

So, happy drinking to you all! I am in KL in Malaysia at the moment, the food is great... but wine, what's that?


Sunday, February 15, 2009

Waif: Longfellow

THE day is done, and the darkness
Falls from the wings of Night,
As a feather is wafted downward
From an Eagle in his flight.
I see the lights of the village
Gleam through the rain and the mist,
And a feeling of sadness comes o'er me,
That my soul cannot resist;

A feeling of sadness and longing,
That is not akin to pain,
And resembles sorrow only
As the mist resembles the rain.

Come, read to me some poem,
Some simple and heartfelt lay,
That shall soothe this restless feeling,
And banish the thoughts of day.

Not from the grand old masters,
Not from the bards sublime,
Whose distant footsteps echo
Through the corridors of Time.

For, like strains of martial music,
Their mighty thoughts suggest
Life's endless toil and endeavour;
And to-night I long for rest.

Read from some humbler poet,
Whose songs gushed from his heart,
As showers from the clouds of summer,
Or tears from the eyelids start;

Who through long days of labor,
And nights devoid of ease,
Still heard in his soul the music
Of wonderful melodies.

Such songs have power to quiet
The restless pulse of care,
And come like the benediction
That follows after prayer.

Then read from the treasured volume
The poem of thy choice,
And lend to the rhyme of the poet
The beauty of thy voice.

And the night shall be filled with music,
And the cares that infest the day
Shall fold their tents like the Arabs,
And as silently steal away.

Found in this essay of Art For Art's Sake (Poetic Principles) by Edgar Allen Poe.

Wow. This hits my emo nail on its precocious head. Looking back on the post I put up the other day... what a maudlin piece of crap I forced upon you, gentle readers.

My apologies. I'm off to read a poem or two.

(And see if I can reallt feel any of it. Or should I just have another glass of wine?)


Saturday, February 14, 2009

Books Books More Books -- In The Cut

It's not an obsession, or a sense of the inadequacy in my own understanding or intelligence that drives me to keep buying books. Books I will never read, because my genetic lottery ticket will hit BINGO when I am 57 or so.

Hey, I COLLECT books. Like a doll-collector collects dolls, like Corben Bernsen collects glass snow-ball thingies.

People don't say to collectors, "Man, have you READ all those dolls?" Or, "Are you smart enough to understand all those snow-ball thingies?"

My futile answers of the past were corny lines like, "I planned to read them at the time I bought them", or (my personal fave), "I am intelligent enough to WANT to understand them..."

Part of it started with how I idolized those 'art for art's sake' authors like Joyce and Beckett when I was younger. Obsessed, I so desperately WANTED to get it, whatever the fuck they were raving about. I took them all way seriously. I thought they knew all the meanings they had planted in their works. For years, I'd only buy experimental fiction, non-popular stuff that's even WAY more unpopular these days, with a few (one lately deceased) exceptions. I thought these wonderful men and women (does anyone have a copy of Ann Quin's Three, or Tripticks, to complete my collection of her books?) must KNOW and UNDERSTAND pretty much everything they write - before they write it down, right?

"I know my song well before I start singing," as Dylan said.

Before I could write anything, I'd need to know and understand everything too. (I fear that people will trip me up on factual or interpretative errors in even this bullshit post for example.)

So I started a quest. These days, I'm trying to re-balance my collection which was way swayed early on there, so now I'm trying to avoid buying anything that's contemporary (you know the newly discovered, just released, best book ever written, like the stupid things I just bought by [over hasty assessment coming up!] Roberto Bolano) and anything from America or England. Hence my mid-20thC European focus at the moment. Particularly the neglected and/or suppressed writers from Russia during the Stalin regime.

So now, with such a coolly intellectual, non-spur-of-moment plan, I can justly say, "I am a collector."

I polish the spines, dust the uppermost edges, sit back and admire them. My books, my pets, my babies.


However, I'm going to have to make an exception from that plan almost straight away. After looking at my books for a few minutes, I put on a movie.

I just watched the 2003 movie In The Cut again. "Meg Ryan does sick porn", is what you're thinking, right?

Isn't it great!

My first copy of this was a handi-cam pirate edition from Shenzen, which was crap to watch and the distortion so distracting. Now I have a bona-fide DVD, legitimately purchased from the art collection movie in the pirate DVD store in Fortune Tower, Bangkok, and I find much of the defocused distortion was intentional, but I don't think it's crap anymore.

Yeah, I think instead it might be time for a re-appraisal of this movie. It only rates 5 point something on the IMDB poll - it a way better movie than that would indicate. Maybe the Moral Minority did a spam on the IMDB numbers or something, because it rocks.

True, I enjoyed it immensely. OK it was porno in the sense that hey, that was a *real* blow-job, etc... But it was also such a great psycho-murder mystery with a dark, as I said, often defocused vision. Great shaky-cam work too which I didn't find it intruding for once. (Zizec is SO right about movies being a voyeuristic thing - shaky-cam plays to that perception of you being there very well.) Aside: Kevin Bacon in a weirdo red-herring role was just terrific with this intense borderline personality emotional manipulation, "love me or the dog dies" sort of thing - it was almost a send-up of his other similar roles.

Just Meg Ryan though, wow, she was in another place, a dark, dark place. She lusts, but she no trusts. That man/woman thing, that war between the sexes, it's no holds barred here. Men are nasty sex-obsessed bastards and liars, woman use sleaze and sex as weapons (about the only song I would have like added to the soundtrack) and everyone is, if not evil at best rude to each other. But it's actually a well-contrived near tragedy - Poetry Ads on the train send chorus-like messages. All the characters are flawed, or presumed flawed by the "I like to be ironic" Frannie (Ryan). There is subtle feminism too, with Frannie teaching Woolf's "To The Lighthouse" - an obviously phallic RED lighthouse i drawn on the board, only to reappear in reality at the end - a book in which nothing happens except "one lady dies", as a student comments in her urban English Lit class. An asnwer, a statement of Woolf's call for more artistic recognition for women. The two lead female characters, Ryans's Frannie and her half-sister, JJ Leigh's Pauline, live alone. A room of one's own, geddit? However, when men are as seen to be as sick as this, is it safe to be alone?

Yet somehow, something like love comes through, a twisted love to be sure, in a sad, sick, extremely dangerous world. The final scene presents a pretty amazing, very disturbing tableau.

OK, I'm sick too, I liked it. What I mean by 'like' is that I RESPECT the moviemakers' intention, and I felt that it succeeded - it spooked me, it shocked me, it aroused me... What more do you want? A car-chase? This was much more like Klute (mm, the similarities have just struck me on draft 3 of this) than being of the Se7en ilk.

But the sex scenes with Meg and Mark Ruffalo, obviously filmed by a woman and from a woman's novel, were the most sensual things she's ever done. And pretty much I've ever seen (without paying $5.95 per month - if only I could remember my password). And I doubt she or anyone were faking these orgasms (but not to the Short-Bus to Base Moi level where there are genuine(ish) money-shots).

Aside: Susanna Moore, who wrote the book and the screenplay (with director Jane Campion), is, I note with no small amount of irony, in one of the NYRB classics I mentioned the other day, having written the introduction to Twenty Thousand Streets Under The London Sky."

In case you missed my point, I enjoyed this movie very much, in the way I enjoyed Se7en, which was much more contrived and blockbuster movie-like - including a chase scene - but this one is more human, more harsh, more realistic and even more bleak if that is possible. Of course now I'm heading out to try and get a copy of Susanna Moore's book in Kinokuniya or Borders.


Because I want to have what SHE'S having.


Friday, February 13, 2009

Just What I Need Next!

Gotta love The Onion!


Ah, my picture, he gone.

Looks like there's another of those cock-ups at Google. Blogger isn't showing any picture - you may, duh'rrr, have already noticed this at your Blogger blogs.

Getting one of those "you look like an automated robot request therefore we are denying access" screens whenever I try to look at pictures on my, or most other people's, websites.



A friend in Melbourne took the day off to head to the volunteer station to try help out with the fire relief effort and, for family reasons, he expended his efforts at the Salvation Army clothes disposal centre, sorting stuff donated for those who have lost everything in the bushfires. People who ran away from their houses with only the clothes they had on. [And as the temp was 48degrees, that wouldn't have been much.]

When they came back to see or hear of the bad news, everything they had, gone. In flames, in a furnace, burnt away to ash. Except for hope, and faith in the basic goodness of human beings.

This has had a massive effect on the people of Victoria. This is the biggest, baddest thing ever.

While he was there, a call came out to all the Salvo centres. We need suits. Urgently, all sizes...

Suits? Why the blessed lord are suits needed?


A pause.

People will have to go to... funerals.

They have nothing to wear. Their clothes were lost, with everything else, their good clothes as well. Suits, please, to wear to the funerals of their loved ones, of their friends, of their families...


Suits. Suits coming up.

Within only a few hours hundreds of offers of suits came in from the good people of Australia.

Take this suit.

Respect and love to those who did not survive. Remember these days of loss.


Thursday, February 12, 2009

Darwin & The Fraternity of Infinite Monkeys

Perhaps one day we will not call evolution “Darwinism.” After all, we do not call classical mechanics “Newtonism.” But that raises the question of whether a biological Einstein is possible, someone who demonstrates that Darwin’s theory is a limited case. What Darwin proposed was not a set of immutable mathematical formulas. It was a theory of biological history that was itself set in history. That the details have changed does not invalidate his accomplishment. If anything, it enhances it. His writings were not intended to be scriptural. They were meant to be tested. NYT

My mother, being somewhat "old school", doesn't believe we were descended from monkeys. "Oh you young people think you're so smart", she would say. Young like Darwin, who was about my age when he published OtOOTS?

Mind you, she doesn't have the internet, where talking monkeys are rampant...

For instance, in one study involving the decoding of 3 billion bits of the chimpanzee genome, researchers found that the chimp and human genome are 99% identical in regions that both share. The remaining 1% amounts to 40 million differences that the investigators refer to as “40 million evolutionary events that separate us and them.” Missing from their write-up was the explanation of how evolution caused the separation.

As was true for common morphological and embryological features, common genes is [sic] no more evidence of evolution and common descent than it is of an intelligent Agent and common design. Neither does it illustrate how evolution best explains the noted similarities and differences. The Point

Yes, whenever there is something we don't yet understand, God did it. The flaw with such an argument is that as that list of unexplained problems continues to shrink, the necessity for God diminishes too.

Anyway, off for a buffet dinner in honour of Charles Darwin - a natural selection would be good. Some primordial soup to starts things off...


Born Free

JAKARTA - AN INDONESIAN court rejected on Wednesday a civil corruption case against the youngest son of ex-president Suharto involving the alleged misuse of US$400 million (S$603 million) in state funds.

The Central Jakarta district court cleared Hutomo Mandala Putra, popularly known as Tommy Suharto, of government allegations that he illegally sold off assets to avoid paying debts to the state.

'The panel of judges reject all accusations filed by the plaintiff (the Indonesian government) against all defendants,? judge[punctuation sic the STonline] Reno Lestowo told the court, adding that a countersuit filed by Tommy was also rejected.

The government had alleged that Tommy illegally sold off assets from troubled car importer PT Timor to five of his companies at a discount to avoid paying off state loans made to Timor during the 1997 Asian financial crisis.

The civil suit filed in May last year alleged Tommy defrauded the government of $400 million by failing to pay off the loans to the business, which imported South Korean cars and changed their labels to make them appear as if they were made in Indonesia.

The reputed favourite son of the late Suharto enjoyed insider access to business deals during the crony capitalist years leading up to the Asian financial crisis and his father's 1998 fall from power.

Tommy successfully fought off a separate $61 million civil corruption case against him in February 2008, winning $550,000 in a countersuit.

One of six children, the former playboy also served just a third of a 15-year jail term for ordering the murder of a Supreme Court judge in July 2002. He was released in October 2006. -- AFP

... as free as the wind blows
As free as the grass grows
Born free to follow your heart

Live free and beauty surrounds you
The world still astounds you
Each time you look at a star

Stay free, where no walls divide you
You're free as the roaring tide
So there's no need to hide

Born free, and life is worth living
But only worth living
'cause you're born free

(Stay free, where no walls divide you)
You're free as the roaring tide
So there's no need to hide

Born free, and life is worth living
But only worth living
'cause you're................ born.................. rich
In a completely corrupt country which your father used to run.


A Whiter Shade Of Pale Blue

No, you are not imagining it. This blog HAS been tweaked.

Constant Lurker Muz (so HE's the one!) asked for a change and hey, presto.



Bull Wang Gib You POWER!

File this under Travellers' Warning.

Yesterday's mood distortion was not caused by a batch of fake Cialis from Thailand, though some was offered to me on the street last time I was in Bangkok.

"Where you go? Body massage, girl, DBD porno, Viagah, Chalice?" is the chant of the superfluous tuk-tuk drivers along Sukhomvit Rd as they accost me on each Soi corner. Meanwhile I try to avoid stepping on the ragged women beggars, sitting cross-legged by the steps to the train, drugged children comatose on their laps. And try to avoid twisting my ankle on the Indiana Jones-like stepping-puzzle they call a footpath here.

Rather than the usual worn fold-up ad for a three-girl soapie and massage, the tuk-tuk driver may hold open a plastic bag, showing me the blue or orange box of the potency drugs.

I don't buy anything from these guys. No matter what you do or where go on a tuk-tuk these days, you will be ripped off. When I first came to Thailand they were a legitimate form of transport, much cheaper, faster and more available than taxis. Now, with the traffic at lock-jaw levels, tuk-tuks are just as stuck as ordinary cars. And they charge enormous amounts of money. Demands of 200Bht for a trip that would cost 45Bht in a A-C taxi are not to be believed. A motor-cycle taxi is the only way for serious commuters to weave through the cars, though chances of smashing a knee are pretty high. As often as possible, I take the sky-train.

Tuk-tuk drivers can only make their money by scamming you, the wide-eyed, wet-eared tourist. Selling erectile dysfunction medication is their latest beat.

On the odd occasion I might have made discreet purchases of ED drugs while travelling, it would have been in a "legit" pharmacy in Bangkok while getting a top up on my other medications: blood pressure, cholesterol and nerve-pain. Mmm, I hope they were legitimate drugs (Don't we? You know who!) I bought. They certainly cost enough - like full price, but without the added cost and embarrassment of seeing a physician to get a 'script.


I can't bring myself to get some here. I imagine my cute female GP asking me, "How much do you need? When will you use it? How often?"

What am I going to say - the truth?

"I don't KNOW, I DON'T KNOW! Cheeerist woman, leave me alone with your incessant cataloguing of my personal failures! I KNOW I AM OVERWEIGHT, alright!? I KNOW that's the cause of almost all my problems, alright! I just need to have some Viagra handy in case I get so despairing in my pathetic lonely existence that I am prepared to suffer the ignominy and shame of picking up a bored and desperate Triad-run hooker in the ultra-sleazy 4FoWs and attempt to have sex with her even I don't even know or like her and she speaks no English and when I can't get it up... again... I'm a failure because I've wasted $250 not to mention taxi fare, and my life is shit, I don't know why I even bother breathing...!"


OK, moving on.... I think we can all agree it'd be for the best if I pick the occasional batch up when I get to Thailand and avoid that scene all together, right?...


So this article in the New England Journal Medicine is a bit of a warning:

An Unusual Outbreak of Hypoglycemia

Pasted from NEJM

To the Editor: The off-label use of drugs for the enhancement of sexual performance in persons without erectile dysfunction is a phenomenon that is increasingly recognized.1 These drugs are available in illegal forms, including counterfeit versions of brand-name drugs for the treatment of erectile dysfunction and purported herbal remedies containing synthetic phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors.2 We describe an outbreak of severe hypoglycemia in Singapore; this outbreak was associated with contamination of illegal sexual-enhancement drugs with glyburide.

Between January 1 and May 26, 2008, a total of 150 nondiabetic patients with severe hypoglycemia were admitted to the five public hospitals in Singapore. All the patients except one were men, and they ranged in age from 19 to 97 years (median, 51). Seven patients remained comatose as a result of prolonged neuroglycopenia, and four subsequently died.

Glyburide was detected in blood or urine samples obtained from 127 of these patients (85%). On specific questioning, 45 patients (30%) admitted ingesting illegal sexual-enhancement drugs before the onset of hypoglycemia. Drug samples obtained from these patients and from drugs seized in police raids were analyzed by means of high-performance liquid chromatography. Four preparations were contaminated with glyburide in amounts ranging from 13 to 100 mg per tablet (Figure 1A). These drugs included a counterfeit of Cialis (tadalafil) and three herbal preparations for the purported treatment of erectile dysfunction (Power 1 Walnut, Santi Bovine Penis Erecting Capsule, and Zhong Hua Niu Bian).3 All four products also contained sildenafil in amounts ranging from 0.5 to 110.0 mg per tablet. Santi Bovine Penis Erecting Capsule and Zhong Hua Niu Bian also contained trace amounts of tadalafil and sibutramine.

Translation: Travellers in foreign climes be warned. The Cialis and crap Chinese copies/clones/competition you buy off the street in towns like Bangkok are pirated and could possibly contaminated by substances like glyoburil which is a diabetes drug that is harmful to non-diabetics. In Singapore, in a three month period in 2008, nearly 200 people were admitted to hosptial and four people died from these sprurious medications. There was a similar though more restricted experience in Hong Kong at around the same time. The NEJM article does not say where these medicines were purchased.

"Zhong Hua Niu Bian" means Chinese Bull Penis. "Saint Bovine" also hints at the non-herbal origin of the source of these pseudo-TCM's "Penis Erecting" power. [This just screams for a 'Truth In Naming' case-study.]

Of course, eating the (herbal) penis of any dead animal is a total waste of time in a pharmacological sense: a) they're really chewy, b) just don't. The TCM idea of like for like is patently illogical nonsense to my Western eye. Eat a big penis get a big penis? What a - dare I say it - wank.

Penis munchers, you might HYPNOTIZE yourself into a placebo effect, but note that these "herbal" products are also stuffed with various amounts of tadalafil (Cialis) and sildenafil (Viagra) which DO actually work in many cases of ED. So if some of these herbal remedies eventually work, it's because they are packed surreptitiously with the REAL medicine, not because of the TCM's magic properties!

But note too the potential dose range across the products seized: "All four products also contained sildenafil in amounts ranging from 0.5 to 110.0 mg per tablet." At least if you buy the genuine article you know that the dosage is going to be close to that stated on the package, and the results can be assessed in a reasonable light.

With any herbal concoction, not only are the doses basically random due to the typical slack QA at these snake-oil producers factories , there is also a higher risk of contaminants, such as occurred with the glyburide.

Of course these products were probably stamped together in a filthy backyard factory in Outer Nowheresville, China, perhaps near a slaughterhouse for a steady supply of bull products. They could contain anything, and usually do. The milk scandal is another case of un-policed Chinese regulations allowing producers to get away with, literally, murder.

If you would consider buying such drugs off the street you should first get a mirror and some Viagra eyedrops - then take a long, hard look at yourself.


Black Dog

As I left the supermarket tonight after doing my post-sashimi-dinner shopping, I felt a wave of immense sadness come over me. For no obvious reason, I felt like shit, like crying, like getting pissed on martinis all by myself. I got into a taxi without any delay and helped the driver navigate the tortuous route to my place, all of 500m away as the crow flies. I kept wondering why I would suddenly feel this hollow blackness throughout my gut. It still has not passed. My comments on other blogs tonight reflect the bitterness of my mood.

Was it merely bad sashimi? (Good name for a band?) Or that that plate of so-so sashimi was all that I had eaten all day (since breakfast, I mean)?

Was it something of the 'black dog' that afflicted that wonderful peacemaker Winston Churchill, something of the 'black veil' of Rick Moody [sic], something of the 'visible darkness' of William Styron? No, I am not the depressive type. I don't think. Probably why I am not as creative/productive as I should be - too busy having fun, mostly.

Was it the thought of all those people killed in the Victorian bushfires?

Was it that there was no-one in when I had come home earlier this evening? The house echoed a stillness. I hate being alone too long, the silence bugs me, that sense of rejection it implies, but I also crave the gratifying solitude I gain when I am rejecting someone who is sitting right near me. Go figure.

Was it that the Pub Quiz I was so looking forward to was cancelled as everyone is out of town except two of us. We need 5 to make the team and I only found out at the last minute - hence, no I didn't call you, and hence the sashimi and green tea dinner rather than fish'n'chips and multiple Kilkennys.

Was it because I didn't bring my iPod on the walk to the supermarket and had to listen to my own maudlin thoughts as I rambled up the street, rather than the wailing blues guitar of Buddy Guy (as I am now - a great version of Lay Lady Lay)?

Was it that one of my good buddies has to have surgery soon for a serious prostate condition and he is younger than me.

Was it that I am a just morose bastard? Sometimes this is true.

Was it that I am fat and horrible and ugly and a total bastard? That couldn't be it - hell, I revel in being such an anti-social anti-fashionable anti-stereotype... type.

Was it that there is a fucking Harry's bar everywhere you turn these days! I met the Harry's guy somewhere at a wine-tasting once. You can have too many Harry's Bars, trust me. Just like you can have too any franchises in general, too many Credit Default Swaps (overvalued cows), too many fatally flawed acquisitions, too many bad debts in your portfolio, too much hubris and bravado and pay too big bonuses to idiotically greedy CEOs...

Was it that there is an immense world depression around the corner and that no-one looks anywhere near like knowing what to do to prevent it?

Was it that I will no doubt lose big time on my purchase of a unit in Noosa? At least in the short term.

Was it that I laid out my revised book plot to Izzy (the flat-mate, remember her?) last night then went to bed and slept without writing any of it down. And the essence of the plot twist comes from a memory - I just realized that I had been a genuine bastard to someone once, and hardly even thought about it at the time. Probably ruined their life. No, it wasn't you.

Was it that I won't be going to Tokyo for the training in April after all, and miss some great food (the training will be crap and tremendously ad hoc as usual). (However No1 Son and GF will coming up to Singapore for a few days in April! I feel better already thinking about that! Except I have nowhere for them to sleep yet.)

Was it that I spent 3 hours this afternoon with my mouth stretched open while someone constructed some serious new infrastructre in there, the way Ivor Kants put together a maze of scaffolding inside Judy Morris's tiny bathroom in Peter Weir's 1979 gem The Plumber. I tried to wash out the noise with some iPodded Beethoven but it didn't work. The drill and the violin kept harmonizing in my sinuses... The partial cap that kept falling out over the last month or so was broken and had to be reconstructed - I had to sell some CDS to the tune of $1260 for the privelege.

Was it that the anaesthetics are wearing off and I am merely ill with my tooth's slow fading memory of the pain it felt but couldn't tell me about at the time.

Was it that I buy and buy all these fucking books without the possibility of ever reading them. Am I a fucking idiot? Currently a fan of pretty much anything published by New York Review of Books. Most of their mid 20th century lost European classics turned up on my desk yesterday, courtesy of Amazon. Fuck the current zeitgeist, take me back to Paris or Berlin with all the other expats, exiles and émigrés.

Was it that The Boss has just sent out an email reminding everyone (um, that'd be me) that office hours are 8:45 to 5:30 and asked everyone (um, that'd still be me) to honour them. The current Boss is about be upgraded with a new model, actually an older, more establishment guy and we are all quaking in our lazy boots. Turn up on time? What next, paperwork?

Or was it that the world truly is meaningless and shite and so are we all in despair if we have half a brain to recognize this, and that my blog is just a scrap of electronic toilet paper floating out to cyber-sea...


Actually I feel much better after typing all this. I feel like some emo teenage girl who has had a big heart-to-heart on Facebook with her closest 5,644 friends.

Who said catharsis sucks?

Ah, time for that martini.

And how was YOUR day?


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Aliens Caused The Bushfires?

While the list of missing* grows and the number of known dead rises in Victoria in the aftermath of the horrific bushfires, I wonder how much of the rage against supposed arsonists is due to the need to pin the blame for our collective grief on somebody, anybody...

I've heard of people blaming the former Howard Governement for not signing the Kyoto protocol, people blaming the "Greenies" for allegedly blocking the back-burning of forests as fire-breaks. Come on, get with it, people.

I just hope Australia doesn't go all limbic on us and, in their fury and frustration, publically lynch (or media-lynch or cyber-lynch) any innocent people in order to appease their righteous anger.

It has happened, and it could happen again: remember Azaria.

It was 48°+, the North wind was howling... of course fires will start - it's been that way in the Great Southern Land for multiple millenia.


Of course, maybe some idiot or idiots did start some of the fires... One of my flaws is that I always imagine people to be as moral and as ethical as myself (stop laughing, you up the back), but as George Steiner sort of said in my post the other day, you can scratch the surface of even your closest friend and find something alien under the skin. I believe that I would never do that, or that anyone I know would do such a thing. (But I believe I could never be a Nazi either. Psychological evidence suggests that maybe I could.)

Arsonists. They must be aliens. It just does not compute.


* It's hard not to cry while going through these photos for some reason... You have my permission to 'go all limbic' if you wish.

For The Quotation Section

People hardly ever make use of the freedom which they have, for example, freedom of thought; instead they demand freedom of speech as compensation. Lee Kwan Yue S. Kierkegaard.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Another Grand Vent on Coffee (Kopi)

The marketing wanker who came up with the idea (and took home a 7 figure bonus, no doubt) of the NAMING of the three cup sizes in Starbucks has a lot to answer for. Obviously (do I mean predictably?), on the odd occasion that E@L ventures into the realm of Seattle's other "best" coffee, he never uses the unnecessarily branded names for cup size, but insists on the generic: Small, Medium and Large. You have three sizes of cup, that's what they are called. Right?


Deal, supercilious hippyoid waiter dude, deal…


Today, sigh, E@L ventured into his old nemesis, the Wang kopi shop in Harbourfront, wondering what fresh hell they would drag him through this time.

- Kopi and kaya butter toast, take-away, he said.

- Kopi and kaya butter toast take-away, the serving girl repeated. Regular?

- Um, regular, he replied.

Fuck, is this a trick question? Regular would mean what you regularly get, yeah? The standard cup that you get when you just ask for kopi? Something out of the ordinary could not be called Regular. Right?


The kopi lady poured the blisteringly strong kopi into a LARGE mug, so that the sweetened condensed milk and the (secret recipe) evaporated milk (Carnation Brand) mix would be too diluted and E@L's coffee too strong.

- Is that a "regular" cup, he asked, distressed.

She nodded.

- Then what is this? he asked, pointing to the smaller cup, the one he'd 'regularly' get.

- That is "normal" cup sir, she replied.


REGULAR and NORMAL are the two choices one has for cup size. WTflyingF?

No wonder people kill other people.

It was only that the toast came promptly, correct as ordered, that E@L calmed down. Until he drank the kopi of course… Calm? (Shaking like a caffeine junkie…) What's that?


On the way to his profound muscle therapist the other day, E@L was early and yet had missed breakfast at home, so he ventured into the nearest breakfast place - Han's. Man big, mistake.

- Kopi and kaya toast please, he said.

- Normal kopi? the serving girl asked.

- Normal?

- With sugar?

- No, no, not sugar, he replied (They use sweetened condensed milk for kopi, right? No need for sugar. Right?)


She poured something into the paper mug, but obviously it was not sweetened as he had to return to put some sugar in it, and he saw the toast woman put plain white bread into a toaster!

The toast for kaya butter toast should be wholemeal, it should be cut thick, and it should be slowly dehydrated on a low-flame open griller (something like the way Beckett's Belacqua Shuah immolates his toast in the first story in "More Pricks Than Kicks" - perhaps that similarity is why E@L is hooked on kaya toast: it's part of his old [finished, thank god] Beckett obsession).

So the kopi turned out to taste like coffee (E@L had to return for sugar!), even though it came from a sock, and there only ONE piece of soggy, white toast!

It was a horrible experience!


At the Changi airport, Terminal 2, there is a Ya Kun kopi shop. Arriving back in Singapore at 7 am the other day after two weeks away, in Bangkok and Dubai, E@L felt like a kopi kaya toast top up. Mmm, breakfast.

These guys practically invented the type of kaya toast that E@L likes (or so they say). They don’t fuck it up, right? They have the training routine, the experience, the skills. Right?


- Kaya toast no butter, said the SingaporeGirl in front of him.

- No butter, said the serving girl.

E@L was next up.

- Kopi and kaya butter toast, please, he said.

- Kopi, kaya butter toast, she said and gave him a plastic marker with the number 6 on it, to place on his table for the efficient delivery of the kaya butter toast.

E@L saw that the woman assigned to the toaster today looked an little nervy. She was the jumpy sort, quite older, perhaps nervous for hormonal reasons? She skittered about here and there, unsure what to do next as the wholemeal bread dehydrated nicely on the rack. E@L bent his head to his book...

- Number 6, she cried out a few minutes later and brought... some French toast towards him. He shook his head.

She went back to the counter, checked up the numbers and brought the French toast to another table.

- Sorry ah, toast come soon, she said as she scampered past E@L.

SingaporeGirl had left already, he noticed. She was cute, They're ALL cute, in a severe way, with the tied-back hair, the form-fitting uniform. He went back to the book, smiling.

- Number 6 for you, said the toast, lady laying the plate of four pieces of toast sandwich, butter and kaya (coconut) jam in the middle of a horizontally bisected thick slice, in front of him.

He ate the top two pieces. Crunch, smooth, sweet, warm toast, frozen butter… They were lovely. Then, when he bit into the third piece, the crumbly toast fractured and disarticulated into a mouthful of crumbs. It was dry, totally. No kaya jam, no butter. So was the last piece. He nearly choked. He swallowed the last of the kopi to wash the crumbs down.

- No butter, no kaya in this, he called out, Auntie, this is dry toast! He brought the plate to the counter.

The girl at the till and the toast lady had a conversation in Singlish - part Mandarin, part Hokkien, part English - and were flashing toast orders between each other. He heard something about number 5, no butter, number 6 kaya toast, etc… The skittish woman had screwed up the order for no butter in her mind and ended up putting nothing at all on E@L's second piece of toast.

- One minute, we do again for you, sorry, ah! Toast lady had already put on another slice of bread on the griller.

E@L, with an empty kopi cup, decided not to bother.

- It's OK lah, no problem. Next time.

And he took a taxi home. The taxi driver was wide awake and did not try to kill him.


Just a Tick...

OK, enough with what's hot. Being up to date is so old-fashioned, so 1980, so last year, so 5 minutes ago, so last sentence.

I'm gonna view time from a longer perspective...

This clock ticks once a year, and the cuckoo only chimes each millennium.

I'm going to have to use this to monitor the progress on my novel (of which I had another brilliant plot inspiration on the crapper last night. The final twist, haha, will make it all come together! Haven't written it down yet... Ah fuck, what was it again?)


Reports of Blogging's Death May Have Been Exaggerated

... going by the number of posts I've put up today. Mind you, I also tidied up a Powerpoint and gave a 20 minute presentation to a hospital equipment selection committee. Like, work!

I also went to the gym.

And I heard that a friend in HK used to work with newsreader Brian Naylor, who died in the Victorian fires - 2 degrees of separation. But other than that, no-one I know is in those areas.

And I just heard some other extremely upsetting personal news from a good buddy.

So it hasn't JUST been a blogging day.


Everyone in Nacogdoches Knew Tom Hanks...

Is this what Dick was cryptically referring to in his comment to my post the other day?

I mentioned Dream Academy and Nick Drake by total coincidence as I was looking up stuff about John Martyn on Groundhog Day. Chris of EBiN, blogged about them on the 27 Jan 2009 for some reason known only to himself. Coincidence? Evil Perfidious Nefarious Bad Plot? Harmony of The Spheres? Blind Luck? OOTT?

Please, don't ask me how the Spirits of Blurfing channeled me to his site... All I know it that it started at Ingsoc.


[The title of the post comes from a Steve Earle song - except it's "Tom Ames" not Tom Hanks. But it sounded funny. At the time.]

Monday, February 09, 2009

The Economic Crisis. Moo.

It always used to bug me when the Government (Federal, State, whatever) would back-track on a promise, or impose some new draconian restriction, or sell-off some irreplaceable family jewelry with the blanket excuse that it was done (or not done, depending) in light of the *current economic conditions*.

Current? Aren't the economic conditions ALWAYS current, like happening NOW?

They would never say *the BAD economic conditions* because that would spook the market, but we all knew what "current" was an euphemism for: "going to hell in a handbasket". OR on the edge of going to hell in a handsbasket, most likely in a paddle-less canoe going up shit-creek, as that is where the current was taking most of us. It was this perpetual threat of, "Unless we do (or don't do, depending) this thing, OMG, it's going to be even MORE CURRENT than it is (or, by then, was) now!"

By the time I left Australia, despite being one of the best-paid allied health professionals in the country (working on a Public Health Government salary that is), I was going broke faster than a Bernie Madoff investor. For the last few days of each pay fortnight, I would living off canned soup and toast. I kid you not. Mind you that was canned Boston clam chowder and the toast had caviar on it, but nevertheless I was going broke due to my own *current economic micro-climate*.

Slave labour. That's the answer. Dump the union salaries, I read in this Washington Post article (free, sign-in required, syndicated to the ST, money required), in a piece of advice straight from a chapter in Naomi Klein's "Shock Doctrine." A factory workers pay-cut is just important for the recovery as restraining mega-billion payouts to the people who caused this crisis.

Such a practise has kept Singapore the clean, well-lighted golf-course that is is. Pay the maids and the building laborers and accoiutnants and clerical staff and radiographers absolute SHIT money!


The way I am reading the *current* financial crisis is that;

a) it was caused by the banks lending too much.
b) it can be overcome by the banks lending more.


Ah, here it is explained by the Nobel Prize-winning Two Cows Method:

You have two cows.

John Paulson borrows one cow so he can sell it for $100. He gives you $10 as collateral.

You buy your neighbors cow for $100, which you finance by taking out a $90 loan from the bank and use John's $10 to make up the rest.

You brag to everyone about your financial health. You have assets--two cows you own, plus one Paulson owes you--worth $300, and liabilities of just $100.

A third of the country goes vegetarian.

You thought your two cows were worth $200 and now they are worth $140.

You express confidence in your financial health. Your assets are now worth only $200--your two cows plus the one John owes you--but your liabilities are still only $100. If necessary, you could sell the assets at this distressed price and pay off all your loans.

You hold onto your cows because you are sure the market is "dislocated." Some day someone will want to eat beef again.

The rest of the country goes vegetarian. Your two cows are now worth $2 each to guys who want to make dog food.

John Paulson buys a cow in the market for $2 and he gives it to you as repayment of the loan. You now have three cows worth six bucks.

John wants his $10 back.

The bank calls. It wants its $90 back.

You call the Federal Reserve and ask for a bailout.

John Carney. Brilliant. And very *current*. Hat-tip to Alvin as usual.


My Youth

There was no courtship music when I was young. There was Prog and 'Eavy and then - suddenly! - there was Punk. Eeek! Just one excuse after another to hang in the corner w/ with the lads. Safety in numbers. School and college discos weren't no help neither - it was all Bachman-Turner-Overdrive, Jeff Beck's "Hi Ho Silver Lining", "Jet" by Wings, Genesis' "I Know What I Like" (yeah, just rub it in, Gabriel, whydontcha?), Bowie's "Jean Genie", Sabbaff's "Paranoid"...I mean, I'd kill to go to a disco like that now - but it just didn't...ah, shucks, you know...Disco was strictly for poofs, so it didn't get played and we all stuck to one side of the wall, chugging on our dad's hip-flasks and smoking Peter Stuyvesants, while the gurls stayed over on their side giggling and flicking their hair and pretending to be in Pan's People...a few brave strutting manchiks would brave no-man's land, but quickly return looking perplexed...
Kid Shirt

Something of my young days there.

Apart from Wings. Paul McCartney? What a ponce! He was like the snooty rich kid in "21up". Only John Lennon and George Harrison were acceptable ex-Beatles. And who are Pan's People?


Technorati sucks

Technorati Profile

Blogging Is Dead

Personal web-sites are dead.

Blogging killed personal websites.

Email-syndication is dead.

RSS killed email-syndication.

Blogging is dead.

Facebook killed blogging.

What will kill Facebook?


Sunday, February 08, 2009


In a fit of hubris, maybe thinking that new, benign powers were running the universe after the American election, I upgraded my (formerly Spike's) 2G iPhone to Firmware 2.2.1 and then Pwn'd it as per instructions... They promised a seamless upgrade, and so it seemed to be progressing until I looked at the top left corner where the Telco carrier logo should be. Nada. Not a thing. Zip.


I now have an ersatz iTouch.

Not quite the iBrick of legend, but still, a phone that refuses to recognize my SIM card and give me a phone signal, that ain't much of a phone.

As my friend said of her iTouch, "It does everything: MP3s, movies, games, WiFi... it's like a phone only you can't make calls."

Very much like my iPhone. It looks like a phone but it doesn't do calls.

Sigh. Back to the trusty Nokia E61i for the moment. Next purchase - the latest HTC Touch maybe.


When will I ever learn?

Anything but Apple.

Anyone want to buy my iMac? Think I'll just upgrade to a new monitor and upload Windows 7 to my old desktop PC. All I ever do is surf the internet with this iBeast anyway. It still strike me as slow, even with 2.8GHz processor. Programs still take forever to load. Things like the mouse and cursor correlation just seem to lag. As does the typing. I can't get a plain Folder view and show thumbnails of the contents (particularly useful for previewing porno). It a nano-sized difference but tangible to an hyperaesthete like me, and just plain annoying.

And whenever I want to do something like real computing I have to run Parallels and use MS Money or One Note on the PC side anyway as the corresponding Mac programs suck big time.


I'm in Kinokuniya today looking in the Literature section. I'm wondering why you can't buy the novels of Anna Kavan any more. She was so popular in the 70's. Now, she's lost. "Ice" was a terrific book. Global cooling, perpetual-victim-type heroine always falls for the bad guy, surreal images of fog and ice... I wouldn't mind reading it again. Nope, not here. Who's next?

There is a ladder right where the next author I am looking for (Lichtenberg) should be and another bookshelf starts right behind me, so where the ladder and I are, the aisle is blocked. Hey, I didn't design the place. Some guy wants to get past me from my right to my left. I squeeze up against the ladder, and he moves behind me. For a second I wait, my attention taken by the misplaced tomes - a Singapore booksellers' tradition I believe. Particularly egregious is how Louis-Ferdinand Céline's "Guignol's Band" has been placed on this L-section shelf... And of course, no Lichtenberg.

And so I step back a little, thinking that the guy must have passed me by now... and I stamp my left foot on the guy's toes. I raise my foot immediately, startled and glance half around. I am aware of him being about 3/4 behind me... he had been leaning forward to look over my left shoulder at the same section of shelf... I see that initially he has a sour look on his face, as if he has been attacked and offended. As we react, I have to step away a bit to my right, and he sort of hops to his left as well... I note, half-glancing at him as we both pretend to go back to looking at the books, that he still has a frown...

I mutter quietly; "Geeze, man I made a space for you, if you're going to walk past me, walk past, don't just hide behind me!"

He is saying almost subliminally something like "Yep, sorry", but not really... if he *was* saying he was sorry, I could tell he didn't mean it and that he actually blamed me for this misstep onto his toes. Maybe his toes hurt... Aw, diddums! Don't come complaining to ME about sore feet, I felt like saying. I have had painful feet for four fucking years... NON-STOP! I could tell you about sore toes, ya whinger! My tummy grumbles with hunger. I feel light-headed with hypo-glycaemia... Where is Izzy, we need to go for lunch?

I sigh and grumble, "Fucken' idiot," loud enough for him to hear me. He moves away. (Ooh the irritated ang moh swore! He must be racist!) Maybe the guy (yes he was Chinese) leaves the store - I don't see him again.

I take the Céline and go to the C-section... only to find all around Angela Carter four copies of Angel's Ashes by Frank McCourt. WFT? I take them back to the M-section.

Why is it after 4/5 years in Singapore I still want to hit three out of every five people I interact with?

I txt Izzy on the E61i: "need food". I meet her at the checkout...


Pink Nick V Drake Moon W

Wanna go for a drive?

I saw it written and I saw it say (?)
Pink moon is on its way
And none of you stand so tall
Pink moon gonna get you all
Its a pink moon
Its a pink, pink, pink, pink, pink moon.

Quote from Wikipedia: In 2000, Volkswagen featured the title track from Pink Moon in a television advertisement, and within one month Drake had sold more records than he had in the previous thirty years.

Note that "Drake" hadn't actually sold them himself, personally, as he was long dead.

Dead dead dead dead Drake.


Nick was the inspiration the song "Life in A Northern Town" by Dream Academy in 1985 (yet another case of something I didn't know), and for much of the more recently dead John Martyn's stuff - you may notice the similarity in tonal/slurring vocals and the repetitive guitar riffs (Nick played like "a machine" said the producer of Bryter Layter) in my previous post about JM; his song Solid Air was written for/about ND even though this is not mentioned in the Drake Wiki.

You've been taking your time,
And you've been living on solid air
You've been walking the line,
And you've been living on solid air
Don't know what's going 'round inside
And I can tell you that it's hard to hide
When you're living on solid air

You've been painting the blues
And you've been looking through solid air
You've been seeing it through
And you've been looking through solid air
Don't know what's going 'round in your mind
And I can tell you don't like what you find
When you're moving through solid air

I know you, I love you
And I can be your friend, I can follow you anywhere
Even through solid air


Saturday, February 07, 2009

Warm Enough For ya?

It is predicted to be 44degrees Celcius in Melbourne and Geelong today. That's 111F in the primitive, old-fashioned, American methods of measuring things. That's pretty freaking hot. It will be the hottest day on record they are saying.

It'll be bad, really bad. How bad?

In fact, it'll be the worst day in history no less.

The previous record high was set in 1983, when bushfires ripped through the Otways (down by Bell's Beach for those of you who remember the movie "Point Break"). I remember the ashes in the air 50kms up wind. And a giant dust-storm, such as you'd see in Arabia or northern Africa, rolled across the state.

I hope my mum stays indoors and avoids her usual lawn-bowls routine. No-one in Melbourne has air-con because it only gets real hot like this for a few days a year...

Stay cool Victoria!


Meanwhile, in London, The Ex is up to her ankles in snow!

Global warming... or global storming?

Australia hot, England cold. I don't see any major cognitive dissonances there.


Friday, February 06, 2009

4 Habits Of Highly Successful Princes

At Dan's prodding, I dug out my old copy of How Mumbo-jumbo Conquered the World and was skimming through the chapter on the snake oil of marketing and self-empowerment gurus like Deep Chowder and Tiny Ribbons, thinking over a few things…

Wouldn’t it be interesting if Machiavelli had been writing in this 'present age', when such self-important tomes with their fortune-cookie insights and their self evident self-serving are clogging the New-Age-Business-Mantra shelves.

What would his title have been? Suggestions welcomed.

Old Nic Machiavelli could motivate, man could he motivate! Move your own cheese by force of arms and don’t forget to kill all the upstart rebellious cheese-makers. Colour your parachute with the blood of your rivals. Don’t lose your head but lop of the heads of your enemies. Chicken Soup requires dead chickens. Etc...

At least he didn’t bullshit and say your lack of success is due to your own character weaknesses and your inability to harness from within the giant prick that you really are. He didn’t blame you for failure, not as such. He said that as everyone else is a selfish cunt out to trap you and preferentially have you executed at dawn, the way to succeed is to be an even bigger cunt. And be it first. If you get the chance.

Lie, murder, cheat and steal your way to civil governance.

It has NYT best-seller written all over it. I think Bernie Madoff has a copy.


There was this guy I met a few times in HK when I first arrived there. He had some high-flying banker-wanker job, or art least said he did - no-one ever checked up on what someone would claim in those heady days. I didn’t really get on with him, but I put up with him at social functions were he bloated up the split bill with extra glasses of wine or, notably, port for himself. My flat-mate, who got more upset about this than I did, and who was a nick-name generating machine, called him "OMP -One More Port." I had had some fun with OMP and a few other of his mates down in Wanchai after one of these parties, so we had this sort of Brotherhood Of The Undone Flies thing. No more info coming - in those days, in HK, what happens in Club Bunny, stays in Club Bunny.

I saw OMP many years later at a party of mine - somehow he had managed to gate-crash one of my roof-top binges. He was unemployed and looking rather desperately for a job. Maybe the SARS induced slowdown had caught him out. He was talking shit as usual. Who he knew (no-one I did), what was hot, what was not, bringing it all down to make himself seem bigger. Those companies that wouldn't hire him, hell, he didn’t want to work for them anyway.

For some reason, at an adjacent conversation, I was talking about Tony Robbins, (maybe I had just seen 'Shallow Hal', or maybe Robbins had just been in town), saying how all he did was empower people to be greedy bastards; in my view, Robbins' story was that you could be whomever you were prepared to pretend to be.

OMP got a bit upset when he heard me, and said that he had gone to the Tony Robbins show. (Someone told me later that he had got up on stage with Robbins and got those massive mitts clamped on his head… talk about Shallow Hal!) He said how valuable Robbins' message was -to HIM. Brilliant. How it had changed his life. Totally changed his life.

"How?" I asked, ribbing him.

"No, really it has totally changed my life, it was money well-spent. The guy is brilliant," he repeated.

"In what way is your life better?" I paraphrased myself. "No, really, how?"

After a second he said. "For the better. I'm such a better person, really."

"But you've been unemployed for months and you're still being a smart-arse, dude," I reminded him and slapped him on the back, in what I thought was a pleasant, joking way.

Oops. His face fell. Had I deflated the Robbins balloon? Shallow Hal Gets A Gal. He didn’t reply.

"Hey lets go down to Wanchai afterwards, " I said as I knew he liked to party on.

"Yeah, OK," he said with what I recall now was a rather despondent look.

I moved on to some other part of the roof-top. OMP left quietly soon after, so I didn't go out with him. I never saw him again.

I moved to Singapore six months later.


Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Hidden Gymnastics Of The Non-Mind

Of all the books resting patiently unread on my shelves, this one has the most poignantly ironic title:

Image of My Unwritten Books

My Unwritten Books by George Steiner.

I saw that Rage-Boy on Mystic Bourgeousie has found it as well and also pulled up an excellent Steiner quote. I respectfully quote his excellent quoting.


The quote is from an interview with Steiner on Australia's ABC Radio National. The interviewer reads a passage from the book: "I'm haunted to the point of panic by the fragility of reason." Asked what he means by that, Steiner replies...

As I come to the end of my life, there are four times as many registered astrologers in the United States as there are physicists and chemists. Four times as many. The wife of our sometime Prime Minister wears an amulet against "space rays." There is not a corner of our lives now that is not invented, invited, invaded by idiocy of irrational superstition, [such as] people who pay vast sums to have some fake Oriental arrange their furniture. Vast sums! The whole New Age -- this is a charlatan's age like never before. It makes the Middle Ages seem scientific in many ways. And all around me, in people I deeply respect, you scratch the surface and there is a frightened, profoundly superstitious person doing hidden gymnastics of the non-mind, in a way, trying to plan their fate, trying to escape from reality. And it frightens me a great deal, because reason is very fragile.


Life is tenuous, reason is threatened and I'm feeling a tad fragile myself...

Someone suggested acupuncture for my feet... I had no hesitation is telling him what I thought of that idea.


Quote for a later blog-post from After Dark by Haruki Murakami:

"Of what value is a civilization that can't toast a piece of bread as ordered?"

Not much value at all, I'd say.


25 Things About Me and Kierkegaard

You probably got this annoying viral thing on Facebook, as did I, and completed it faithfully so to amuse and not offend your imaginary Facebook friends, you poor, POOR, pathetic losers...

Here was my typically E@L take:


Once you've been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it's because I want to know more about you.

(To do this, go to “notes” under tabs on your profile page, paste these instructions in the body of the note, type your 25 random things, tag 25 people (in the right hand corner of the app) [NO!] then click publish.)

1. I don’t do lists
2. I don’t do lists
3. I don’t do lists
4. I don’t do lists
5. I don’t do lists
6. I don’t do lists
7. I don’t do lists
8. I don’t do lists
9. I don’t do lists
10. Is this a list?
11. I don’t do lists
12. I don’t do lists
13. I don’t do lists
14. I don’t do lists
15. I cannot approach
16. a task without
17. thinking of some
18. way to sub
19. vert it
20. I don’t do lists
21. I don’t do lists
22. I don’t do lists
23. I don’t do lists
24. OK, I'll do this one.
25. But otherwise, I don't do lists


Another thing I could add to this list (if I took anything seriously) is that I exhibit a futile persistence in trying to understand books way above my reading age. But this bit of Kierkegaard I liked because it presages something of what I have been putting together, well sorta together, in my pea-brain as a pathetic simulacrum of a plot for the book you and I both know I will never get around to writing. I think I might use it as the "pre-"thingummy, you know - the quote at the start, on page xxiv. (See, I can't write a book: I already have old-folks' lethelogica*! It's too late for me!)

" regard death as a conclusion is a deceitful evasion, for death is related quite indifferently to the premise of a man's life, and therefore is not a conclusion of any sort." S. Kierkegaard. The Book On Adler. (Introduction)

There is a great deal of 'amusing' stuff (to me) in the Kierkegaard book, about "premise-authors" (bad) and "essential-authors" (good).

The following revelation (ha ha, the hordes of you who intimately know the book can chortle along with me at that witty crack) made such a strong impression on me that I just HAD to put in my blog this evening. Guess what sort of an author that makes me?

"Nowadays one takes for a revelation any strong impression, and the same evening puts it in the newspaper." S Kierkegaard op cit.


* This is about the only word you never forget when you suffer from it.

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