Saturday, December 26, 2009


Sidney Nolan, Ned Kelly, 1946. National Gallery of Australia
The second tale from the inhabitants of the land surrounding the Little Ocean, after The Skeptic King

On the first day Hanilnaro from Gydans tested his musket on a wooden target, he would remember the events that led him to become a fighter for justice. It was when the barbarians from the Sea of Laptev still held its grip over the Ob valley: Following the invasion of the Laptevians, who had come from thousands of miles away in the east, was the subjugation of crippled hunter-gatherer tribes to the Laptevian men who did whatever they wanted with them, be it extortion of supplies and women or outright raiding. Occasionally a whole confederacy of tribes were sent to the eastern coast to be slaves, and Gydans was one of them.

It was ten summers ago when they invaded, razed the merchant's settlement to the ground, and seized the nine tribes who were up till then trading with the merchants. Hanilnaro was the son of the Gydans merchant, and he noticed, while they were being marched to the east, the toddler child from the tribe who traded fish from the Ob estuaries. Close to succumbing to fatigue and dehydration, the toddler broke from his file and slumped over to the Laptevian raider at the file's right flank. The Laptevian, who was not in the best of moods, flew into a rage. He hacked the child to pieces with his sabre relentlessly, and with one stroke decapitated the fisherman chief who tried to stop him. The corpses were thrown aside in the wastelands, and the entire file behind them watched, as they marched past, the dead child and his father.

Hanilnaro contemplated the Laptevian and his impulsive killing. In that instant he fantasised about the Laptevian soldier dropping dead as soon as he completed his dreadful deed, as if due to some divine justice. In another instant that followed he imagined that, instead of the scoundrel dying all by himself, that he himself should cause the death of the Laptevian who had made such an ugly killing before his eyes. These he never forgot as he grew into a young man; while the Laptevians lost their grip on the peninsula and their unity; while the Gydanese returned to their lands; and while the first firearms were passed hand-to-hand, through trade, from the inventors of the Lena valley.

Hanilnaro, at the age of eighteen when he escaped the bonds of slavery, was in the process of setting up another market where the newly-liberated peoples now traded, was naturally excited at the first sight of a musket. A hunter chief had received a musket as a gift from the Lenese (the inventive and industrious people to the east ultimately responsible for the Laptevians' downfall) and was boasting it to him and the other chiefs. The hunter chief spotted a small cluster of mallards flying south-east, shouldered the loud metallic tube and took aim at the birds. With one deafening shot, a cloud of feathers spread out where the birds had been.

This display of sudden death left a profound impression on the Hanilnaro. The next day he bought the hunter's musket and left the market under the charge of a metallurgist. In the empty plains near the Sea of Laptev he made an oath to himself to protect the innocent and to punish the evil as soon as he lays his eyes upon them, just as instantly as that day he willed the Laptevian to die after killing father and child together. As soon as the metallurgist opened a route from his market to settlements in Lena, he jumped back in, this time as a protector of a trading party.

By this time, the Laptev barbarians had ceased to be an organised power or a threat on the tribal scale, though small bands of merchants still prove vulnerable to Laptevian bandits, who eye hungrily the tools and supplies that loaded the caravans. Initially the bandits were able to take advantage to Hanilnaro's party, and often the caravan returned to Gydans with a hefty load of casualties to make up for lost goods.

But Hanilnaro, his determination unabated, honed his skills furiously to counter the bandits: he learnt the use of knives in close combat to complement firepower; he gathered observations on the tactics made by the raiders, to help drawing up devious counter-offensive strategies; he even obtained a batch of five muskets from Lena (when he did manage to reach) and trained some craftsmen from the market to use it. Eventually, the escort was able to repel any wandering belligerent who targeted their riches.

Hanilnaro had fulfilled his obligations to his own tribe. To fulfil his other, universal obligations that he took upon himself, he decided to leave the trading party. The bandits were by now a subdued lot; beaten to the point they equated his name with death, they made scarce wherever he went. Deprived of bandits, Hanilnaro began to found injustice even in largely peaceful tribes. Here and there in Laptev or Lena there were people in need of help from the evil ones, always to be defeated by his musket in time: a giant brown bear terrorising a Lenese village here, there a band of bullies subjecting a whole tribe to their tyrannical whim; monumental problems solved with two shots to each, an efficiency no sharp tool could reach.

On the day that his fate turned, he was by himself in Lena when he saw, not too far away, the same scene that had haunted him since childhood. At the corner of the rock were two men thrashing a child, with a third shielding the child from the blows. Hanilnaro watched the man as he loaded the musket ball. As soon as the one of the assaulters reached for the knife he took aim and shot him. The man was lifted off the ground in the impact and flew backwards.

The mother and child stayed where they were. They surveyed the man as if in a daze. As Hanilnaro approached them the one who had shielding the child, who turned out to be a young woman, recognised him and hurled curses at him in Lenese. Hanilnaro had shot her brother, now dying by the rock in a pool of blood. The child was her illegitimate child of four years, and the brother had conspired with a cousin to corner the child away from the settlement to polish him off. That aside, it puzzled Hanilnaro as to why he was not thanked, but cursed instead when he killed the child's would-be murderer.

Later in the day, the leaders of the Lenese settlement repaid his rash act with twenty strokes of the staff and banished him from the settlement. Hanilnaro left without a trace of guilt, still convinced, regardless of what the Lenese say, that he was in the right; he prevented a murder by shooting the man. What he did not understand, and was unwilling to find out, was that the woman's brother was as much a part of the tribe as the child; that he had committed an act of murder himself. And because news travelled quickly in Lena, he became universally detested there following his banishment, and eventually he was pushed back to Laptev.

There, in the regions close to the sea, he met his old adversaries. Whenever a tribe of Laptevians passed by, he would sneer as their deep-set eyes, their thick brows and light skin reflected the hateful mien of his captors in his childhood. He tried to satisfy his bloodlust on the Laptevians. Solitary bandits he targeted at first, regardless whether they displayed hostile intent. Then came whole bands that passed by. Any group of Laptevians was bandits as far as he cared; he would even imagine them as the slave drivers, like they were when they still dominated western lands through violence. To these groups of Huns he dealt swift and deadly justice.

What he did not know was that at this point the Laptevians had most completely lost their former character. Subdued and assimilated by the Lenese agrarians to the east and Taimirian hunters to the west, the Laptevians had begun to live off their own land, and while Hanilnaro was combating the forces of evil in Lena, commenced trade with the markets in Taimiria, Gydans included. The Laptevian traders had no will to fight, but following the intrusion of Hanilnaro into their lands, begged for help from the musketmen in Gydans, the original regiment trained under Hanilnaro's charge.

The Gydans musketmen had reservations about sharing knowledge of the musket with the Laptevians. Nevertheless, they agreed to be the armed escorts to this caravan as they took their return course to Khatanga, the Laptevian market by the coast.

They were surprised at dusk by a solitary gunman who started firing at them. The oldest musketman from Gydans, who recognised the miscreant immediately, could barely react as his three younger compatriots returned fire instinctively. Presently one well-aimed shot caught the gunman on his thigh, and he crumpled into the tall grass. The musketmen approached the body cautiously when suddenly another shot rang and one of the three howled clutching his bleeding face. Alarmed, the remaining musketmen charged to the supine gunman and, with decisive shots, made short job of the gunman who had terrorised Laptev in his final days.

- The man that we have just killed is Hanilnaro the Gydanian, said the older musketman wistfully.
- You cannot be serious! exclaimed the others. The person Hanilnaro had been elevated to a mythical status back in Gydans. Tales of his heroic deeds had been seeping back to the place of his birth from Lena, giving hope to those who perceive injustice everywhere. Such a narrative hardly fitted with what they saw now; a vagabond dressed in rags, a rusty musket, a hateful grimace.

They set up camp to treat the wounded musketman and buried Hanilnaro where he lay. In the end nothing but a mound of earth and a wooden stave marked the place of his burial. Though the escort from Gydans decided to tell of the death of Hanilnaro as a cautionary tale, the charisma that his character carried in the hearts of the people was hard to deny. Perhaps he had fallen from grace from a simple character flaw? Perhaps, they would hypothesise, than the Gydans escort had shot at him first?

As it turned out Hanilnaro the musketeer remained a hero in the people's hearts. Nonetheless, for a long time after his death, an occasional youngster passed by his grave on the road to Khatanga every few months and learnt about his justice, so rife with brutality and caprice, as the true reason to his downfall.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Blogging from Christchurch

Day 7: In the night of day 7 I have finally decided to settle down and blog, in the absence of tight schedules, van trips, kiddy distractions and impulses to shop (I have run out of money). The previous 6 days have been long, because the van and coach trips were long. The time spent in the wilds, interacting with local people and local birds etc. was preciously short, sadly speaking.

Today was spent in Christchurch's cultural precint, the bohemian heartlands of South Island. Spent the afternoon lubbing around town like a layabout, because I had visited the Art Gallery (twice), Arts Centre, CoCA, the Canterbury Museum and the Botanical Gardens before in day 5. Besides, I had run out of money.

Had fun out of whatever social contact I could establish. When I couldn't, I had fun watching the folks play chess at the giant chestboard in Cathedral square.

The Europeans that one meets in NZ, in general, are friendlier and more warm-hearted than your usual Anglo-Saxon. They are almost always easy to talk to, and their accent amusing and soothing. The German bratwurst seller at the Arts Centre is a nice guy. And so was Cyrielle, the French girl I met on the whalewatching boat. The German waiter at Kaikoura was nice too, although it was hard for me to conjecture how a German would have landed a job like this in such a place.

Day 6: Day 6 was spent on a day-trip to Kaikoura. Kaikoura means eat-crayfish and true enow, I got to eat crayfish. Mom's complaints on the non-freshness of crayfish notwithstanding, I was happy as long as it was served with tartar.

The seas were rough on the day we took the whalewatching boat over the underwater Kaikoura Canyon and the passengers spotted only 5 sperm whales who scurried away unhurriedly as we drew near.

I also found the French (Ardéchois) girl called Cyrielle who, after ~20 minutes of sitting beside me and not talking, shattered the ice at first opportunity. She was (and still is) on an 8-month holiday globetrotting, from S. America to NZ to Australia to Indonesia, Singapore, Taiwan, Nepal etc. with her parents.
What about school? I asked. Ach, home-schooling was what she swore by, that lucky wommon.
She was struggling in English, but drawing on a notebook and my infantile French got the conversation chugging along quite nicely all the way ashore.

On an unrelated note, I was reminded that lack of social interaction can be terribly suffocating, yet breaking the coccon of introversion is also hard.
I have been walled up in home and van confines for long enough!
"It is God's calling for Catholics to reach out to others!" proclaims Father Richards.
In my last days in Christchurch and thereafter in Singapore, I must follow this philosophy to the best of my ability.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Books worth re-reading

1. Halldór LAXNESS: World Light / Heimsljós
2. Halldór LAXNESS: Under the Glacier / Kristnihald undir jökli
3. Halldór LAXNESS: The Fish Can Sing / Brekkukotsannal
4. Paolo COELHO: Manual of the Warrior of Light
5. Salman RUSHDIE: Fury
6. 当年明月: 明朝那些事儿
7. Denis DUTTON: The Art Instinct
8. James Gordon FARRELL: The Siege of Krishnapur
9. Milan KUNDERA: Life is Elsewhere

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Portions for Sixteen

Out of the thirty-six pilots who left the airbase at Dandong the day before, only twenty returned. As was planned before, they went to the cookhouse, dragged themselves in, and sat themselves down. The chef at duty there could not help notice the expressions that the faces wore: Impassioned, listless faces that stared straight ahead. He called out to them but they distressingly did not bother to respond.

He had expected the mood to be more festive, for goodness sakes. He had slaughtered three full-grown boars to celebrate the victory (and rightfully so, as victory was the outcome), together with a couple of goats and half the garden's worth of greens with it. The portions were hefty and some to spare. Three woks of dishes have just been made ready, seasoned generously with every kind of spice.

Not that these pilots were to blame, if they could not rise up to the occasion: The squadron had met with heavy losses- the sudden appearance of American fighters, for instance, was simply not prepared for. Nor was the fact that the target was found to have unaccountably shifted thirty kilometers west. The squadron CO had confidently promised that all would come back, to reap the rewards for a successful skirmish. But the tired but glorious foodsacks that the feast was designed to fill were far from all available; doubtlessly some of the sixteen, CO included, were strewn over the landscape, crumpled up over the side of Kumgangsan or some other hill like that.

The chef and his assistants made to give the ones present their due portions. Whether they gratefully received it was hard to tell. Given what just happened not long before, the chef surmised, it was probably more than some could summon to even lift up a spoon and start chewing blandly into the chow. When that happened presently he felt a weak ripple of gratitude. As for the others, well, never mind.

Eventually, every pilot were finally coaxed to start eating, since hunger cannot be ignored for long. The chef returned to the portions reserved for the sixteen. He could not help noticing, in the pork, how the bones jutted out at odd angles; or that presently, as he thought, the three boar-heads at the other end of the pantry smiled their accusing smiles at him; or that in the mounds of rice so resembling mountains, the greens made the slopes seem especially verdant (were they undercooked? He thought). The more he pored over the leftovers, the stronger the aura of Death shone from its contents. Soon he was unwilling to look at the food anymore, let alone lift a ladle at it.

And so it happened, at the ceremony commemorating the fatal battle, that the remaining portions were laid out at a makeshift altar. Complaints about such wastage of good food was out of the question, and so the sixteen bowls were left there, virtually ignored, as one by one the ravens descended upon them and fought over them.

Friday, November 06, 2009

ORD Commemorative Post III: Cultural Input

c.f. an inquiry made by Bao Zhong concerning the number of books I have read in my lifetime, the provisional answer to which I settled at ~100. Now I know that the figure is at exactly 78 books, from 1 Jan 2008 till present.

This is the list. I'm not sure if it's less frightening to say that I recounted it from memory than that I kept a record all through 2 years, but I kept a record through the 2 years.


I did the same thing for movies:


-Click to enlarge if needed-

Thursday, November 05, 2009

ORD Commemorative Post II: On Leadership

A personal reflection

I. Drawing on experience:
Of being a half-cooked club president circa 2006-2007, and
Of being a follower of orders, joining ranks with those of like caste to sneer at whoever's up above-

Maybe leadership comes naturally to some of us, those who would be called born leaders. Whether or not such an attribute God actually gives to people in the crib, I belong to the other group, who lands into leadership like a soldier in Brunei lands face-first into swamp mud.

Suffice to say that what I said did not automatically get done, and that people tend to fall sick more often than is plausible. It gave me migraine and smashed my handphones.

In the two years that followed I found myself in a better position to see where I had failed before.

1. As my naïveté flaked off I observed that absenteeism is in fact a diverse and complex phenomena; As much as there are genuine cases of sickness, there are people sick from the reversed placebo effect (i.e. their minds are sick), people who lie outright, and people who would gnaw their own leg off in order to skip training.

2. People require a cause to work towards. In other words, doing work requires knowing what one is doing, no matter how painstaking or trivial. People will not do work if you insult their mothers.

3. Leaders do not do work by themselves as part of their job; they delegate jobs for other people and make sure that they do it. Unfair as it may sound to the corporal, it is important that leaders keep themselves composed and refrain from insulting people's mothers.

Drawing from anecdotes:
From Lieutenant General H.B. Kala of the Indian Army, in the book Demystifying Military Leadership (2003)
From historical commentator Yi Zhongtian concerning Liu Bang (256-195 BC) and leaders of the Three Kingdoms period (AD 220-280)

1. Kala's take at military leadership (my summary): acts effectively through means of persuasion and motivation. Knows the rules but is not limited by rules. Has moral courage to hard-press subordinates or contradict superiors when need be. As is described in the stories of Ming dynasty emperors (明朝那些事儿), the good ones who take care of their people tend to be bastards to all those around them.

2. Bastardry is not a necessary prerequisite to being a good Emperor! (e.g. Emperor Hongxi of Ming)

3. The basis of good leadership is, simply put, putting the right people in the right places, and trustng them completely. (In Yi Zhongtian's account concerning Liu Bang, his success in building the Han Dynasty lay largely on his subjects Xiao He, Zhang Liang and Han Xing and not on himself i.e. he never commanded any decisive victory, instated any policies, etc.)

Ok that's all. Alas, I didn't make anything less messy.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Hibi no Neiro

I cannot resist posting this MV on the blog as well as on Facebook--

日々の音色 / Water Flavour by SOUR
Directors: Masashi Kawamura / Hal Kirkland / Magico Nakamura / Masayoshi Nakamura
2009 Zealot Co.,ltd / Neutral Nine Records

Saturday, October 31, 2009

ORD Commemorative Post I: Smells of 2008-'09

January to March 2008
The overpowering stench of brine from the estuary and garbage from the swill point
The smell of equipment fresh out of plastic covers, screaming out to be dirtied somewhere
The first whiff of Tekong and Marsiling
The sea breeze

March to May 2008
The smell of sterile equipment
The smell of equipment that has been sterile for a long time
The smell of blood
Whatever the rest of Nee Soon Camp smells like

June 2008
The smell of my helmet which has never been washed
The smell of other non-washèd equipment, not unpleasant, but boasting of long service anyway
The smell of airfields
The smell of air 1000ft above ground (actually doesn't smell much)
The smell of training mats
The smell of the dustbin I emptied with maggots the size of my pinky crawling towards the rim

July to August 2008
Can't remember what this smell is like, but am sure it is not good

September 2008
The Brunei forest smell (ah, so sweet and beckoning)
The swamp's aggressive pong halfway between Rotorua and a wet oil painting
The smell of permethrin
The smell of Biang (forest smell + awesome cooling wetness!)

October to November 2008
Smelling whatever that need to be smelled across the island. YARRRR! 86.3k FTW

December 2008 to February 2009
The smell of harbour water
The smell of harbour water after you wash it off in the shower, and when the drains are choked

March to April 2009
Taiwan's welcome with spring flowers
Taiwan's welcome with unhealhy but very tempting foodstuff
Instant noodle from the dispenser
Funny assorted drinks from the dispenser
Pork and non-Thailand rice and lots of gravy
Spray paint, wood dust, marker ink in the planning room
The mouldy smellin' draughts

April to May 2009
The smell of keropok (and the breakfast, the lunch, and the dinner, which are all the same really)
The smell of the thingimmabob you have to eat with a raw green chilli, and which I usually don't
The smell of teh botol
My buddy's canned food
Toilets (now how do I forget this)

June to August 2009
The stench of sweat (never been worse than now)
Superheated tarmac
Raspberry ice cream
The new bunks

September to October 2009
The new bunks
The brine again
Vico, Milo's bastard half-brother
Tekong (this time underground)
The smell of the auditorium (and business center)
Choco mints
Beef teriyaki and lamb stew freeze-dried
Fruit grains
Tea from the blended drinks stall in the canteen laden with cream and sugar
The Thailand underground
A herb which has a smell I find very irritating (Mentha sp.?)
Thailand food obtained through clandestine purchase

October 2009
The smell of an empty bunk.
And then came the smell of a thunderstorm. I watched the rain and watched people get wet as they ran past the parade square.

November 2009

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Skeptic King

[Colophon: An (almost) first go at fantasy writing; welcoming comments from readers!
The story is set in the world of Little Ocean, a concept that I have been working on since 2007. The story's idea came to me randomly while I was out for a walk, so walking works after all.]

[Outskirts of the village called Slykti, the main town of Kara-Taimir. Aigin is a visitor coming from the west. Vainamo is a resident of Slykti, presumably a merchant]
Aigin: What's going on down here?
Vainamo: It's the village rock. A sword's been buried in it.
Aigin: Huh?
Vainamo: Come and see for yourself!

[Village Square. The village rock adorns the center of the square, for both religious and aesthetic reasons. There is a crowd, already starting to disperse]
Vainamo: The word got around that the sword is a sign from our ancestors. That's why we're all here.
Aigin: How could the sword have gotten in?
Vainamo: The ancestors put it there to test the peoples of Kara-Taimir.
Aigin: Uh- how did the sword get in, I'd like to know.
Vainamo: No one knows. Only Simo, the village tramp, he saw the high king Vartaragi in his dream. It was High King who told us the purpose through him. The chosen one, the true owner of the sword in the vllage rock, will unite the peoples of Kara-Taimir, defeat our arch-enemy, the King of Laptev-Taimir, and bring about a new age of prosperity.
Aigin: No wonder you people are so excited by this.
Vainamo: Of course, it's not often that our ancestors intervene and give us help.
Aigin: It'll be more often if you keep denying Simo his food.
Vainamo: What?
Aigin: See that man on his last legs? He's so starved, he's delusional! I'm not surprised that he spends his time dreaming about swords and kings.
Vainamo: But, the sword!
Aigin: I was near starved to death once myself! I dreamt swords and kings alright, dammit.
Vainamo: The sword is there! It wasn't there before!
Aigin: Nah, it's just a clever set-up.
Vainamo: It gave us hope! We have endured the murders and plundering from Laptev for long enough!
Aigin: Doesn't stop it from being fiction. Look, truth is truth if you can show me how the sword got there, maybe even where it came from. I will not accept a delirious dream for an answer!
Vainamo: I'm going to hate you for this. Go away, do as you like with your heretical ideas.
Aigin: I'm going to try the sword.
Vainamo: Oh no, you will not!

Chief: Vainamo, he will try the sword if he wants. We don't deny that right to outsiders, do we?
Vainamo: But sir, he spoke disrespectfully of the vision!
Chief: It's our tradition to be hosptable, even to those who follow different gods.
Vainamo: But sir, he insulted our ancestors!
Chief: It's our tradition!
Vainamo: Alright, fine.
Aigin: Thank you. I've been wanting to see this set-up for myself, closer up.
Chief: Who are you, then?

Aigin: My name is Aigin. I was born in Onega market, a village very much like yours. I am heading to the Academy at Gydans, to pursue my studies in Philosophy.
Chief: A Barentine, so I see. Which part of it was your hometown in? Would it be Kola-Barents or Arkhangel-Barents?
Aigin: Arkhangel-Barents.
Chief: Are the reindeer in their breeding season this time of the year?
Aigin: No, I'm afraid, they've gone extinct in Arkhangel and thereabouts.
Chief: Ach, shame. Try the sword if you like. Men three and a half times your size have tried, without doing so much as make it budge, so don't hope for too much.

Vainamo: The sword, dammit, be careful of it!
Aigin: Why?
Vainamo: You're going to bend it! Pull it the right way!
Aigin: Okay.
{Aigin pulls the sword out}
Vainamo: Why, surely not you! Put the thing back!
Aigin: It wasn't me! The sword was loose.
Simo: It is you! You are the chosen one!

{Enter the villagers re-congregating at the village rock}

Villagers: You've done it! You are the true owner of the sword!
Aigin: Hell no, I've never seen this thing before.
Villagers: You are the future King of all Taimiria!
Aigin: I want nothing to do with Taimiria! Please, how do you put the thing back?
Chief: You can't. The hole's been sealed.
Aigin: Oh gods, I have no time for such nonsense!
{Aigin gropes the village rock for the hole and, finding none, faces the crowd}

Aigin: I have to be on my way now. Listen up: I've never known your ancestors; never met them, don't think they exist anyway. I have no idea why I could be chosen by them. And I urge you, if your backwardness allows, to face the clear light of reason and shun the superstitious delusions that plagued your... your forefathers. Now, where do I put the sword?
Simo: Your majesty, take the sword with you; it's yours.
Aigin: Don't call me that! And I can't bring this sword to Gydans! I'll just leave it with Simo.
Simo: How can I do? I'm not fit even to carry your sandals...
Aigin: Just take the sword and shut up, Simo.
Simo: I'll be waiting for your timely return, your majesty the King Aigin!
Aigin {retreating to the distance}: Sell it and get yourself some food, for goodness sakes.
Simo: I'll guard it for as long as I live!

Vainamo: Where is he from again?
Chief: Barents.
Vainamo: Barents! Of course! The snob! I don't get it. Our future king is going to be a... a rationalist?
Chief: I'm afraid that is going to be so. We have the quirky ancestors, Vainamo.
Vainamo: Maybe the Academy will change him.
Chief: On the contrary, I know the culture at Gydans to be especially unhealthy for one's faith. He's just going to get worse at it.
Vainamo: What we need is a strong man, a heartlander. He is a weak scholar, a sceptic! How is he going to defeat the Laptevians?
Chief {snorts}: By being smart-ass? Huh. I dunno. You should ask Simo instead, he's the holy man down here in Slykti.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Blogging from Kanchanaburi

Day 3: It's my third day today in Kanchanaburi province. Since I had fallen asleep throughout the coach ride here from Don Muang airport, there is almost no sense of place. Only the looming hills and the anal weather made the landscape any more distinctive than what we have usually.

There is an internet cafe in the Sai Yok Camp canteen. Internet connection here is slow-ish. I play minesweeper when stuff are loading.

Day 6: I have gone out a while ago and seen Thailand. It would have been wonderful, if the weather wasn't so anal. The mountains here are funnily shaped and a funny smell hangs in the air at some spots. Dogs are all over the place.

Ok, no more updating for a long time, till I come back to Singapore, I think.

Day 14:
Ok I'm sorry I just can't resist an update and stuff.

Back from a 7-day field excursion. Can't remember much except foodwise, and doesn't feel like writing about it anyway. Also, I have a cold thanks to the retarded weather. While calling back, had some updates on the outside world. Mom did not divulge anything much about this other than natural disasters.

Saturday was the real Mid-Autumn Festival, two weeks after the celebrations in school. The full moon and mosquitoes kept me awake all night, and there was no peace.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Holeh Smoke

Two buddies sat holed up underground one day.

A: Aiyah, cannot take it already! So hot inside here!
B: Walao, dun be such a sissy can anot? Less than 50 seconds inside here already start to complain.
A: Really lah! Weather forecast say Bangkok here is 25 to 32 degrees. Come here onlyyy... see the sun up theeere. I think, I think around forty forty-five there lor! You not hot meh?
B: Okay lah.
A: Sign on lah!
B: Siao! (标准答案是也)
A: You up there one hor, sure can make it one.
B: Aiyah... lucky I brought my fan here, you wanna use?
A: You're the man!

B: Eh, eh, buddy, why you so quiet now?
A: Fan shiok mah
B: Go to sleep already ah?
A: Aiyah, nothing to do, just sleep eryi.
B: Cannot be do one. The fan the AAA battery only last for 3 hours. Power at least ration abit lah.
A: What? You never bring spare bat ah?
B: Got, 500%, but uphill. Sorry lah, I forgot to bring
A: Wah lan eh!

Fan: sputter sputter fizzle fizzle
A: What happening?
B: You see lah, battery used up liao.
A: Wah lan eh, buay sai lah!
B: Told yooou
A: You never
B: I diiiiid
A: Aiyah, I comms upstairs see how.

A: Hole to team comm, hole to team comm.
Commander: Team comm send.
A: Can pass some triple-A bat down here?
C: Why never ration?
A: Sirrr, the batteries life too short le.
C: Sorry lah, we abit busy up here lah. We cooking noodle for you.
A: Then cannot come down ah?
C: Wait abit can anot? Later got alot of chicken abalone waiting for y'all, can eat until y'all sick. Come out at sunset then I give you. Okay?

B: How's he say?
A: Aiyah, he oso buay sai lah.
B: You wan go uphill to take anot?
A: Never mind, I lazy.
B: 'kay lor.
A: Very sian lah! What time is it?
B: 9:45 am
A: Liddat only?! I wanna keng le
B: Who dun wan to keng
A: Yah la, you oso agree... I think tomorrow I cui already, must go back to camp and report sick.
B: How?
A: Say I stay inside hole for too long then kena heatstroke.
B: This excuse cannot make it one
A: Say my legspace cramped until got compound femural fracture.
B: Dun be lame lah.
A: Say that I miss home so much until I hallucinate
B: Say that you stay in hole so long until you turn gay
A: Why din I think of that?

B: Eh? You heard that?
A: Nothing one lah.
B: Vehicle eh?
A: Aiyah, it passed already. Shit, you got take picture?
B: Oh no, the picture inside cannot see a thing.
A: Buay sai lah, cannot see shit still stay here for what?
B: Contact drill mah.
A: Wun come one...
B: Sure come today one! Confirm, soompah
A: Oh yar, today last day hor.

B: Hole to team comm hole to team comm
C: Yar, what?
B: Uh, we saw something.
C: What thing?
B: I think tank ah.
C: Oh, tink tank ah, good, good. You got handphone with you?
B: Err, yes.
C: Can call signaller later? I sleep first.
A: What he say?
B: He say good.
A: Okay lor.

A: I think I call home ah.
Phone: Ringggg
A: Why never pick uuup-
Mom: Hello?
A: 妈!
M: 哎!你怎么样啊?
A: 哎呀,苦掉渣了!你猜我在哪里?
M: 哪里?
A: 我在洞里!
M: 哈哈哈。。。那你在洞里是不是一动不动?
A: 妈!不好笑!
A: Okay lor.
Dad: 儿子,你在洞里是吗?
A: 是啊
D: 那你好好待吧。
A: 爸!不好笑!
M: 儿子,你一定要坚强地熬过这个星期!一切很快就会过了!
A: 妈,还很长啊。。。

B: Sian lah, when he coming? He come then we can go out already
A: He forgot about us already lah- oshit, got vehicle!
B: everything on!

Thunderflash: Chk fsssss plap fsssss
Thunderflash: BOOMZ
B: Yeeeeargh-ha!
A: ORD loh!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

On the people who still came back

I was there for Mid Autumn Festival from circa 1745 to 2000 hours; not too long. I met some of the people, and failed to meet the others. You must forgive me, I was dragged off to dinner halfaways.

Not caring much about performances, rituals and suchlike, I scuttered around the plaza, sifted through the crowd only to pick up familiar faces. An estimated 5% of the 2006 cohort returned this year, pretty neatly corresponding to those I wanted to see the most. These included Victor Goh's clique, the S70 guys, the S6B guys, The Wushu people, Zhang Hao and DesChun. To my added delight, for this year's MAF the art room was unlocked too. The gallery had new stuff and I got to see them all.

The best thing about these aforementioned is that they behaved like real people, not abstractions of a life in the distant future. With them you could reflect upon your own lives till high hours and feel good about; these small, claustrophobic lives that only we know and have come perversely to love.

Dinner was with Mingyang and sister at Adam Road Hawker Centre. After that we walked the fella home to his mansion. On the way there, I ran into Timothy Hwang.

Bought a book today at Vivo:
This is just my kind of stuff! =D

Saturday, September 05, 2009


I have passed my second week in this course, this time in Tekong. This outfield experience is very much different from whatever I'd had previously. The time spent under rainforest foliages is longer, and hardheaded slogging replaced the good old chiong sua. Hiding in a grave-shaped hole for hefty hours of shifts isn't fun, but doing the signal setups is. This combination of torture and fun is a sure formula for insanity; not that I mind it very much though.

My friends seem to have grown tired of dried mango. Never mind, I bring beef jerky this time.
Next up: Outfield Week AIII
Also on list: Outfields BI, BII-III Thailand

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Calendar Making

The way I organise my personal diary here explained:

The basic unit of all time is the day
All days are grouped into weeks, the basic component of longer defined periods

The calendar is 18 to 20 months long
The stretch is divided evenly into 18 to 20 fiscal months
The 12 fiscal months in each year are each denoted with a chinese character:
The 12 calendar months in each year are each denoted by a letter:
G, Ƕ(also Hw or Q), M, É, T, C, H, L, W, P, S, N
The fiscal month may start on the 11th of its corresponding calendar month and end on the 10th of the following month, depending on the individual.
Expenses are calulated based on fiscal months.

In English, the date is written as: (day)(calendar month glyph)
e.g. today is 30 August, or 30L

In Chinese, the date is written as: (decade)(fiscal month)(day)(day of the week)
Each fiscal month is divided into 3 decades:
1st decade: 11th to 20th of the month
2nd decade: 21st to end of month
3rd decade: 1st to 10th of the (following) month
each phase is denoted by a character (varies according to fiscal month)
day: according to sequence of day in the decade
day of week: follows Japanese system
e.g. 30 August, 盛露十日

The NS stint is organised into seasons, in which specific sets of activities or events come into play.
Seasons are organised as sets of weeks.
A Frame is a more loosely-defined subset of seasons.
A season may be divided into sub-parts (i.e. period A and period B)
Chinese dates can also be expressed alternatively in terms of frame rather than fiscal month.
e.g. 30 August, 蜂雀七日

Each season (or its subdivision) has a separate calendar, drawn in a table such that each week forms a new row.
The weeks are numbered in order: I, II, III...
for sub-parts: AI, AII, AIII; BI, BII...
A frame may also have its own calendar, for which a week 0 may be defined
For everything else, there's still the legend you can follow.

Fast approaching: Recon Season, week AII

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Autumnal Equinox Update

At about the same times when I am in the grass rolling, on the foam mats doing furious bigfoot impressions, or on the streets running my heart out, or skulking around town in full parade order, the rest of my universe flies apart. It must have been the same feeling experienced by Álfgrímur Hansson leaving his childhood house, knowing full well it would be razed to the ground the next day.

The folks of old, where have they gone? At distant corners of space, lurking in the darkness between stars. They too must miss the folks of old, probably not as much as I do. Maybe they don't, but I've given up whining about the past... The present has its own set of friends. The present also features my guitar, which I have picked up and am learning to play (for the 3rd time). When I play I think of my older friends, but I play towards a muting emptiness. It doesn't matter; my fingerpicking is only about 35% proficient. The worse acoustics, the better.

We are heading into the wilderness again. I look forward to that sort of thing as a solace, where the stupid crowds are never present and lonely guys never get lonely alone. When else can one find such splendid distractions in his life? None after October. This is the last one.

Was at church this afternoon. I led the kyrie again, and they said I sang quite well =D

Fingerpickin' time--

The Five-Year Inscription

19 August 2009
Happy belated 5th birthday, blog fella!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Army Half Marathon

There is one every year, always featuring as its main attraction a 21-kilometer route in city and thereabouts. I ran the AHM (21k non-competitive) today for this year and also for the year before, even though it wasn't blogged about. They gave out medals straight away, as compared to last year when it was passed down many hands and conveniently disappeared.

I shall give some other comparisons between these 2 runs-
route: is more convoluted
small talk: more frequent
stirring shit across units: likewise
speed: slower
environmental pollution: worse
seeing people I know by accident: 4 (compared to 2 last year)

The formation clinched top place for non-competitive, and the host had heaps of fun doing this-
Host: This year's team champion title goes to... the Сοmmandοs!
Us: Wooooooo!
Host: Lololol this year's champion formation is... the Сοmmandοs!
Us: Wooooooo!
Host: Wow how they just cheer whenever we say that-
Host: When I passed out of BMT 20 years ago I was supposed to go to... the Сοmmandοs!
Us: Wooooooooooo!
Host: When you pass by Changi Village be sure to say hi to... the Сοmmandοs!
Us: Wooooooooooooo!

When that was finished everyone went home boarding the train at City Hall. I strolled in the other direction instead, towards Raffles Place station. The place was lazy, almost deathly quiet at 10am, though sprinkled lightly with slackers and tourists. I saw a raven for the first time, close up, at Cavenagh bridge. It's a beautiful creature, large and black all over, even to its beak, and stirred up thoughts about stuff like death and ruin. It wasn't doing anything much apart from frightening the pedestrians, so I shooed it away.

People are complaining about not being able to feel their own legs. I thank God that I still can; and it still feels the way after Zhongshan kicked it in Friday's sparring session.

On trains and being alone
I got home on trains alone on the preceding Monday, Friday and Sunday. In 1 such case I sought to eject my seat from the crowd of old and no longer familiar acquaintances, when hanging around just becomes deadly uncomfortable. In the second case it was by chance, and nothing was wrong. In the third case I merely wanted to chill, to cool off from human contact, and got to do just that.

Whatever the reason, I have fallen out of favour with the crowd again, whether I knew the people or not. The crowd always looked the other way, and I could never camouflague myself into one of them. Never mind, I can always run. The world is never short of closed shopfronts, temporarily closed roads, unholy hours, quiet suburbs, ghost towns and wilderness. These are places perfect for being alone in; where the heat sizzles off. Damn this, socialising is some tough shite. I've said that from my heart. Whoever still reads my blog, I'm sorry, swallow it.

Sunday, August 02, 2009


We had the long-anticipated 3.2km city march yesterday. You might say that 3.2 is nothing compared to last year's 86.3, but still, O my wretched right forearm!

The route started from the floating platform, to the Esplanade, right turn to the also-thus-named bridge, past the Fullerton, right turn to Anderson Bridge, past a few other spiffy buildings, past Victoria Concert Hall (ah the memories), past Saint Andrew's Road, and the long march down Raffles Avenue completed this horrible journey.

When we marched into the city it was as if the whole nation was waiting in silence. The streets had no cars / cars parked with engines shut and people watched from a distance. I enjoyed the cheers and catcalls alike, even though the audience was placed at a wide berth; this arrangement, I believe, stemmed from a fear of some maniacs crashing out through the barricades to snatch the guns from our hands. But I say! At the time it is most welcome of them to do so.

Throat was burning the whole duration of yesterday and still does. I might miss the actual National Day for this. But still, with the Army Half Marathon the following week to that and the start of recon course the week after, what other opportunity do I have to rest? O, such a pleasure it is to awake in sunshine.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

National Day Parade / NE Shows

I. 3 files in my contingent were missing on 18 July, which is also Mom's birthday. No one noticed a thing, what with us stealthily and virtuostically spreading out to fill the space left behind.

II. National Day Parade (plus n times previews, n times rehearsals, and n times NE shows) have earned a special place in my heart over time, and this is not just because of the patriotic fervour. Yes! Someone special is watching me, starched cardboard-stiff and pointlessly spruced, from up there everytime I march in with my mates; and this is not just the RSM.

It's partly thanks to the kids coming to watch us for the last 2 NE shows. Their spirits threw my cynicism in stark relief. They sang the Anthem unprompted; they echoed every blank shell rattling off the boats, and every wave of the Feu-de-joie with ecstatic cheering (screaming? screeching?) - throwing a din to match the noises we must have been making a thousand times before!

And while the rain poured unreservedly upon the Guard of Honour / Flag Party in all our ceremonial splendour last Saturday, the kids stayed behind on platform and wrapped up the show in high spirits. A heartwarming picture of the children audience (in ponchos) came on Sunday on Lianhe Zaobao, putting me to shame for ever thinkin' to grumble.

In the same issue, I also discovered that the traffic accident (the one with 7 ambulances activated) is a sham put up by the trainers to pacify drenched and mutinious spirits. Alas, I was sorely fooled.

III. The Fire of Joy command reads:
Akan tembak FEU-DE-JOIE, isikan- BARU!
Awesome, French thingimmabob in a Malay command! And I never knew.

Sunday, July 05, 2009


from the aforementioned novel, a side story featuring Lermontov, a Russian poet

The competition continued: everyone tried to be the center of attention. Someone played the piano, couples danced, adjacent groups loudly laughed and talked: people tried to outdo each other in wit, everyone tried to surpass the others and be seen.

Martynov was there, too; tall, handsome, almost operetta elegant in his uniform and with a large dagger, surrounded by women. Oh, how much he irritated Lermontov! God was unjust to give such a handsome face to that idiot and short legs to Lermontov. But if the poet lacked long legs, he had a sarcastic wit that had lifted him high.

He approached Martynov's group and awaited his opportunity. Then he made an insolent remark and watched the stunned faces near him.

And still another insolent remark, and then another, so that the handsome Martynov is insulted at last. He reprimands Lermontov before the entire company.

What? Should Lermontov take back his witty remarks? Should he apologize? Never!

His friends warn him. It's insane to risk a duel over foolishness. It's best to calm things down. Your life, Lermontov, is more precious than that laughable will-o'-the-wisp, honor!

What? Is there something more precious than honor?
Yes, Lermontov, your life, your work.
No, there is nothing more precious than honor!

Honor is merely the hunger of your vanity, Lermontov. Honor is a mirror illusion, honor is merely a spectacle for this insignificant audience, which will no longer be here tomorrow!

But Lermontov and the moments in which he is living are as immense as eternity, and the ladies and gentlemen watching him are the world's amphitheater! Either he will cross this amphitheater with a firm and virile step, or he will not deserve to live!

Friday, July 03, 2009

The Life of Jaromil

A review and rewritten form of Life is Elsewhere, the novel by Milan Kundera
The story describes the whole life of the poet Jaromil, a short life of twenty or so years. Jaromil is a poet, and represents the basic conditions of poets. Kundera's narration from Jaromil's point of view is sympathetic as it is corrosive, and Jaromil is subtly revealed to be a pathetic, if endowed, character.

I'll attempt to write Kundera's flourishy prose in plain, to give an idea of what he is getting at.

Part 1: The Poet is Born
The poet is conceived out of wedlock. Mama brings him up to be a poet to spite his father (an impudent engineer who she later married). The child has an knack in making words rhyme. The child learns to impress adults by rattling off chimology. Mama is proud of the child Jaromil, and believes he is a genius.

Part 2: Xavier
Xavier is a character created by Jaromil, and is his alter-ego in his dream world. Xavier lives his life as a succession of dreams. Presently, he is seducing a woman in her own home. Her husband returns and he locks him up in the oak cupboard.

Xavier: Don't worry, he's locked up. He'll starve to death in there. Ha, ha, ha!
Woman: Ooh, you're so dashing! I shall come with you.
Xavier falls asleep and enters the next dream.

In the ski resort, Xavier seduces the lady in a red sweater. While they make love the girl in white, who loves Xavier, is in plain view. She dies of a broken heart and of the freezing cold. Xavier goes to her funeral, and feels her disembodied hands caressing him, because she will love this bastard no matter what.

Xavier wakes up. The woman he had seduced in dream 1 is worried; the secret police is raiding the apartment building. Xavier, who was part of the secret police before he was branded as a traitor, is now gone f*. He looks out of the window. The woman is beautiful, but Life is even more beautiful, so he leaves the woman and escapes.

Part 3: The Poet Masturbates
The poet grows up and learns art from a painter. The poet has growing pains. He longs to be a grown-up man, but Mama mollycoddles her boy. Despite such awkward circumstances he got himself a girlfriend for a short while. The revolution comes to Bohemia and Jaromil jumps onto the Communist bandwagon passionately. He alienates his family and the painter who taught him, as they were anti-communist.

Part 4: The Poet Runs
Jaromil runs from Mama and into adulthood. He joins the ongoing revolution in conjunction with his own revolution against his mum. He contributed chiefly in the sloganeering, putting up garish messages in a hall in the university. In the various meetings he showily stomps to the ground the views his fellow poets, whether or not they agreed with his own. He gets another girlfriend, who Kundera dubs the "redhead".

Part 5: The Poet is Jealous
Jaromil keeps running away from Mama, who in return manipulates her son in order to keep him by her side.

Jaromil and the redhead has numerous passionate encounters. We find out that he has a phobia of any other man than himself touching the redhead. He jealously forbids her to go to the doctor, visit her brother, etc.
The redhead is late one day for a date. Jaromil is mortally insulted, so she presents a string of made-up stories. When she comes to the story that her brother was about to cross the border, Jaromil's ideological fervour takes over. He informs on her brother, and both brother and sister are arrested.

Curiously, at this point his phobia had dissipated. Because her abuse (as he imagines) at the hands of the police are, in a way... his own hands. He feels a sense of absolute power over her life. He falls in love with another girl.

Part 6: The Man in His Forties
Kundera tells his readers to take a break. He reveals that he is not as delusional as the fellow he has been speaking on behalf of for the length of this book. He invites us to take another point of view.

The redhead, running away from the police, comes to the house of her other boyfriend (shock! horror!), the man in his forties. She has got her life and her brother (he was not released) into a mess by the story she told Jaromil. The man accepts her and comforts her. The life of the redhead, says Kundera, will be a scramble for a long time afterwards. And he leaves the couple to stew in their own juice.

Part 7: The Poet Dies
We're back in the life of Jaromil.

Jaromil is invited to a party by his new girl, a filmmaker tutoring the policemen's filmmaking club. He has a go at seducing the filmmaker, but her room was filled with guests. One of them comes to Jaromil and tells him that his teacher, the painter, was sentenced to hard labour while Jaromil could sit out here comfortably and present, without being persecuted, all the beautiful shit he has written.

Jaromil is as humiliated as a wet poodle. He tries to punch the insolent man, but the man is stronger and lifts him off the ground. He throws Jaromil outside onto the balcony, and kicks him in the pants.

A shot rings out, Lermontov clutches his chest, and Jaromil falls to the icy concrete floor of the balcony. O my Bohemia, how easily you transform the glory of a pistol shot into the buffoonery of a kick in the pants!

Jaromil is so insulted that he wants to die. He wants to jump off the balcony but it's not high enough, and if he fails to die people will laugh at him. At the moment, he could only try to freeze to death in the cold weather. From the balcony, he sees the bastard Xavier and the filmmaker making love; both had betrayed him!

Unfortunately, Jaromil still is not dead when morning comes. He withdraws hastily back home, and comes down with pneumonia. As he lies on his bed, convulsing with fever, Mama comes to comfort him. 'Damn this, this is not the way to go', he says to himself. And then he dies.

Thursday, July 02, 2009


Grandfather passed away last Sunday, 27 June, after almost a year in coma. Dad and Mom have been mobilised and they are still in China now. Grandfather is rather solidly seated in heaven, just like great-grandmother is, said my mother over the phone. Because we sent him off with Catholic last rites. Yea, that does the trick... and God rest his soul.

何省心 著

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Inscription 525

This entry's subsections sorted by theme:

I: Army life now takes up 95% of my time. Maybe it's not a bad thing. Maybe it's not a bad thing 1 year later and looking back; maybe not now.

I'm in the Army Guard of Honour in both parades (National Day and SAF Day)
Zhengyou and Wei Lai are in as well, in the Regimental Colours contingent.
Eugene Tan has enlisted this year, and he now works in my camp, a storeman.
We even met Jonathan with NCC cadets at Pasir Laba.
Weiyi told me the other day that he got posted to Hendon. It turned out that I was sorely deceived, and it was an April Fool's joke.

I have seen with my own eyes the standard of footdrill in the NPCC ranks. I laughed at them. I should be so ashamed.

II: Music now playing mostly Swedish stuff in my iPod on various bus trips, tonner trips etc. to and fro Hendon and SAFTI, Hendon and Nee Soon, Hendon and Pasir Laba, Hendon and NTU, Hendon and home, and so on. There is a slant towards Korean music lately, namely of the North Korean sort: folksily boisterous and spiked with horrendous electronic instrumentation. The horrendousness is oddly pleasing to listen to, nonetheless.

Marie finds these North Korean songs dead annoying though.

III: Plans
Plan to go UK next year, because Yee Chien needs a hefty helping of Irish coffee, she says

Plan to learn playin' the guitar
Plan to pick up again playin' the piano
Plan to learn playin' the organ
Plan to go on a biking adventure trip
Plan to go on a mountaineering trip
Plan to go Hokkaido
Plan to learn driving
Plan to join a design firm
Plan to start a design firm
Plan to sell my paintings
Plan to make some more paintings
Plan to take up a saving scheme

I shall not forget all these abovementioned

IV: Alas, I shall spare you the real ranting

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Terminator Salvation

A rare instance of a blog entry featuring frank, unfettered, politically incorrect raving

There was a rare class gathering involving a heftier portion of 06s6E (not HCAEP batch 3, who so far has been gathering on weekdays to tekan the stay-in people) at Cineleisure. I had always regarded Cineleisure as some kind of prison, owing to its fetteringly-designed interior of winding passages and oddly-placed elevators, not mentioning the cubicles of glassy-eyed gamers in the upper stories and the delusional atmosphere thanks to neon lights. This feeling of repulsion is weaker now, for some strange reason.

I have never seen people like the girls and Gooi Khai Shin and Singhwa for exactly 9 months. I have, however, met up with Jedi quite often. And my sister got to know Lisheng and Zichun meanwhile. So it's still OK.

Not everyone was invited through calling. Excluding now those who're studying overseas, the remainder suspiciously rather neatly corresponds to the nerd quartet of Damien, Yixiong, Jedi and myself. This is not cool. I made a mental note of holding our own outing in the future which is now, of course, no longer mental. By the way, DOTA must fit in here somehwere!

I have to admit that I resented a shift in dress sense observed in an exclassmate but was too polite to point out to her. And I am still too polite to point out, even though it is now 12:23 AM. And I had better finish this before I turn impolite. So

We watched Terminator Salvation, starring Christian Bale and Sam Worthington, who looked so much like Christian Bale I confused one for the other for the first 1/2 hour. (A bow to our class spirit, of course, because if I came alone I would have picked the movie with the cute Chinese vampireslaying ckick donning school uniform and pulling off Zhang Yimou special effects.) It was not a good film, but I enjoyed watching it for the sheer joy of discovery, namely of atrocious breaches of logic, physics, and military science.

Christian Bale is an idiot: how many choppers he must have crashed! And most glaringly detonated the nuclear energy thingimmabobs right when the chopper was flying over HQ Skynet! And the ammunition is like free, like they're still the United States Army! And the robots are harder to kill than zombies- well, not even molten metal would melt their metal. Hells bells, must be bloody kryptonite, or a metastable isotope of element 287, say I! Do have some more cake

There was also this racist and inflammatory scene of a resistance army angmoh kao-pehing the Chinese woman next to him: Shut up! Shut up! Can't you speak some English? Ach, would someone please bother to kick him in the face.

Dinner came mercifully as soon as possible afterwards. Guys of the table talked cock that night as virulently as my dad would do with a similar bunch of fellow Xiamen University alumni. Ohgods, what did we talk about? Well, what did we not? Ach, and the Xiao Long Bao has scarce lost its taste, many thanks be to God!

Took a bus home reading an exposition by Noam Chomsky entitled Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy, which I think is true reason behind my being so rude with the keyboard. Good night, America! Good night, United States Army! I sure hope you run out of ammunition pretty damn soon.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Tjandrapoera Inscription

I. Java: Java is really quite big for an island, one of the biggest in the world. The slides also told us that Indonesia is the 4th largest country, which is bullcrap.

II. Banten province: Is recently separated from the province of West Java, and occupies the western tip of the island. Across the Sunda straits from Banten is the province of Lampung in Sumatera. In the straits of Sunda lie the remnants of Gunung Krakatau, the site of THE most hiong volcanic eruption in recorded history. This is one tidbit they never granted us so that we may sleep in peace.

III. Serang and vincinity: Serang is 2~3 hours west of Jakarta, and is the main town of the province. Campsite is ~20 minutes northwest. The town of Cilegon is ~2 hours west from thence, and the town Anyer on the Sunda straits is still further.
Relax. There's none too much tourissy places to be seen apart from the malls. Oh, and Anyer's beach.

IV. The Kopassvs: The Kopassvs were our hosts for our stay in Serang. Warmhearted and polite as hosts, they assuaged our frustrations whenever something went wrong in the programme. "We apologise for any inconvenience you have met. Please, take away only the good memories, leave the bad ones behind!" This has happened 3~4 times.

V. Form: footdrill commands are screamed, and usually (if not always) end with a crisp "gerak", and differ quite a lot from the Malay commands used in Singapore. The first step of a quick march is made by chopping your left heel onto the ground. In parades, commanders hopped back and forth the parade stand. You acknowledged an order to spread, squeeze and hop around by slapping your tum. And then there were other oddities.

VI. Getting around town: The bumpers of Kopassvs tonners are painted red. Why's that so? It's for intimidating the civilians who clog up the streets, and to hell with camouflage! And we've got metal rams up front, in case you're not intimidated. And we've got sirens as well, in case you don't know that we're nearby.
There was once a random car was mauled just for fun. The victimised driver pulled obligingly to the shoulder, and didn't raise anything more than murmured incomprehension.

We were discouraged from leaving our assigned mall and roaming the streets outside, and for good reason.

VII. Outfield: Camouflage is not needed at night, and neither are helmets and all those stuff kiasu Singaporeans bring outfield. No way! All you will ever need for 3 days is a groundsheet and a week's supply of instant noodles.
Sleep like a log in the night! Make the jungle your home; build your basha with foundations, lay out your sleeping mats, take out your shirt and jungle hat! Hells bells, go ahead and lepas your senjata as well if you like, but only when komandan is not looking.
Keep your spirits high; cheer at the enemy when contacted! WHOO

VIII: Jungle survival: You could cook with a hole in the ground, a few tiers separated by banana leaves, and rocks heated by fire or sunlight. Tapioca is decent if prepared thus, and the daging is quite damn heavenly.
Daging babi is also good for eating, said my Indonesian friend. If one is desperate, perhaps.

We were also shown vicious booby traps of the sort reminiscent of Chinese/Korean historical dramas and the Mel Gibson movie Apocalypto.

IX. The Indonesian language: Have a basic grasp of key words and learn the rest of it as it comes. Carefully introduce a foreign accent if you are not confident or they will mistake you for a native speaker and you will be bound invariantly for malu-ness.

The soldierly lexicon used in the past fortnight prominently included--
Averse elements: nyamuk - mosquito; panas - hot (weather); hujan - rain
Everyday stuff: makan - eat; tidur - sleep; kencing - piss
Military terminology: senapan - rifle; latihan - exercise; upachara - ceremony
Other soldierly terms: cewek - girl; berapa - how much?

Note that the following kinds words are not easily learnt through the usual method of hand signals, and need to be picked up by the learner himself. e.g.
Expressing time: besok - tomorrow; kemudian - afterwards; kadang-kadang - sometimes
Linking words: kalau - if; untuk - for; tetapi - but
Prepositions: dekat - near; sampai - until; sejak - since
and so on.

X: Parachuting: The jump sites were accessible to visitors from around the area. On the day we landed in Gorda cross, the spectators helped to pack the chutes for the newly-landed. It was quite hard to refuse, because they insisted on doing so vehemently. And then they waited vehemently for the tip.

When Dom landed, he was swamped with a throng of tip-hopeful children. I landed in padi, and so was spared much of the swamping. Winston landed in the swamp.
A story goes that Cliff took out 30.000 rupiahs and asked the guy who helped him "You want berapa?" and had it all snatched from him, no answers needed.

XI: Malls in Jakarta:
Come all ye to Mangga Dua Square, for here be all the clothes at dirt-cheap prices.
Come all ye to Pondok Indah- well, it's rather more like a Singapore mall, except that its scale is American.

Postscript: Consolidation of the Mother's Day present:
For Mom's coin and notes collections-
5 Rp, 25 Rp, 50 Rp with image of Komodo dragon - rare coins I got for doing a social suicide stunt
Current 50 Rp with image of a bird named Kepodang
Current 100 Rp with image of a cockatoo
1978-minted 100 Rp with image of house on stilts
Current 200 Rp with image of a Bali mynah
Current 500 Rp with image of a plant named Bunga Melati
Recently obsolete 500 Rp with a different design and yellow tint
Notes of 1000, 5000, 10.000, 20.000, 50.000 and 100.000 Rp

Postscript 2:
See earlier post.

Les Filles de Java

Les filles d'Anyer ont le goût du miel,
La peau sucrée comme guigne au soleil,
Au soleil, au soleil,
Les filles d'Anyer ont le goût du miel,
Les filles d'Anyer ont le goût du miel.

Les filles de Serang faut voir quand elles dansent,
Les anges du ciel frappent la cadence,
Quand elles dansent, quand elles dansent,
Les anges du ciel frappent la cadence,
Les anges du ciel frappent la cadence.

Les filles de Bandung ont le teint si pâle
Que claire est la pluie et clair le cristal,
Teint si pâle, teint si pâle,
Que claire est la pluie et clair le cristal,
Que claire est la pluie et clair le cristal.

Les filles de Jakarta ont le diable au corps,
Tu vendrais ton âme pour qu’elles t’aiment encore,
Diable au corps, diable au corps,
Tu vendrais ton âme pour qu’elles t’aiment encore,
Tu vendrais ton âme pour qu’elles t’aiment encore.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Another note before I fly

2009/5/4: I've packed, Bahasa Indonesia textbook and thermometer and all. I've rehearsed my presentation; a short one, but hell-stressful to pull off. I have a reasonable command of an Indonesian-Malaysian-Singlish-mixed pidgin, hopefully good enough to draw knowing smiles more than it draws incomprehending laughter.

I enjoyed laughing incomprehendingly at Kazuki Tomokawa's singing. The tune and the poetry and the singing are all marvellously mismatched. This Japanese acid-folk artist does more than just sing; he howls, he wails, he sputters and coughs, to plaintive chords that prove all too painful to listen to after a while. I guess it's his poems that make him popular in Japan. It's a howling tragedy that I couldn't read Japanese.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Hell hath no fury like justice unleashed

On Thursday night the Devil appeared before me in the form of two men.
1: She is gone. Forget about her. You are here and she is in college.
1: The time will come when you are in there too; you will stand at the balcony and lift one finger and you shall have whomever you will want.
1: Live life, enjoy, experiment!
1: Who knows if she is doing the same now?

The devil which spoke through my friend was signalling towards me: tear his face off! which was as always. The other guy spoke.

They stood up. They stood in front of my bed. I wanted to assume a stance against them. I stood up as well. I did not refute whatever they had said, as I did not know how.
2: Be strong if you want to get what you want. If you are weak, even women will eat you alive.
2: Live life, enjoy, experiment!
2: Face it, no one can beat temptation of this sort.
1: That's the way the world is now.
2: That is right.
1: You will do better not to be fettered in by your religious restrictions.
2: Why don't you stop being a Catholic?

A third guy, a Catholic also, came in.
2: You, tell him how havoc you are!
1: You are a sinner! You are not fit to be Catholic!
3: Wah! I'll remember that... [he exits]

1: The best person to seduce are Christian women. Why, when you finally get them into your illegitimate clutches,
2: You have beaten Jesus!
1: Evil triumphs!

And so on and so forth as I waited for the storm to subside.
The second guy became slightly human again. He asked me,
2: Just asking, were you very repelled by what I have said?
I confessed.
I thought he would pin me down there and then and break all 4 of my limbs. He didn't. Wouldn't mind if he did. But I would also have said more.

After the storm subsided I asked the onlookers, 2 of them huddled into a corner. I asked them what they thought.
Oh, we think it's all rubbish.
Why, then, did they not stand up against them?

This is what's called the silence of the lambs, I told another friend. He agreed. He did not look as if he would stand up against them, either.
But at least I know that I am not without friends. Alas, silent ones all the same.

I was more silent than I would have liked.
I do not believe that I am weak. I am strong inside.
If I should not use strengh tear my buddy's face out for what he has said, I will use it to defend.
I will defend what I believe in. I believe that the ways of the world can be resisted.
For myself at least, I will not succumb.
For this island shall sink beneath the deepest oceans, fire shall consume all life on earth, the stars of the universe shall darken, the laws of physics shall be annulled, and the universe itself shall disintegrate before my faith does the same.


On Friday night we found ourselves engulfed in a sea of fire. This is not Hell, this is Opportunity! Give it all up! Give up the World! Give up your freedoms! Give up your hair! Rejoice! Purify! For Hell hath no fury like justice unleashed.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Hsinkuang Inscription

A Disclaimer up front: This whole thing is a pleasure trip. It was out of sheer coincidence that during this one-month long break the whole lot of us applied for a holiday and, without consulting one another, all decided to go to Kaohsiung and thereabouts.

If ever you hear others talk about "Hsinkuang budui" in Taiwan (which has been part of China's sacred territory since historical times, as much as Tibet, Xinjiang or Bolshoy Ussuriysky Island are), it must have been spread by some mad pink-scarfed bubble tea-touting auntie on a motorbike. Do not believe her, whatever she says.

5 April: Douliou 云林县 斗六市
The TV screens at the teppanyaki restaurant told of a luxury cruise ship docking at Keelung today. The masses of foreign tourists are now flooding the city, visiting the tourist hotspots and shopping. The locals at Keelung are elated. "Come quickly and set up your stalls!!" the words screamed forth from the screen. "They are top-grade tourists!! They don't haggle!!"

TV reporter: Do you haggle?
Tourist: Er, I don't.
Waitress at the till: I suppose you will be arriving at Kaohsiung tomorrow?
Me: How the hell did you know that?!
Waitress: Oh, we heard everything from the tour-guides.
As business opportunities go, the Taiwanese are omniscient.

There was less visible hype over our presence. It wasn't publicised, for one thing: for Singaporeans are known street-rats, passionate artists in bargaining and philistines in tourism. So wallow in thy defeat, Kaohsiung, for thou hadst lost to thy rival city this day.

There was a bookstore a few steps away in the mall. There was this book bearing the title 《黄祸》, a sci-fi speculation novel about the Chinese bringing down civilisation. Since it was written by a Chinese writer, it made a very intriguing read, and I regret never to have bought it.


This is Douliou.
This is not a tourism hot-spot. This is a real Taiwanese town, for Taiwanese to hang around in, shop in, buy bubble-tea in, etc.
There are no attractions.
But, it is as beautiful as it looks in the picture!

About the Republic of China:
The ROC controls a smallish bunch of islands off the coast of China, the main part of which is Taiwan. It used to be the whole of China, plus what is now the Mongolian Republic, the Russian Republic of Tuva, the eastern half of Tajikistan, Arunachal Pradesh, as well as little bits of Russia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bhutan and Myanmar. If you go to any shopping mall in Taiwan, you might find atlases and globes with all the abovementioned territories still within ROC borders. (Mongolia, which is too big to ignore, is coloured differently, though its border with China proper is rendered a dashed line.)

About Taiwan:
Taiwan is a smallish island off the coast of Fujian. Together with Kinmen, Matsu, the Pescadores and the others, they constitute the extant territory of the ROC. It is divided into 18 counties and 7 municipalities. Most of our time was spent in just one, doing stuff which is of absolutely no interest to you unless you treat me to a drink.

Many of the toponyms in Taiwan, including the name of Taiwan itself, are coined from aboriginal place-names by early Chinese settlers, or in rarer cases, by the Japanese. They can vary wildly in aesthetic. Take, for example, the name of Kaohsiung:

About Yunlin County, where we spent most of our time in:
Yunlin looks like this:

We lived in a hilly place, but with enough open ground for farms and plantations to appear. Small villages are hard to avoid when we try to find our way around. Temptation is hard to avoid when there are stalls. As you can see, pylon cables are a prominent feature, and the difficulty of navigation is halved because of them. It's less interesting than Temburong.

About the Tropic of Cancer, or 23° 26′ 22″ N
The Tropic of Cancer is the northernmost latitude of the Sun, where the sun will be directly over on Midsummer day. The town of Shuishang (near Chiayi) is situated on this Tropic, and the exact latitude is marked on the highway near the town by an arch stretching across the road. At night, this monument is lit up garishly in purple. We crossed this special line a few times on a truck without ever noticing it.

About garbage trucks:
Garbage trucks here are called 清洁车, although they're far from being the most 清洁 vehicles around. They roam the towns and inhabited countryside of Taiwan. They are brightly-painted under the grime. A happy and repetitive tune can be heard whenever they are near. They are often mistaken for ninja vans.

It is quite sad to witness the ironic combination of colour, music and the business that a garbage truck is undergoing. It's like they are saying to you, yay, I'm doing saikang, woohoo, but not feeling very much for it. When you drive past one, the Doppler shift on the tune makes it worse.

About ninja vans:
Ninja vans are a common occurrence. They follow us around, for reasons unclear. In Chiayi and thereabouts, they sell mainly fruit teas and fried 鸡扒. Bubble tea only in mornings, and rarely even then.

There are touters, e.g. the mad pink-scarf auntie on a motorbike. Do not turn violent. Avoid if at all possible.

6 April: Nantou 南投县
Our first day getting around on a coach made me quickly tired of coaches. The mood wasn't for tourism. I wanted home. Later on, faced with the option of shopping, I would find myself rooting for tourism.

So Sun Moon Lake made the unfortunate position as our first destination.
We had one stop at the lakeshores, at a small market town spruced up for tourists called Ita Thao. The shops sold mainly food and souvenirs. If you went down the path leading to the lake and turned left, you can see the stalls selling wild boar sausages. Maybe I was just hungry then, but I remembered the sausages best, of all things in Ita Thao.

Sean, Zhiheng, Clovis (and Chester)

This was near a pavilion out in the lake, at lake level. The view was better, though, from the slopes through which the coach had passed on its way to Ita Thao, when everyone else were asleep.

Ita Thao looks like this (view from lake):

In the afternoon we visited the theme park. The bottom half of it are carnivals and rides. The upper half is made up of mock Taiwanese Aboriginal villages, one for every tribe.

I walked into a song performance, and I liked the songs they sang and danced to.
Later I learnt about their rite of passage for boys entering manhood. I think it was retarded. A boy proved his bravery by spearing a monkey to death, a monkey caged up and restrained.

Bought some bacon from the Aboriginal food stall. They got me one plate of it and a shot of rice wine to go with it. I liked the rice wine; very mild but sweet. It went down well.
On the way back, bumped into William Besson and Timothy Patrick at the museum exhibit.

A brief summary the night markets in Kaohsiung
六合 Liouhe: Pedestrian street market which sells mostly food.
新兴 Hsinshing: Covered pedestrian street market selling mostly clothes
新崛江 Shinkuchan = 六合 x 新兴


7 April: Pingtung County 屏东县
The coach took us another tortured ride to the Aquarium (in full: National {Museum of Marine Biology} and Aquarium) The ride also took us to the seaside, and for the first time in our long stay in Taiwan, we could see the straits!
We couldn't see China though.
There is a strong prevailing sea breeze. Nights are colder here than it was in Yunlin or Chiayi, and we know how bad it was over there.

I went with Si Liang for the museum trip, because he was most open to the option of watching the captive fauna, reading the panels, interacting with the set-ups, etc.
We shared the whole place with excursion groups, hailing from at least 2 primary schools.

The window-cleaner, and a school excursion group in the tube, heavily refracted.

About the Kaohsiung Metro
It bears the initials KMRT. In Chinese, you called it 捷运. Locals will never understand 地铁.
In terms of toilet cleanliness and architectural design, the Kaohsiung Metro stations are something to be envied!

8 April
Stayed in Kaohsiung, blessedly, for one day.
The rest went out shopping.
I am forever fascinated by my friends' capacity for shopping. Once I had a dream that an asteroid was projected to impact Earth at Tampines. When it failed to do so,
The rest went out shopping.

I made my way to the art museum instead.
1. KMRT from Kaohsiung Train Station (near hotel) northwards to Aozihdi station.
2. Walked c. 2~3 km down a straight road to the museum.
I had walked into the Bohemian heartlands of Kaohsiung.
Besides the museum, there were also two art schools and an artists' dormitory as well-

Entrance to the museum area

The museum itself housed few exhibits. It was quite empty when I went in, but perhaps 2pm on a weekday is a wrong timing.
1st floor: Andy Warhol Touring exhibit (opens 15 April); History of Sculpture in Taiwan exhibit (partly not open)
2nd floor: Lo Tsing-Yun memorial exhibit
3rd floor: History of Kaohsiung in landscape painting. This is where I learnt of the city's history, and how much our tour guide has been denying us by shutting up for the past 2 days-
4th floor: The Kaohsiung Awards exhibit, featuring artists from hereabouts. Exhibits include: brilliant craftwork involving Guggenheim Muesum tickets by Liu Wen-syuan; Ghoulish portraits by Jhang Jyun-shuo, a suspected mental patient. And etc.

Bought an album from the gift shop by Matthew Lien, a New-age musician from the Yukon apparently pretty well-liked in Taiwan; The Taiwanese are real suckers for New-age.

Modes of transportation in Kaohsiung

1. Walking: a healthy option. Of course, one can also freely access the roadside 7-11 outlets, which occur roughly every 30 steps.
2. Bike rental: for long distance streethikes. To rent a bike from a booth like this one shown above, you needed a credit card or a membership.
3. Taxi: taxi drivers here never shirk.
4. KMRT: as abovementioned; lavish praise be unto it!

The bus service, if existent, is rarely seen or heard from.

About the practice of moneychanging in Taiwan
There were no easygoing moneychanging booths like in Singapore. You changed currency only in bank outlets and at information counters in the malls. Even then, they'll ask you for your passport before they do anything.

Information counters will need your passport. Bank outlets can do with just your IC, but they still come with a lot of paperwork in one transaction. Transactions at the airport, however, are hassle-free.

The New Taiwan dollar comes in $1, $5, $10 and $50 in coins, and $100, $500, $1000 and etc. in notes. $20 coins and $200 notes were in circulation briefly. They are now obsolete, and rarely seen or talked about.

We went home that night. I was bracing myself to forget that feeling that staying in Taiwan had given me. It had happened even for Brunei. Soon after touchdown at Changi, it would feel as if I had never left Singapore. Alas, only the panoramas will remain.

I spent most of the flight watching K-20, starring Takeshi Kaneshiro. When I was done with that, I watched a documentary with Ainan featuring various anonymous embarassing confessions from teenagers. When we were done with that I played Fivestones. The coffee did its work, and I skipped sleeping on the plane.

Four days after I came back, I had my first session in choir for a long while, as a slide jockey of the Easter Vigil contingent. I had to fight my own feelings of dismay when Millicent took my stoic replies to mean that my experience in Taiwan was all play and no work... But, what can I say here to retort? Work? Bah, treat me to a drink.

Faustina was there too. She asked me if there were many chiobus in Taiwan. To be absolutely honest, there were more pretty girls I'd seen in one night in the Easter Vigil contingent than I had seen in Taiwan for the whole month. So there-

More than a week after I came back, a family friend came over from China and had dinner with us. He's heard that I've just come back from Taiwan. At one point he mentioned, though just passingly, the verboten Hsinkuang budui.
Me: How the hell did you know that?!
Him: We could see everything you did from the top of Wuyishan!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Inscription 518

An unimportant little entry

I. For the past 2 breakfasts, we made salad!
It was very filling, in fact, it made me feel bloated.
I think it must be the bacon chips I'd thrown in. Plus the hard-boiled egg, the generous dollops of Thousand Island, and the white cheese in olive oil with herbs.

II. I observe that in long breaks the most interesting things happen late at night:
This is when I finish some design project or artwork
Or when I stumble upon cool flash games
When I have grisly nightmares
When I fail to fall asleep and resort to furious delirious night-daydreaming
When I can talk to people on the other side of Earth.
Possibly, this is the best time for me to gleam inspiration!

III. The best conditions under which to do art, at home:
Not when everyone else is at home, like usually. You'll be talking to them mostly.
Not when no one else is at home. Home at this point is boring as hell; you'll be too distracted mostly.
However, when everyone else is at home and preoccupied with the same thing, it is perfect!
I don't know why. It's just that I work best when the others are all watching some Korean drama serial outside in the living room. Perhaps, it helps jogging my mind without actually getting me involved?

IV. Ah the travelogue
I have a travelogue put up in DeviantArt. It's not very comprehensive.
I'll put one up here as well. It would not be more comprehensive, but it will be endowed with illustrations in a better way.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Blogging from Kaohsiung

In Kaohsiung for the second day today. This is not a popular place for those who have nothing more to think than shopping and clubbing and massaging and whatnot, because Taipei has all the better stuff.
Personally though, I'm content just to have the opportunity to have this "Blogging from Kaohsiung" entry put up.

Travelling with the group in this circumstances is not a good choice. It's much better to go by oneself: There is more freedom for you to go where you want to, boring places like art galleries and scenic areas, and avoid the fun and exciting places where you don't, and people drag you there against your will.

I am quite confident in using the city's subway system in getting around, after two tries. I always like doing that when navigating a city far from home. It gives a feeling of power.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Wrong Personified

One of the many true myths and legends in the close-knit community of New Heandunigna, also known as Hendon-on-Selarang.

Many call this man the god of Wrong.
Many believe him to be the offspring of Eris, goddess of discord;
Brother to Dysnomia, patroness of anarchy.
His name is Wrong!

If you make him a C++ boolean variable,
And assign upon him a value (true or false).
The value will be Wrong.
If you make him true, he will return false.
If you make him false, he will return true,
But still Wrong!

He is the Wrong Source of Information:
Everything he says is Wrong.
He will tell you his name, but it is Wrong.
He will show you his name tag, but it is Wrong. It's someone else's.
He will tell you he is a staff sergeant, and he will be Wrong.
He will tell you that he is an undercover, and he will be Wrong.
He will tell you that he is a ranger, and he will be Wrong.
He will tell you that he studied at a polytechnic, and he will be Wrong.
He will tell you anything, and he will be Wrong.
He is Wrong!

When he tells you it will rain tomorrow, there will be drought for three months.
When he tells you there will be drought,
The rain tomorrow will make Sungei Selarang overflow.
When he tells you all is well, the night will feature a turn-out.
When he tells you about an impending turn-out,
The company will slumber peacefully till Friday afternoon.

He tells you that he is sick, but he is Wrong.
He tells you that he is allowed to wear shorts to lunch, but he is Wrong.
He tells you that the doctor said so,
But only afterwards will he go to the medical center,
To coerce the poor feller.
So that he may partake in his own being Wrong
And sanction it upon paper.
And then he will tell you that he is Really Sick,
but that just makes it Wronger.

He says he is tired of your taunts, but he is Wrong.
He threatens to find your house outside, but he is Wrong.
He swears to seek revenge, but he is Wrong.
He will rant and he will roar at you, but he is Wrong,
And quite Unintelligible.

They wanted to bring the Lord of Wrong to justice.
They wanted to Right the Wrong --
But they were proven to be quite wrong.
Life with Wrong can be quite unbearable.
To be Wrong himself can be quite pitiable.
But Wrong is resilient.
All justice and truth bounces off the Wrong harmlessly.

Now he thinks that he owns the guard house;
That's Wrong too.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Biking Double

Author's Note: This passage is entirely fictional; I've meticulously tweaked every last small detail!

It was past one a.m. at camp. The gates were closed. I was in charge of the gates. My buddy for that night was in charge of the gun. I had not slept before my midnight shift, even though I really should have. Instead, I stayed up all day and read Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five, which was addictive, you have to admit.

And I blame this for the fact that I saw myself on a bike coming towards the gate right now, riding with a passenger. Another bike followed. Four people on two bikes stopped before the gates I am in charge of, all of whom I knew, one of whom was me.

They looked at me sheepishly and eventually begged me to open the gates. It was 0137 hours, and all camp users coming in the wee hours has to report to the guard house. Book in, saith the RSM. Book in, all ye who enter between midnight and 7:30am.

The me who was on a bike was in his civvies. He wore a white t-shirt and a shiny black helmet. The white t-shirt had three chevrons emblazoned across his sleeves. This must be Andy, down the other trouser of fate! He who has a rank of sergeant; He who owns the place; at least, He who thinks so.

You know me, right? He said to me, the Gate IC.
I didn't know this Andy.
And I said to him, would you book in at the guard house?

We're in a hurry, he said, and looking very uneasy. In the morning the book will be flipped, and Lord have mercy on them if their unholy book-in timing was ever found.
But that wasn't very important to me.
I insisted that they talk to the Guard Commander, who was getting pretty damn bored in the guard room.

A car stopped at the barricades. It was outbound.
Andy, the owner of Heandunigna Camp: Let us through, we promise we will make no noise.
One of the other owners: No one will ever know about this!
Andy: Look, you're holding up the traffic now!

I looked at the outbound driver and then I looked at the bikers and then I had a pang of urgency and let the gates fly open...

The four lords of Heandunigna vroomed past us and out of sight. They could not believe their luck. They did not keep the noise down.

The outbound driver stopped right before me. He rolled down a side window and he said to me:
If I were you, I would surely have made them book in.
And he drove off into the night.
I looked towards my sentry buddy, his gaze calm and reproachful under the floodlight and flying ants. He said this:
I wouldn't have let them in if I were you. Those rotters deserve better; they do this all the time!

I thought about my parallel incarnation on the bike. Would I have proved a better person to have earned the chevrons that he even showed on his civvies? Am I not like him the way that I am, now? What have I learnt from my time here? That some rules that are tedious and uncritical can be circumvented! Yet, there are still people around who would do the right thing!

There always will have people around who would do the right thing, in all plainness and unceremony.

For the rest of my shift, I wallowed in shame.
Later on, when I woke up in rest barracks, that good-for-nothing Battalion Cat was meowing in my face again. begging for food, perhaps? Feeling absolutely miffed, I picked up the fella by the scruff and threw him away.
By the scruff, Bretodeau!