Thursday, March 31, 2011

Bad Press

How not to respond to a bad review...

Big Al (see above link) gives a mildly critical review of a self-published novel called, for some wildly un-circumspect reason, The Greek Seaman (no [more] puns please), in which he says he likes the essential story, but was distracted by the number of typos and/or spelling errors. He also has some issues with the author's grammar and (later in the comment section) some awkward sentence construction.

Now, go and check the rest of the long comments section.

OK - you couldn't be bothered? Let me precis it here.

The author, Jacqueline Howitt, responds to this 2-star review by cutting and pasting some 4-star and 5-star reviews she had on Amazon, in order to prove to Big Al that he is wrong! She insists that she is a good writer! He must have downloaded the wrong version! He however, counter-insists that his was the correct and latest version, and that it was indeed full of errors.

Then some other people chip in and chide her for being petty, unprofessional and overly-sensitive...

And she bites back, bites back again, and yet again... And the chides keep coming in, only now they are because she is biting back against these chiders. They keep telling her that she is only making matters worse, but she refuses to apologize or to acknowledge the inappropriateness of her responses and back down. She is obviously not reading what people are saying and has gone limbic.

Eventually she descends to such a level of incoherent rage and paranoid frustration at these people she sees as attacking her (which they are, but not for the reasons she seems to think) that all she can scream is, "Fuck off"!

Twice. Charming! The right thing to say to her audience of potential customers? No.

As one commenter observes: "Incredible. Absolutely, positively, inanely and asininely incredible. Utterly and inexplicably self-destructive, as well. That's one author I know I'll never waste time reading. Thanks for the heads-up, Big Al. You've done an incalculable service to readers everywhere."

Now no-one wants to read her damned book.* If she had just shut the fuck up and taken it on the chin...


I waded accidentally into this quagmire from a link on Mercer Machine's blog -- it was a post at TheWorstBookEver. There, Aaron analyses the issues much less aggressively than I have here, and suggests the following:

Here is the correct response: Thank you for the review, I will look into the formatting errors and have it re-edited. I am so glad you liked the main story and I hope once it has been worked through you can review it again and maybe we can move the 2 stars up to 5.


* The bunfight continues at Amazon.

Just So You Know

It's useless to try and convert E@L to a belief in

a) any one or any combination of god or gods, devils or spirits
b) Traditional Chinese Medicine
c) any other "new (as in old)" age alternative treatments (acupuncture, homeopathy, chiropractic, Aryan purity, sword swallowing, the application of mustard plasters, butter on burns, etc...)*
d) the tooth fairy, Santa Claus, the boogey-man, etc...
e) karma
f) an after-life (heaven, hell, purgatory, limbo, the guff, River Styx, etc...)
g) corporate take-overs being good
h) Ayn Rand and her crude and joyless "philosophy"
i) "wormholes" in space
j) "ironic" quotation marks
k) splitting infinities (the multi-universe theories)
l) not splitting infinitives (not something to assiduously avoid after all)
m) tethered computing gadgets (anyone want an iPhone 4? - came with my new phone contract, still in the original wrapping. For you, special price.)
n) more than 50% of Americans being dumb. Dumb ain't the word(s). They are merely "insufficiently educated"
o) people who lack charity or empathy
p) sweeping generalizations - as a rule...
q) benign dictatorships being all that benign
r) truth being contained exclusively in any allegedly sacred text
s) ghosts
t) the need for more than two types of USB connectors
u) the end of the world being nigh (certainly not 2012, )
v) ebooks boding the death of print
w) Lamarckian evolution
x) letting them get away with it
y) country music (except for the more bluesy kinds)
z) the scientific method being bettered as a way of learning about and testing the limits of the universe and everyone and everything in it, at least not in the foreseeable future (does not include that wormholes crap)
a-a) stopping at arbitrarily imposed limits
a-b) the CIA having killed President Kennedy (it was James Ellroy)
a-c) going out of his way to offend people - but if they would care to line up outside...



* That Russian breath-holding technique (to build up CO2 in your blood and initiate broncho-dilatation) for asthma might work - it used to help me when I had some mild bronchitis, he says anecdotally!

The End Of Weather Forecasting As We Know It

Forgot to bring my parka and mittens to work today...


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The End Of Blogging As We Know It

The joke used to be that if it wasn't for the New York Times, there's be nothing to blog about. Ha ha. I admit many of my posts have quoted or otherwise originated from NYT articles.

Those days are gone.

The NYT is now going to charge for full online, tablet and smartphones access

I realize it's not a king's ransom, but it is a royal pain in the arse. It'll cut into my allowance for porn subscriptions for one thing. I presume this applies to the online version of the International Herald Tribune as well, as many of the important NYT articles and commentaries are duplicated there. There will be limited free access, it says twenty articles, before you are asked to subscribe - and blocked for that session I guess.

Now I always try to grab the IHT at the breakfast buffet when I am travelling, as I am keen to do the sudoku puzzle catch up on the world'd disasters and the economic crashes that are bringing financial gurus and CEOs to the brink of multi-billionaire-dom as the poor people eat their babies' feet in order to survive the harsh winters. If I have time after all that righteous anger and soulful empathy perhaps I'll have a go at the sudoku puzzle.

And maybe, if I find an article to blog about or link to Facebook, I'll pop across to the digital version and get the link.


For example. This article.

And my comment on whether food colouring causes kids to go beserk?

Well, du'h! Didn't we kow that since the 60's?


Remember that the FDA is owned and operated by Big Food and Big Pharma.


Sunday, March 27, 2011

Dead Ant

The sugar ants had returned to my kitchen while I was away last week, tiny little blighters. I found them last night, a thin trail of corner-of-the-eye movement. They scurried, formicated in fact, almost invisible, past the front of the sink and across the food preparation area. I traced their point of entry, a fissure in the aging sealant by the window, to their destination, a gap in the contact between one of the upper cupboards and the wall.

So I drenched both areas with some climatacidal insecticide. And then again, more spurts for good measure.

I came into the kitchen this morning. At the front of the sink was a rather large huddle of the wee things, maybe 100, 150. Trapped, unable to go home or to go on, they gathered themselves into a group for reassurance, maybe like a township seeking safety after a monumental disaster.

It reminded me sadly of the Japan experience of the past few weeks. The earthquake of my footsteps, the tsunami of killer spray.

I actually felt touched.

So I with a mighty fingertip, like a solid cloud of radiation meltdown fallout, I swiped across their emergency shelter and their vain hopes and wiped them all out of their misery...

End of metaphor.


Monday, March 21, 2011

A Crazy Mixed Up World

... like my last post.

I have put in three different themes there. Apologies if the argument was not coherent.


However, this puts the modern Harem into context...

From the tragic but affirming BBC TV series, Blood Sweat and Takeaways. Think I've put it before, but worth another look.

I don't know how many times I heard the specious justifications from the guy at the end. Wrong, man, WRONG.


One the books I really like that fictionalizes the story of these sex-workers is Bjorn Turmann's 'Good Daughter'. The website is down, but you might find a copy still in a few Asia Books stores in BKK.


The Whole World As The White Man's Brothel

I swear by the holy hand-grenades of Antioch, I think I've heard in bars, clubs, pubs and dinner parties throughout Asia, in Hong Kong, Beijing, Phnom Penh, Bangkok, Dubai, Saigon, Tokyo, Seoul, Kuala Lumpur, Vientiane (and I haven't even been to Laos!) and Singapore, EVERY one of the comments, and a few more, that are contained in the following text. It is an excerpt from a book I am reading which reviews the history of Western attitudes to their experience of sexual life in what we historically call "The Orient".

Nothing is new under the sun, nor under the sheets (Japanese pornography excepted).


Flaubert's sexual adventures in Egypt were exceptional in his life and not repeated. For Burton, however, Eastern sexuality was a life-long preoccupation. To be sure, it was always a fascination among a minority of Western men, with the vast majority falling in love with, and being sexually drawn to Western women. But Burton prefigured something that would happen when the mixing of civilizations became common and some men would develop a veritable cult of the Asian woman, who seemed to them more sensuous, less inhibited, more sultry, slender, fragrant, feline and languid, less competitive, less demanding of absolute fidelity, and for some or all of these reasons, more desirable than Caucasian women. Burton felt that way. The cult of the Asian woman among Western man - her erotic elevation - didn't originate with him, but it received validation from his writings and his experience. From the very beginning in India, he and others like him extolled the virtues of the bibi over the white women back home, both because she caused less trouble and because she was better in bed. None other than Anglican bishop of Calcutta, Reginald Heber, admitted that he had difficulty keeping his eyes off the local Bengali women he saw bathing in the river at dawn, confessing that "the deep bronze tint was more naturally agreeable to the human eyes than the fair skins of Europe." With slightly different reasoning, first Viscount Garnet Wolseley, field marshal in the British army, admitted that he consorted with an "Eastern princess" who fulfilled "all the purposes of a wife without any of the bother" and that he had no intention of marriage with "some bitch" in Europe, unless she were an heiress.

The East, The West, And Sex: A History, Richard Bernstein. Vintage 2010, pg 117. (empahasis mine)

More about The East, the West, and Sex


Of course some Asian ladies still find the antics of the sex-pat, the modern equivalent of Flaubert and Sir Richard Burton (the explorer not the actor, you philistine!) to indicate that the perfidious perpetrator is some kind of abberation, to be despised and/or mocked, as he (it's always a he) is doing something unheard of and shocking! (Hollyjean's post is perhaps not the most sterotypical example of such sterotyping there is, but it is indicative of the genre.)

The "can't get laid at home" sex-pat, or indeed sex tourist, might just enjoy the East for EXACTLY that reason: they cannot get laid at home. But this is nothing new at ALL!


It may not be comprehensible to the beautiful people of the world, the modern world and the old world, those of them who climb all sort of exotic (ha, means 'from another country'!) sexual territories in order to shag other models and other six-packed atheletes exclusively, but unattractive people do have sex drives, similar to theirs.

Ugly people (old, bald, beer-bellied: people like E@L, in short) like to fuck too. Not only do they like to fuck, they NEED to fuck. They should fuck, and if they can fuck, let them fuck. They were commanded by God The Creator in the Garden Of Eden to fuck. And they can fuck, thanks the sildenafil, tadalafil and vardenafil, for as long as they fucking want.

Can't get laid at home? Can get laid in Wanchai, the 4FoW or Nana Plaza. Problem solved. And with a lady whose beauty and demeanour may complete utterly their deepest sexual fantasy. Why the fuck not?


[E@L doesn't want to stir up a fist-fight here, he just being honest about it from a certain Occidental point of view. He is completely aware of the horrors of sexual slavery, people trafficking, and child exploitation, drugs, etc... but these things are not limited to Asia or to the last 40years and the book I am reading is at pains to point out. The Americans soldiers on R&R in the 60s and 70s did not invent the concept of the caravanserai of mobile brothels following troops on their marches to war. "Hey you pedites, and even you, old bald fat general, you're all probably gonna die tomorrow, gimme a coin or two and let's FUCK!" (So I can feed and educate my children back in Rome, living with my mother.) Nor did the modern sexpat invented the concept of the harem, as Bernstein points out. Once the secret key to the mystery of the harem was limited to the Sultan, now it available to anyone with 2000Bht. But the fishbowl of Ratchadamburi Rd is still essentially a harem.]


Other complications may arise (no pun intended) for the sex-starved and often love-starved sex-pat. The repeated [Rule of Three, blog to come] plaintive statements of real need and the earnest protestations of true love can burn through the rational misgivings (they pretend to like you, and you pretend to believe them) of even the most cynical owner of the hardest heart and create new neural pathways in his dopamine driven brain.

When this happens, as it will, the cannot-get-laid-at-home man no longer distinguishes the "lub you long time" of an exploitative (and exploited, of course) bar-girl, from the "I love you oh so passionately, Roger, my heart melts as I swoon in your arms, and I'll never leave you, kiss me, you fool," of something from Jane Austin or from some other trash Romance novelist.

And before you know it, reality intervenes, as does our exploited lady's boyfriend, and our sad and tragic hero is doing the Pattaya swan-dive* from the twelfth floor of his lost-love hotel.

But such dramas are not for discussion here...


Related Posts: The Fishbowl, Brad Pitt and E@L - Separated at Birth?

* Hat-tip to Chuck Woww.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

St Patricks Day Gastritis

(best to go to YouTube if you want to see the whole screen of the vid. Then come back - it's an extra hit to my stats. Is this a Tom Lehrer song? Certainly sounds like soemthing he would write.)


E@L's intestinal ethanol absorption seems to have resulted in a bout of stomach problems that you probably don't really want to hear much about. But gentle and faithful readers, tough, you're getting the details anyway.


The effective parts of the day began at 4:40pm at an Irish pub near Boat Quay (working from home again) when the first Guinness was ordered. Due to some confusion thanks to a certain person's (not E@L) impenetrable Aussie accent and ferociously fast delivery - "Twoaneruffpines" - was what E@L heard. Play-back half speed - two and a half pints. Geddit? Sure enough the Singaporean waitress didn't geddit. She looked like a deer in the headlights even when he repeated the order. And, bless her Singlish heart, she placed two half-pints down for the three of us.

Two HALF pints, geddit?

We drank them anyway.

Then we drank the real pints, correctly ordered over the bar eschewing the waitress who might have been a bit miffed that we passed her by, when they arrived. After that lot went down, another pint arrived. When that was finished, another pint was in order (it was the moral thing to do, as one of the Bruce's always says). Perhaps another pint? It would be insulting not to. When three more friends showed up, yet another round of pints for all came through, according to plan. It was then their turn to order a shout in sequence so, sequentially, pint after pint after pint was consumed. There were some french fries involved at some point. As the late comers were several pints behind, we had to allow them order us more pints. Then we ordered some pints for them. It was a merry and generous occasion.

Food. Who needs a curry? E@L fancies a curry. Indian/Punjab place around the corner, up on the flaming roof. Great view, scads of food, bottle of plonk, how's you father. Problems of the world solved - anyone write those down?

Downstairs, where did everybody go? There's just E@L and one of the Bruces (there are many who are Bruce, he contains multitudes) and we're at what used to be a Man U bar. Bruce the Mancunian shakes EVERYBODY'S hands, unless he kisses their cheeks because they're ladies, as the girls all are, bloody lovely ladies too.

Amazingly, hey, this is Singapore, we get a Guinness on the house! What, where? FREE!

But that is not helping E@L. The curry, way too much, the Guinness, how bloody many? Can't go on... Free or not, it's just not going to sink. He goes on, tries to at least. Nah, no way: Bruce, I'm off. E@L leaves half a pint of Guinness - well that evens it up for the night, symmetry is good. Like a woman's symmetry, mystery, beauty, like no, not 4FoW, like taxi man take me home...


E@L wakes up at 5am, after maybe 2hrs of blissful rest in the grip of his anti-erotic CPAP machine. No, no-one is next to him. He DID go directly home last night.

But his gut feels like a hand-grenade has gone off inside. Oh St Patrick, help me, he cries. This is wrong. Something is decidedly wrong. In the toilet he pisses, takes a swig from the tap, rinses out the dead rodents, hand-cups half a glass of rehydration but it doesn't go down easy, water - fish fuck in it - and it's back to bed. His belly is hard as a Guinness barrel and about the same, no bigger, size. He is sweating - the air-con was off, that's why. The pillow is drenched, the straps on the CPAP also wet, now coldly damp and repulsive to the touch.

Awakened at 8am with the phone screaming "Spoonman" at him, full volume. It is his alarm, and the scrolling massage reads, allegedly, he can't put his head in a place where he can get it into focus, "Take your fucking tablets". He silences the shaking of the world with a swipe across its Guinness sticky surface. There are several txts from Bruce wanting to know, at 2am, at 3am, at 4am, if he is in Brix or the 4FoWs. Oh St Patrick, save me.

He was in shorts, green shorts, last night, there they are on the computer monitor. They wouldn't have let him into Brix in shorts, it's a classy joint (unless he was with Bruce who would once again have kissed all the female staff and shaken the manager's hand - who would waives the dress restrictions for Bruce and his mate with the other, probably get us a free drink too) with classy hookers.

He feels like shit. Bloated, stretched, tight across the gut, uneasy and sick. Hangover, he reasons, not unexpected. Gut full of Guinness and curry, gonna take a while to get over it. He showers, takes his fucking tablets. Got into his work clothes. Felt sick and distended still. Maybe if he did the bulimia thing - hey no, he's just swallowed $30 of medication, don't want to waste it. But he felt like he would be so much better if he could take this awful pressure away from his stomach. He took off his work-clothes again. He looked down into the toilet bowl. We wondered if this feeling was really in his stomach, like the actual stomach sac, not just the metonymical stomach. He didn't throw up, even with a quick finger-test of his gag reflex.

(It felt like the time when he had eaten bad prawns or something, maybe it was the salmon mousse, that time in Phuket. Bloated, tender, food sitting in his stomach all night, he did throw up then, and through the night felt the tenderness move through his intestine, jejunum, ileum, into the colon, tenderness and unwellness all the way. That took 12 hours or so to work the length of his GIT. Then came the explosive diarrhoea.)

He went out of the bathroom again, lay on his bed. His stomach was tender, it hurt to touch. He pressed it in, here, there, ouch. It was actually sore, tender, like he had been hit, kicked, fallen off the rook of the Indian/Punjab place. After a few presses into the painful spots, he quickly decided to go back the bathroom, he had stirred things up with his prodding. He lent over the toilet and ...

Again ...

Once more ...

Oh St Patrick! ...


Mop and bucket to aisle E@L!


His felt way less bloated now, but still unwell, somewhat glazed. Still pain when he prodded, well don't fucking prod you idiot... He went back to bed. He lay for a minute, felt clammy and unhealthy but no longer nauseous, until he had a sensation of urgency from the specific vicinity of his arse. Don't forget me, his arse said. I'm not waiting 12 hours! I have a message for you, and it's coming through Express Post!

Quick, out, Egyptian cotton sheets, 1200tpi!

Just made it to the bathroom, lucky he had cleaned the bowl just before! Who wants to sit on a toilet seat covered in half digested rogan josh, aloo paneer, murgh masala, dahl saag (oooh the dahl saag, so yellow, so runny!) garlic nan and let's not forget those french fries.




OH St Pat - WHOOSH!...

Oh Saint Jesus, he said looking back as he waddled to the shower, it's pure Guinness, gone straight through.

He showered for the second time that morning, cleaned the bowl for the second time that morning. Slowly he moved to the bedroom, pulled out his gym shorts (yes he has gym shorts, cotton ones like tracksuit material - what a struggle to find they were, - try getting anything except polyester in this day and age! Ha good luck. OK, 4th floor at Meritus Mandarin shopping centre, whatever it's called) to protect the sheets (Egyptian, etc) and went back to ... the toilet!



Surely there couldn't be any - WHOOSH!...

Flush, 3rd shower, fuck the towel is saturated - get another one, back to bed.


Later that day, some ginger and lemon tea. Ow, the mere thought of anything in his stomach hurt. The tea hurt. But he felt better with some fluid. Need more rehydration. Some salt replacement - only have Berrocca - that'll have do, in some warm water.


Later that day, no whooshes for a while, he had to go to the office (he had emailed in sick, maybe food poisoning) and pick up his laptop for another trip to BKK on Sunday.

Boss-san said to get back to bed and, laughing, you look so skinny!

Ha bloody ha.


On the way home, he dropped in to see his GP and told her the story (a precise of this) and she shook her head,: alcoholic not a virus, not food poisoning. Looks 100% like St Patrick's Day gastritis to me, she smiled grimly.

Double the dose of Omeprazole, zero dose of alcohol. A month on the wagon would be good, please stop with the binges. Last time was Rugby 7s in Hong Kong, she recalled. (That one resulted in a gastroscopy!) Just take it easy, take it steady. I know you don't drink much most of the times (E@L blushes, the lies he has told).

E@L, look after yourself, we all love you. No, she didn't say that, but shit, wouldn't it be nice - she IS gorgeous.


That was yesterday. E@L continues his unwellness today, the tenderness, the pain whenever food goes in and the stomach is asked to do something destructively sulphuric. He missed two invitations tonight - for teppanyaki at Chjimes, for something spicy at Arab St.

Cannot eat, he replied to both txts. Cannot drink, cannot come.


Still, he will go to Thailand tomorrow, has already packed in fact. He have to be in Intensive Care before he'd miss a trip there.

Managed some Vegemite on toast for dinner, carbs, fat (butter) and that hit of VitB and salt! How can you go wrong with that?

After midnight. Time for some more lemon and ginger tea. Remind me to get a fresh packet.


Monday, March 14, 2011

The Death Of Blogging?

Rumours of my continued existence appear to be somewhat exaggerated...

I suppose I could go into yet another spasm of hand-wringing and tongue-lashing (that's GOTTA hurt - saw it on a porn site) about how Facebook has destroyed blogging and Twitter has destroyed all mindless morons, I mean CAUSED once relatively normal (slightly above and below middle on the bell-curve) people to become mindless morons (outliers on the low side!), but I won't (go into a spasm). Or maybe I will. I can never anticipate what I'm going to type when I fire up the create-post page of Blogger. What? You say you've noticed this?

That uncertainty may in part be the reason that Facebook and Twitter are doing so well viz-a-viz blogging (at least by me). There's no chance in one's posts on these brain-fart sites to ramble-on, no opportunity to let the flow of words take you where they might (may?). You can put in a YouTube or a link and make some terse and pithy comment, but that's not the same as blogging. Except when it is the same, c.f. most of my recent posts.

Time is short, precious, money, fleeting (fugit). Just gimme the precis, the 240 character pitch, the short version, cut to the chase... There's too much stuff coming in, not enough time to sort it and analyze it all, or even AT all. And Google doesn't always help.

I read something the exhaustively prolix William T Vollman said to describe himself, by way of apologizing I guess for his recent 500(!) page book on Noh theatre - "Rarely able to compose a short sentence, let alone a short book..."

Well, it's become fairly obvious, at least to me, my friends and everyone I know, that I will never write MY apocryphal book, long or short, unless I stop going out partying with said friends, etc... 365 days a week, it seems to my liver and brain (substance not consciousness, except for memory and the incredible and explicable rise of my typo ability lately). So let's skip that bit about writing novels. As for sentences, maybe I can do them. The ability to put together a paragraph that has variety of sentence lengths, some short, some shorter, some really quite long as they become full of divergences (and asides) as one brain-fart incepts (new verb? No. :-( ) new brain-farts within it ad ridiculum until that sentence stretches out like those immensely long, colonated and semi-colonated sentences, perhaps in some German text you were forced to read in high-school; in translation of course, as German was not so popular in schools back then (or was it, because anyway I did French - didn't EVERYONE learn French?): One in which the sentences went on and on, one of those sententious, immensely and unnecessarily detailed, all-in-one, sesquipedalian sentences by, say, Thomas Mann or someone of his national ilk (also guilty is that silly Frenchman, Marcel Proust, who wrote a 3000 page sentence about remembering something we'd all already forgotten by the end), so that the overall deadening and confusing effect of trying to read and hold all the meaning in one's head of such a monstrous string of allegedly linked words, rather than instilling a love of the Reich's Kulture and its jolly Volk in your impressionable soul, instead turns you off Germans, German literature (no Goethe! no Schiller! no Schopenhauer! no Nietzsche! no Grass! no Handke! no more!) and Germany all together, without even having to consider the Holocaust (or the great literature that might come out it, like, um, say, Sophie's Choice) which is of course ironic if you "decide" to marry a half-German fraulein (no longer a jungfrau, oops) as I did, and then it has the verb right at the end, so you get lost, not certain if the sentence - with all its sub-clauses and inter-locutions - actually still makes sense, is something I think I can manage. Hands up if you agree.

I mean, why would anyone NOT want to read this blog? It's beyond me.


Ah, no, my blog is not dead - it's only half way through March, there could life in the old bugger blogger yet!



p.s. It was in June last year that I was linked in Izzy's blog... Who woulda thunk. Sigh.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


Shocked by this terrible tragedy of the earthquake (now upgraded to 9.0) and tsunami - a real one-two punch as one commentator said. Of course it is not geologically surprising, and in fact was predicted due to recent activity in the tectonic plates in the region. I am sure you have seen plenty of amazing footage of the disaster on TV or on the internet, so I won't add to your tragedy overload with more videos or images.

We can only hope that many of the 10,000 missing are found alive.


Also it would disastrous if any of the nuclear power stations at risk go into meltdown! That would be a three-punch beyond belief! We don't need any more Chernobyls!


The Japanese company I work for, which has offices in Ome, Mitaka and Nagano, has suffered no damage and no-one has been injured according to reports from our bosses.

Part of our company also makes radiation dosage and monitoring equipment, so some of those Geiger-counter type things you are seeing on the news could be ours (not that this is important in the scheme of things, just thought I'd mention it).


Saturday, March 12, 2011

Friday, March 11, 2011

Communism or Taxi-Driver - You Be The Judge!

Just had to steal this and give it a local flavour.


Driving habits of communists [taxi-drivers], according to J. Edgar Hoover:

- Driving alternately at high and low rates of speed. [Singapore taxi-driver]

- Entering a heavily traveled intersection on a yellow light, hoping to lose any follower or cause an accident. [Singapore taxi-driver!]

- Turning corners at high rates of speed and stopping abruptly. [Singapore taxi-driver!]

- Suddenly leaving a car and walking hurriedly down a one-way street in the direction in which vehicle traffic is prohibited. [Beijing or Mumbai taxi-driver going for a piss! No, actually they just stand next to the car.]

- Entering a dark street in a residential area at night, making a sharp U-turn, cutting into a side alley, and extinguishing the car’s lights. [Hong Kong tax-driver about to rape their female passenger!]

- Driving to a rural area, taking a long walk in a field, then having another car meet them. [see previous!]

- Waiting until the last minute, then making a sharp left turn in front of oncoming traffic. [Singapore taxi-driver again!]

- Stopping at every filling station on the highway, walking around the car, always looking, then going on. [Yep, that's a communist alright! Or someone with a noisy wheel bearing.]


“Always there is the fear of being followed,” he wrote in Masters of Deceit (1958). “One Party couple registered at a motel, then the husband parked the car several miles away. He walked back and climbed through a side window. Maybe in this way he would conceal his next night’s lodging!” [Singapore tax-driver and second wife in Jurong!]


Thursday, March 10, 2011

WooHoo iPad 2

No I didn't buy an iPad2, but I did check to see what had happened to the price of the iPad, um, 1 I guess, here in Singapore. I was foolishly thinking hey, outdated product, must be discounted cheap whatever.

Nup. I definitely need 3G as I travel into uncharted territories in the heart of darkest Sukhomvit Rd in Bangkok, WiFi is not always available - you can't spend your entire life in a Starbucks... because the coffee is shite - yup, I need the 3G option.

$640 for WiFi 32GB - $839 for the WiFi-3G. $199 for the 3G option. That is over 30% of the iPad's price! WTF!

All that other allegedly life-transforming functionality costs so much, but you ask to get it do something that your $10 phone (even the iPhone) does with no qualms, and it adds SGD$199 to the price! Toefucker! Yet again E@L refuses to be tempted! Unless the price drops even more.

The sales guy in his shop in HarbourFront, accepted this incongruity philosophically. He whispers to me, "You know what advice I give to people when they realize this? I say..." - he leans in even closer - "... 'don't buy it'."

Good advice!


I completely unrelated news the reviews are in!


IT'S THINNER! And it comes in WHITE!

Aaaaaaaaaand, wait for it...



My favorite review from the link above is:

Rich Jarovslosky, Bloomberg Businessweek: The iPad wasn't slow before. Now it's faster. It wasn't bulky before. Now it's thinner. It wasn't heavy before. Now it's lighter. That, plus a couple of new cameras, sums up the difference between Apple Inc.'s first tablet and the iPad 2, which goes on sale in the U.S. tomorrow. Taken together, the changes are unremarkable. What's remarkable is that Apple didn't really need to do more to maintain its position as the class of the field. Here's something even more remarkable: The iPad is the value-price leader in the market. Trust me, it isn't often you can say that about an Apple product.

And it seems the cameras are just as crap as the iPhone/iTouch cameras. It's not about pixel-MBs it's about crap. And they're crap.

Joshua Topolsky, Engadget: Let's just put this out there: the iPad 2 cameras are really pretty bad. They're not unusable, but it's clear that the sensors employed are not top shelf by any measure. If you have a fourth generation iPod touch with cameras, you can expect the same results. In fact, it seems to us that these are the SAME cameras used in the iPod touch -- there's an "HD" lens around back (which means it's roughly a single megapixel shooter), and on the front you've got a lowly VGA cam. Neither one of these produces remotely satisfying results for still shots, and in particular (when compared with something like the Xoom), the back camera just seems utterly second rate.

NO Sale!


Should I buy a MacAir instead?


Plus the upgrade of WordsWithFriends seems to work OK now on my Samsung Galaxy (Android).


Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Top Gear

Now I has been around for a while. No, not round, *A*round. OK, maybe just round as well.

One of my first memories is that of being in a car and turning into the street of the house in which I would grow up. If my memory serves me right (what were we talking about?) I was in the back seat, either that or "in the back" behind the back seat, in the luggage space of our blue Hillman Hunter (sorry Milos, no relation), similar to the one below, but an Estate (wagon). Hence the child accessible rear space. I used to love it back there. A playroom as we drove! Before mum told me off (crazy woman thought it was unsafe!) and I had to crawl forward to the rear seat, or even over again to the front seat. There, I'd put my head in mum's lap as she drove and I'd go to sleep. Snug, safe. Those were the days of wonder and innocence.

But one thing troubled me about driving with mum from Colac, or from Melbourne, back home. How could she stay awake for over an hour? It was beyond me. My sister and I counted the lines whisping underneath us (or so it seemed - I hope mum wasn't driving in the middle of the road!) one whisp, two whisp, three whisp, bored. Asleep in three minutes. Maybe someone else came in magically and drove for her, maybe there was an auto-pilot that only came on when I was asleep... I'd wake up and we'd be home, turning up the drive.

The car, back to the car, would have been a 1956 vintage, or maybe an earlier model. My father died in 1957 and maybe it was his car. Was it? [Maybe my sister will correct me on this. ADD: No, mum bought it when she came back to Colac - Dad worked and died in Shepparton]

I have always held this memory precious as one of three that I recollect from when I was aged three years old. The other two are not relevant here (though I do miss when our pretty young maid used to bathe me so gently, so slowly and so comprehensively.*)

OK then, the real second: Grandmas's birthday was one day before mine, and there was an upsurge of disappointment I felt when the penny dropped that this big family gathering at my Uncle Ed's was for her, not me. For my birthday I received a plastic pencil holder, full of colored pencils, that was shaped like a pencil. I recall holding it, and stifling a sob. I recall the emotion as vividly as I recall the party.

Third: looking at a dark brick house, up near Geelong College primary school, that I think Mum was considering buying before the house in the other street, (car, corner, remember)? This was an emotionally neutral occasion, thankfully.

Mum was changing gear as we turned the corner. I can see the car from the outside, in a wide-view, turning past the empty block on one corner and the Smith's (not that name but I can't remember) on the other. How can I have seen this view and remember it so vividly when all the while I was in the car? Spooky mystic weird. It's a mystery.

Since that time I have been in many, many vehicles. I remember being driven to the Saturday morning Legacy children's group in Mr Grenville (name? Paula help me out, again)'s Mercedes. His model had a speedometer like a barber's pole - weird, eh? It was the first car with automatic transmission I had been in. I was maybe six or seven. I was cheeky, I was restless, I was who I am now, only more-so (as I have said before.)

All the other cars mum owned (a 1966 Holden HR, registration JPZ-367, a 1972 Datsun 180B - second hand) or any that my older sister owned (can't remember the makes, but one of them was so light we nearly got blown off the West-Gate Bridge when I borrowed it one time [or was she driving?] - another time we were stoned/pissed and got pulled over by the police, and I talked my way out of it, amazing since I could hardly stand up [don't tell her OK?]) when I was growing up (to the point of getting married, the growing up stopped) were manual transmissions.

Mum gave me the HR when I left school so I could drive to LaTrobe Uni (and to the beach), and she kept the 180B (which was the car I did my license test in). I promptly lost my license for speeding in the HR two months later. I used to run out of petrol all the time too. I once put 42c of petrol in and expected to get to Bell's Beach and back... Idiot.

The first car I bought myself was after I was married (or just before). It was a Triumph TC2000. It only broke down four times a month. The sump cover was held on with three bolts (one stripped) and a mess of gasket-goo rather than four bolts. It had a nice 4-gear stick-shit in the centre console and was great fun to drive. Once, early on, the transmission seized in the middle of an intersection in Torquay. I had gone surfing. The car just froze and people started tooting. I tried to push it out of the intersection, but it wouldn't move, downhill even. It wouldn't come out of second gear and the wheels wouldn't turn. The road was semi-blocked by my car, which had a surfboard sticking out the window, until a tow-truck from an RACV garage came, an hour later and took it away.

We figured that the sales-yard had used the old trick of putting banana skins into the gear-box to silence the noise of wear.

It was not a station-wagon, though there was one in the yard but that one was beyond my meagre loan acceptance earnings. I have beautiful pictures of No1 son, then a curly-haired, rosy cheeked, completely lovable cherub of three himself, standing in the open rear trunk of this car. Why? I think we were packing for a picnic or unpacking from one, and had put him in there to keep him out from under our feet for a while. So funny. Note, it was not a station-wagon but still here is evidence of an hereditary need to get "in the back".

Eventually all the breakdowns were getting too much for us and we had to get rid of it - note the wood panelling the doors! - before it drove us (ha ha) broker than what we were.

The next one that came was a Chrysler Sigma; yes, a station wagon (estate). And a big drop back in social status. Most of this model were branded Mitsubishi as they bought Chrysler out at about this time. It was Japanese car under the bonnet anyway. It turned out to be an ex-rental and I determined that the yard had wound back the mileage, as the service manual showed it had had its 30,000 km service while the clock read only 26,000km. I took photos of this. I got $400 bucks off (about 5% of the purchase price) when I threatened to take them to some authority or other and sue the bums. That was the first time I sold my soul, btw.

Then over a few years (maybe eight) as the Sigma started to fall apart, I sensed the embarrassment No1 son was feeling whenever I parked next to the Mercs and Beemers and Land Cruisers as I dropped him off at college. So I dumped it for next to nothing and went for a Holden/GM Berlina (the 5 litre V8 of course) - again a station wagon (notice the melancholy search for the warmth of love, the reassurance of having a mother [Dad had died, remember], of not being ignored as kid, of moving away to Geelong from those horrible people who hurt my feelings in Colac - as represented by my love of station-wagons. The fact that I could put my surfboards AND my golf clubs "in the back" had nothing to do with it) but this had an automatic transmission. I bought it at a big, reputable dealer this time. I was told it was an ex-rental. I was told the rear-end - the differential (another long story) - needed work. I was told that the electronic drive for the rear-left window was not going working. But at least it was not falling apart and it was presentable enough at school. This beast took me up and down from Melbourne to Sydney many a time after I had run away from home at 38 and had moved up there to work at Westmead Hospital.

No, I didn't ever crash - I chose that photo because it was the same colour (white) and everything!


Once, on a holiday to Ireland, way before this car (was it late 1983 early 84?) we rented a car. There were five of us crammed into one the smallest cars in the world at that time (model?), even though we had ordered a medium sized vehicle. Another fucking shyster. As I was driving around, occasionally I would have to drop a gear, back into 3rd, say, whenever a leprechaun or a whiskey distillery jumped out in front of us. But sometimes, only sometimes, the car would unexpectedly lurch down, the engines would rumble instead of whine and the RPMs would DROP significantly. WTF? My father-in-law accused me of fucking up the gears, riding the clutch or something, basically calling me a bad driver - even though he was a mad dangerous skill-less killer himself behind the wheel. Then it happened to him and he realized something other than MY clutch-work was amiss!

We had been told (and it was etched into the gear-stick! and in the driver's manual) that this car had a transmission with four gears. Guess what? It had an undocumented fifth gear! A fifth gear was a rarity in those days, a new luxury that had trickled down from the big boys. This is why we didn't suspect it straight away. Four gears were new enough! The fifth gear had a lower ratio that, of course, was not meant to be engaged when I was trying to slow down, but rather when I was cruising! My father-in-law failed to apologize to me, btw.


And in my first few years here in Asia, taxis and the people driving me around all had manual transmissions. Then HK taxis went automatic, we guessed it was because so many drivers were fucking up their clutches, riding them up the steep-ish Cotton-Tree Drive towards Mid-levels or up to The Peak. So I moved to Singapore where taxis are still mostly manual. And here the drivers tend to ride the clutch too, but as there no hills in this Euclidean plane (i.e. two dimensional... i.e. flat) city/country, it's not such a big strain on the gear-box...

(Made of candy-floss - will melt and disappear in rain)


Point of excessively long preamble down memory lane:

There is a very large, but finite and countable number of automobile gear changes that I have experienced in my life. Lots. Down - Up. 1>2>3>4>5<4<3<2<1 ... Up - Down. Real lots of them. 53 years (nearly 54 - pay attention to FB) of driving or being driven in manual transmission cars. Think about it. So many changes of gears. Sure, sometimes you cruise for miles and miles without a change, but if you're in traffic you change (or you should) as the flow demands (or in an automatic, the car does it for you). There has been a lot of drive chain ratio changes that I have experienced. I'm thinking hundreds of thousands, if not more. Several trillion. Got the point? Let's move on to the punchline.


So, Monday (tonight is Wednesday) the plan is: drinks with Madame Chiang and Indy at a bar in the Esplanade Theatre complex, then I'm gonna be walking over the Helix Bridge to the Elvis Costello concert at the MBS, right? I SMS a taxi with my new Galaxy/Google Singapore Taxi app. Works well, SMS comes, my taxi is on its way...

E@L: The Esplanade.
TaxiDriver: Huh?
E@L: The Esplanade. The theatres.
TaxiDriver: Huh?
TaxiDriver: Huh?
TaxiDriver: Huh.
E@L: The ESS PLAR NARD. The Big Durian!
TaxiDriver: Oh, oh, OK. Durian, yes, can ... We call that the Esplanade.
E@L: *aaaaarrrgggghhhh*


So we head off.

We start in 2nd gear and in the first 5 metres he has changed up to 3rd. Huh? As we come out of the driveway, he drops back to 2nd, then moves onto the road which requires 3rd obviously. As we putter forwards about 15km/h he goes up to 4th. Then we cruise down a slight incline and he goes down to 3rd, to gear-brake perhaps. He pumps the accelerator a bit, then back to 4th. We approach the intersection at D****** Rd and he pumps again and brakes at the same time, creating an inertia neutral event, but he doesn't quite stop as the traffic comes along. He creeps in with the car in 2nd and as soon as he finds a slot between the oncoming cars he goes to 3rd. Before he straightens the wheel to follow the road he is in 4th. Pump. This is weird.

He drops back to 3rd again. The traffic light ahead is green so he moves up to 4th and down to 3rd again just to be sure. Obviously he is not certain. Pump. Because he shifts up again to 4th, and decides to go back to 3rd. Maybe 4th was better after all. Pump... I KID YOU NOT!

This went on for at least 15mins until I got to the Durian/Esplanade,(near the new Marina Bay Sands). Gear change, pump, gear change, pump. Relentless. At least four to five changes as we went past Chjimes (a small block) at 40km/h - maybe 4 secs.

There is something wrong here. This man has a psychological problem. That is why he was deemed suitable for a career in the taxi driving profession!

He is one of the millions and millions of taxi drivers in Singapore, and Hong Kong to be fair, who are fucking nutters, with ticks and jerks and obsessive-compulsive disorders. One of my friends thought I was joking about this, that I was making it all up. Then one night, as we shared a cab to Clarke Quay, I nudged him to look up - the taxi driver was sweeping his hand back over his greasy hair every five seconds. Sweep. Sweep. Tourrette's.

There's something going on. I was told today that I sound like a conspiracy theorist. There's nothing like the facts - someone IS sending these crazy people to drive me around for a goddamn reason! And it can only be that the GAHMEN tracking my movements, in case I do or say something seditious!


Meanwhile, back to gear changes...


Sigh. I kid you not.


* wasn't this a case study from Freud?

Where Are The Strong?

And who are the trusted?*

--- lots of relevant words about the chaos and crimes in North Africa at the moment.

I am sure can you can fill in the spaces for yourself as anything I could say would only come out as cliches and blandishments... Key point is this - I just hope my friends and colleagues in Libya (and Egypt, haven't heard back from them for a while) are safe and well and positive.

And I sincerely wish that something strong and trustworthy comes out of all this bloody killing each other stuff.

What IS so funny 'bout peace love and understanding?


* IMHO - some of the most profound and heart-stopping lyrics/questions posed in rock and roll history. Always have and always will give me a chill. Nick Lowe, awesome!

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

International Women's Day

Danny in drag. I was going to say he puts on the exact same expression with and without the dress, heels and wig, but then he only has one expression anyway - the 'I've over-exercised my jaw muscles' look.

Some interesting (as in bad) stats on females in the workplace in the voice-over by Dame Judy Dench (who hasn't done bad for herself, career-wise). And I am sure that for whatever is wrong in England, things are 2000 times worse for women in Asia.

However, I heard a quote on the BBC radio this morning: "Women wearing jeans and having a mobile phone does not mean they are free or liberated." Not sure this person meant in the way it sounds out of context, but...


via Exile On Moan St. (Thought I'd better acknowledge one once in a while.)


Elvis In The Building

Firstly, caught up with Madame Chiang, former blogger formerly from Manila. Good to see her again. A lovely lady. Not sure if any of my diligent and long-time readers remember her. Always on about cats.



Declan Macmanus, OK, Elvis Costello, was in town tonight, breaking the cherry on the Marina Bay Sands* Grand Theatre. And it was a one night stand as well! BOOM!

He IS so cute! In his signature horn-rim glasses (ever hear of contacts?), a white hat, grey suit, dark tie and a purple paisley shirt (IKYN)%, there's this short guy playing rock, blues, torch songs... And there's that cheeky slow motion pose he does during the applause, different and just as amusing after each song. He knows what works.

He had seven (7, count 'em) acoustic guitars on stage, all Gibsons. He only used five however, but he got a lot out of them: quite the kit he's got up there... and even unplugged as he walked around singing an old blues (?name) with no mike. That was OK for me as I was front and centre, but I wonder if the acoustics of the new theatre were OK up in the cheap seats when he was unamplified.

Just like that only a LOT fewer people.

I know he's a bit of an acquired taste, but I still think he's completely brilliant, and live he is very much in control. No1 son and I saw him in Vancouver one night on a stop-over coming back from skiing at Whistler. A lot more torch songs then as North had just come out, but tonight he played all the classics (except maybe Shipbuilding, thankfully) and the crowd (the guy next to me anyway) seemed very happy.

It was a much smaller theatre in Vancouver and were up in the circle. There was no problem hearing him sing without a mike, then but he didn't do that as much as tonight. In fact there was one song back then, when he just stepped away from the mike as the song was approaching its end, stepped back and stepped back, still singing full voice... It was a chilling thing to hear the character of his voice change as it's source moved from the full gut-churning immersion you get with loudspeakers to the haunting hollowness of the auditorium's acoustics alone. That was a defining moment when I knew this guy was the real money. What other rock singer but Elvis Costello would have the balls to do that?

Tonight he had the Singapore crowd on its feet (well, the guy next to me, and I), clapping hands and trading chorus lines on Pump It Up and, um, some others...

Speaking of money, great night out, $200 bucks well spent#, unlike last weekend in the 4FoWs...


* Yes, that is a ship on top of those three hotel towers. [shrugs] What?

% I kid you not.

# my ticket to Led Zeppelin in 1973 in Melbourne was $4.25 (with student discount)

Anyone else old enough to remember text-books that used characters instead of numbers for footnotes?

Monday, March 07, 2011

Listen To Me

Well not me exactly, but some fairly good speechifying robot guy.

I am testing this audio thing at the top of my post here (can't see it? It takes a few seconds to load). In fact it automatically has gone to every post, cheeky shit. I saw it on Murli's blog and decided to give it a try here.

Mmmm. For me it only goes about 33secs, including an intro Ad, and then cuts out. Please let me know if you are having the same problem with it.

This may have something to do with Blogger posts. I tried to get it onto my Wordpress backup site, but it doesn't like the fact that both start with "expatatlarge".



Funnily enough, just this morning I was thinking about making a podcast of each long post.


ADDENDUM - ignore all the above. I've removed the widget.

ADDENDUM II - ignore the above addendum. I've re-added the widget and opened up my RSS feed. That was the problem, according to Murli.


Sunday, March 06, 2011

MOS 6581

Here's a completely different style of music, the last one for today: Carbon Based Lifeforms. [courtesy No1 Son]

Great ambient/trance music for walking with your head in the clouds or for sitting in a coffee shop with your head in a book or for trying to sleep with your face in a CPAP mask (which fell apart this morning).

I'm trying it on writing (with my head up my arse) next.


The basic riff kicks in around 0.57...


Les Yuex Noir

Go Django!


I've been ripping my fingers to tatters just trying play the chords to Woodstock and then this guy comes along...



Listen, listen.

One of the comments on YouTube:
"How did we end up with The Pussycat Dolls and Britney Spears?????"

Hear, hear.


The Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young rock interpretation plowed through the original arrangement (not a bad thing necessarily - see Joe Cocker and "A Little Help From My Friends") and is the one I remember from my childhood, though I did listen to Joni sing it a bit later of course. (She never went to Woodstock btw but got the gist of it from Graeme Nash). The above version from Fairport Convention guitarist Richard Thompson goes back to Mitchell's hair-neck-raising original.

The hammer-on, pull-off style of his finger picking is so typical of the guitarists who played in the folk scene in England in the 60's. c.f. Davy Graham, John Renbourn and Bert Jansch of Pentangle, John Martyn, etc... (and others of whom I can't think this early on a Sunday morning.)


Thursday, March 03, 2011

Climate Change v Carbon Bitemark

For a start, the climate changed dramatically here in Singapore today, as it does every day. Beautiful morning while E@L hangs around his bedroom getting nothing done, and then E@L ventures to the pool to do, oh about 15mins of laps and then to do 2mins of reading to finish (he put the book down at 1:30am with, he discovers now, only five pages left, doh!) The Gone Away World. This was just after breakfast, say 2pm, (did E@L mention that he is working from home today?) and as soon as the thought of the above activities enters E@L frontal cortex a frackin' major storm hits, blowing leaves everywhere, then gut-wobbling with rumbles from everywhere ( mostly from the sky), cracks and flashes (not talking Club Romeo here, but lightning) and then, with the prominent pattering of large drops that builds to a Beethovian crescendo, down comes deafening torrential rain... For 20 minutes. And the swim slash reading session in the fresh air and sunshine is postponed, yet again.

One of the primary causes of this horrendous shake in the structure of the universe is that E@L is still using an electric toothbrush, c.f. an earlier post on the old blog.

Lately, the Philips Sonicare he purchased at that time (18 months ago, 50% out of warranty) has been playing up. He has worked out that wiping the stem of the brush after each use will prevent that buildup of scary black slime in the recesses of the detachable brush connection which you note with disgust as you take it apart for traveling, but that's not the issue.

It's the switch. It has been intermittently playing up. The beast turns itself off after 10secs or so. The thing won't start, or it won't turn off. Mother of all fracks!

The reason (we are assuming) is that the green rubber "protective" and "waterproof" on-off button has torn and let water into the gap and onto the contacts. (Familiar story? Let us talk about latex failure in general another time...) Check it out.

Passing through BEST-Denki in Vicocity yesterday (not working from home), E@L noticed the electric toothbrush display. The Philips range was there, as per. And in prominent place was our model.

E@L picked it up. He had noticed something (in itself, cause for celebration). The rubber button was torn . It looked exactly the same as E@L's, the same depressed defect at the top, the same dark shadow in the hollows of the rent (cause for weeping and... wait for it... gnashing of teeth)!

"Yes," said the sales, clerk coming up. "That model does that all the time [wtf!]. Our new model [$30 more expensive] has a substantially improved button. See, this one sits outside the casing so it won't wear. However, it has a new form of brush attachment, so your old brushes won't fit."

"Of course they won't. Progress. Great, thanks," says E@L, and heads to the nearest Guardian or Watson's to grab some manually driven nylon (?- complete guess) bristles from OralB.



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