Friday, June 17, 2005

It's getting quite challenging to please all the women in my household. Today, Q-tip is a very happy girl. But June would probably want to kill me 'cos while she was out at work, I took Q-tip on a road-trip and visited some spots that were quite breathtakingly different from the usual built-up places in Singapore.

It all began last week when I foolishly accepted an invitation by the Library Board to let the Drama Club do another public reading. This time, we drew the 'Tangerine' assignment and this book by local author, C Cheong, is a difficult one to dramatize. The problem is, most of the drama in the book happens in the narrator's head while his interactions with people are quite prosaic and mundane. If there's going to be any dramatization, it's going to be quite abstract, and the kids again won't have much time to rehearse as the show date is quite close to the end of their mid-year exam which they should be studying for right now -- June hols notwithstanding. I needed some inspiration and Q-tip needed an outing so off we went.

Our first stop: Upper Peirce Reservoir. Unfortunately, just as we arrived the heavens opened up and poured buckets on our heads. Or would have if we arrived 5 minutes earlier and had got out of the car. Trapped inside M2, we waited a bit for the rain to abate, but that prospect grew less and less likely with thunder rolling in.

Plan B then. Taking the chance that bad weather would confine itself to the north, we drove south to the Botanic Gardens. The main attraction was Cafe les Amis, a dog-friendly establishment where, I remember reading recently, we could get some outstanding burgers.

Squeezing our way through a bunch of MGS girls on CIP entertaining some old folks, we managed to find an empty table for ourselves. One of the staff obligingly looked after Q-tip while I placed my order at the counter. I settled for a Mushroom 'n Swiss ($12) and wasn't disappointed. Forget the 'shrooms and cheese, the burger patty didn't need the embellishment. It tasted meaty, full of beefy goodness (and none of that fast-food nonsense -- ground up cows' ears and noses filled out with flour). It was juicy too, every bite dripping over my fingers into the plate below. Guys, if you're ever on a date here, only order the burger if your sweetheart is already used to Your Sloppyness. A most inelegant, though gastronomically rewarding dish to order. Oh, and it comes with a side of crispy golden french fries and a green salad so fresh it looks like it had just been picked from the gardens there and then.

A brief stroll around the central pond to work off the calories then we were off again. I still hadn't done any reading of 'Tangerine' so I still needed to find somewhere quiet and not crowded with people. Heading home, I remembered that I haven't been to Upper Seletar Reservoir in decades so I made a small detour and parked in the most picturesque, quiet spot on the island. No one around apart from a few dudes trying their luck at fishing, or enjoying a quiet read or polishing off a box lunch. I settled on a bench facing the water's edge and absorbed myself in a contemporary travelogue of Vietnam, my little dog patiently keeping me company.

After a chapter, wanderlust overtook me. I dumped the book in M2 then took a walk with Q-tip towards the rocket-shaped lookout tower overlooking the reservoir. Nearby, I discovered a little refreshment kiosk where I purchased an ice-cream. The elderly couple who ran the kiosk turned out to be very dog-friendly. The man offered Q-tip a bowl of water, though she was too shy to take more than a tiny lick from it. The lady was a little disappointed that I had lunch already. The kiosk seems to have a nice selection from both western and local dishes. It's good to keep this place in mind as there aren't many eating places that would welcome Q-tip like this. And it's great to walk around the grounds too. Nothing but the green of forest and cultivated gardens, the tranquil of a large expanse of water (relatively speaking, of course), and blue sky. Lovely, if you like quiet places just to get away from it all.

A brilliant afternoon. Should'a brought my cam though. *kicks self.
Yesterday's events were hardly worth recording. A wasted trip back to college getting absolutely nothing accomplished, and I would have been better off spending my time elsewhere. Anywhere. Oh, and a seperate note to myself: Avoid driving onto campus until term starts again, or at least until they do up the road properly or risk damaging M2's transmission, road wheels, undercarriage, etc.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Needed a change of scenery. Needed to go far, far away and soak up some kind of different atmosphere. Furthest place I could think of was ECP, but it rained quite terribly in the morning -- not particularly conducive for a beach outing.

Fortunately, by noon the weather looked like it was clearing up a bit, so I took the chance and drove east. Dropped in for a quick bite at McD's while waiting for the weather to improve, and it did indeed. It was still cloudy, but sunshine came out in spots; good enough for me.

I was tempted to rent a bike or a pair of 'blades but the sky being temperamental as it was I didn't want to get tied down to a contract for an hour or two. BTW, the bike rental shops now have a rent 1 hour, get 1 additional hour free, but only on weekdays.

Forgoing rented wheels, I just strolled the footpaths taking in the breeze and looking out into the sea. People were camping out at the BBQ pits and having fun in the water. Me, I had the company of my i-Pod mini as I sought out the sun.

If the weather was better, I might have brought Q-tip. She would have enjoyed the airing.

The invalid, comfortably convalescing. Posted by Hello

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Picked up a copy of the new Battlestar Galactica mini-series on DVD. The series is premiering on Cinemax later this month and I was seriously considering adding this channel to my cable subscription just so I could relive my childhood Galactica-mania. Now I don't have to.

The series opens with humanity's total and complete defeat in a war we never had even a fighting chance in. The objective for the survivors is not to win this war, but how they, who are left with basically nothing but a small fleet of civilian ships, dwindling supplies, outdated ordnance and just a glimmer of hope, can avoid extinction at the hands of an enemy which wants nothing less.

The new Galactica upset a number of purist fans when it came out in the states last year. One of the most controversial decisions was to change the gender of fan favourite, Starbuck -- the dashing hero who attracts women everywhere he goes -- to that of a woman. So while she is still an ace pilot and total kick-ass fighter, her actions are less altruistic than the Starbuck of old. They are more like an outlet for her pent up frustrations and possibly a desire for vengeance.

Each character now has a solid backstory explaining their angst and their motivations for the choices they make. For example, the warm father-son relationship between Cmdr Adama and Apollo in the 1978 series gives way to that of a guilt-ridden father whose son bitterly blames for the death of his younger brother. The new Adama is more soldier than father, a military tactician rather than the shepherd of his flock. That task falls to a new mother-figure, that of President Roslin, who assumes political leadership being the highest-ranking civil servant amongst the 50+ thousand survivors of the Cylon genocide. She is the equivalent of our perm. sec. of Education becoming PM because the entire cabinet, MPs, and other senior civil servants have been wiped out. Moreover, she's dealing with her own case of terminal cancer on top of seeing to the welfare of what's left of the human species as far as she knows.

The women in this series are strong, decisive, independent and are very good at what they do, whether in leadership, combat/tactical skills, and they also figure very prominently in the enemy's camp as well. If not for the women, their rationality, compassion and survival instinct, humanity would have been extinct within the first few waves of the Cylon attack.

What works for this series is that decisions made by the characters come with consequences. People die, their bodies are collected and lie row upon row in a makeshift morgue. They don't get vaporized into space-dust where out of sight equals out of mind. Tough choices for the greater good mean that lives have to be lost, even those of innocents, and these sacrifices weigh heavily on the conscience of the decision-maker. How they respond to these consequences make them grow either stronger or weaker, so characters develop as the series progresses.

There are also some NE ideas that the series reinforces. Just because there has been 49 years of peace doesn't mean the enemy isn't planning something nasty to happen in the 50th year. After "home" has been destroyed, what does it take to make a new home elsewhere? What exactly constitutes "home," anyway? And, of course, the same concern regardless of where in the world we come from: if we want to survive as a species, we gotta have more babies. As it turns out, the very first victim of the Cylon attack on the colonies is a baby in its stroller in a cynical, non-military strike. It was infanticide, pure and simple though the perpetrator, a Cylon infiltrator, may have seen it as a mercy-killing.

What I have is a DVD of the pilot 3 episodes. 3 hours long, a bit slow-moving with lots of focus on character interactions and developing relationships and not a lot of fighting. The human fleet doesn't put up much of a fight, anyway. In fact, it's not so much defeated as it is humiliated by it's inability to respond to the threat. What's left is wit, desperation and the will to survive that makes the last remnants of humankind so interesting to watch.

Oh, if I could only boot up the "Wing Commander" series again. It's the closest thing to experiencing a fighter-pilot's life on the Galactica, much of my youth being misspent on this one fantasy.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

"Mr & Mrs Smith" begins with a couple seeking marriage counseling. Things between the couple are stale, boring, none of the romance and mystique that they experienced in the first few years of their co-existence in a common household.

Are the Smiths professional assassins in their "real" lives? Or does it really matter? Every married couple will eventually start questioning their marriage after a time. Their story is a metaphor for what happens in a marriage relationship after the fireworks have died down and routine eventually sets in.

The movie follows a pattern of behaviour that generally begins 5 or 6 years after the honeymoon. Whether it's career or hobbies or personal interest, 2 people though pledged to each other can drift apart. After 5 or 6 years of talking to each other, can there be anything left to talk about? As communication breaks down, suspicion creeps into the picture. Suspicion causes a search for "evidence" of wrongdoing, though sometimes the search isn't an active one but rather a putting together of 1 + 1 = 3. Interpreting "evidence" leads to the conclusion of betrayal and here's where the bullets start flying hard and fast. Bullets not necessarily composed of lead and powered by gunpowder, but spiteful words powered by anger which are designed specifically to hurt as much as buckshot. And hurt they do.

The marriage is in a major crisis at this stage. Whether the 2 survive as a couple depends on how fast they recognize that the enemy isn't each other, it's the situation around them. It's essential that they identify what is tearing them apart and they agree to work together to deal with it. Remember that in this movie, the survival of either husband or wife is not in question; rather, we worry about whether the marriage remains intact regardless of the eventual fate of either party.

The climactic battle is purely a dance, set to the staccato rhythms of gunfire. The way the Smiths coordinate with each other, anticipating each other's moves and always, always, watching each other's backs shows a couple that has gone past the vagaries of the communication-interpretation stage (the messy part of a relationship) to the understanding-without-words stage where thought and knowledge are instantaneously shared between the two. That is truly transcendent.

Interestingly enough, like the Smiths, June and I have already been married for 5 or 6 years. Wonder what she's hiding in the oven, I mean besides the Thirsty Hippo?