Saturday, November 07, 2009

Smooth delivery

Today's NLB book run took us East when usually we get dispatched West. The first recipient was a congenial, elderly fellow who spoke Mandarin. Fortunately, I had June with me to translate and complete the admin which involved checking the inventory of books received and returned, and signing off in the appropriate space provided.

The second was a nice elderly lady who lived in a huge piece of landed property, beautifully done up resort-style. The help packed in the big guard dog but we got to introduce ourselves to the little pomeranian who lived indoors. Here we had another smooth delivery, and for our pains she gave us some ice-cold chrysanthemum tea, a box of Rocher, and a 'thank you' card. The card we'll forward to the NLB folks in charge of us volunteers, the chocs... well, we'll leave our options open.

Good run today. Lunch at No. 49 Katong Laksa to reward ourselves for a job well done.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Welcome to the next level

We're making serious efforts to get our names immortalized on Sunset's illustrious wall of flame. This evening we brought our secret weapon, Josh, along. Plus, June's been 'training' in BKK the past week, so our little group felt quite ready to tackle... level 10. 10 is significant because it is the last level officially listed on the menu. Anything beyond 10 and, hey, it's your own lookout, buddy.

At level 10, chix wings are no longer to be considered food. It's neither tasty nor pleasant, and unlikely to be nutritious after such treatment. The regular flavour of chicken is all but replaced by the sensation of burning. The only reason to eat anything above 10 is the challenge of enduring pain and only to be undertaken at double dare conditions at least.

The immediate effect is blood, sweat and tears. Sweat and tears mingle on the face like it's been buffeted around in a tropical monsoon. Blood is from internal haemorrhaging, or that's what it feels like, anyway. It's a personal challenge because no one at our table will congratulate such reckless behaviour. No one is impressed by such displays of masochistic tendencies. No one but yourself.

The good thing about the hot sauce Sunset uses is that it doesn't stick to the fingers after a good wash. Contact lens users don't have to worry about experiencing level 10 in the eyes which even you couldn't admire yourself for. The burning sensation around the mouth likewise doesn't last. It'll sting for about 20 minutes after wing consumption and though it may not be forgotten, it's gone. Then you might actually consider reaching for another wing, if your friends haven't eaten them all.

Level 30 looks to be still distant on the horizon, but we're making progress.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Hail Godzilla!

Hideki Matsui: 2-run homer, 2-run single, 2-run double; total of 6 RBIs to seal an amazing 27th World Series for the Yanks. I should have taken the day off to watch this historically memorable game 'live' on 'cos watching the newsreels and highlights, I got only a hint of the nail-biting excitement over at Yankee Stadium earlier this morning.

Imported directly from Japan, "Godzilla" Matsui doesn't speak English -- he has a translator for his interview on national TV about his MVP award. NY sure knows how to co-opt their foreign talent, not shy to claim victory off the back of a not-born-in-America Japanese.

So why do we have so much hand-wringing over our own FTs? Could it be that despite our cosmopolitan aspirations, we really are a small town at heart?

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Cutesy heroes

Marvel's got this new animated series, "Super Hero Squad" (sample video here). It's obviously targeted at the much younger set with its cutesy portrayal of our favourite Marvel mainstays rendered in the proportion of children: that is, oversized heads and extremities on tiny bodies. And they have childlike personalities to match. So I should have known better when I picked up the Wii game of the same title that I'd be getting a product that wasn't quite designed for my venerable demographic.

Don't get me wrong, I'm much taken by the premise and the characters. It's reminiscent of how kids would co-opt the superhero concept and play out their own superhero scenarios with their ridiculous and nonsensical storylines, while exaggerating their characters to the nth degree. In the game (as is presumably in the series) the children at play are versatile and talented voice-acting pros like Charlie Adler (Cow & Chicken), Tom Kenny (Mr S Squarepants, esq.), and Tara Strong (PPG's Bubbles, and a vast range of other animated characters). In their SHS incarnation, Thor is pompous and bombastic; Cap Am is more patronizing than patriotic; Silver Surfer is a philosophising surfer dude; and Doc Doom is as inept as he is maniacal. It all makes for a rib-tickling, madcap adventure to play through.

The Wii SHS is a simplistic beat-'em-up with elements of an adventure platformer as well as an arena for a tournament-style punch-up. By playing through the adventure mode (either solo or co-op) we gain points to unlock new characters and arenas for battle mode. Um, that's essentially it.

Adventure mode is a button-mash with the occasional controller flick to pull off special moves. We mash our way through a maze, punching or blasting hoards of goons and navigating annoying jumping puzzles until the end level boss battle which takes place arena style. Battle mode basically plays by sumo wrestling rules: either wear down your opponent or toss his a** out of the ring. In adventure mode, we do either 10 times to beat the boss -- before he does unto you the same. Full battle mode dispenses with all pretence of a story and pits your choice of heroes and villains against each other in team or solo combinations.

The game isn't any more complex than that. I guess I could entertain a certain someone below 10 a whole afternoon with SHS, but there isn't much else there to sustain my interest after the first run-through in adventure mode. It's cute, it's funny, it's another perspective of the Marvel Universe that doesn't take itself too seriously. It's got strong production values, but I found gameplay rather less than satisfactory. I should just have waited for the animated DVD box set to get my SHS fix.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

What a frog wants

The good news is that my voice is coming back. I may still be coughing like a nicotine addict on cold turkey, but there is volume when I crank my amps up, and I am able to reach the higher notes once again while bathroom singing.

As for the frog in my throat, I've decided to just give it what it wants until it goes away. It wants water, in much greater quantity than I've ever felt the need. What I didn't realize in the last couple of weeks consulting was that such an unaccustomed increase in free talk-time requires a corresponding increase of fluid intake to sufficiently lubricate the vocal chords. So, I haven't been drinking enough and I dried up, figuratively and literally.

Today, I've been lubing up with unchilled Pink Dolphin, some kind of mineral water with a mild peach flavour that the canteen sells. Oh, I see... it's got added vitamins for a healthier kick too. No wonder the price was a bit steep.

Yes, I know. I would have avoided all this trouble if I had listened to all the "drink more water" advice from friends in the first place. For the rest of this remaining week, me and my Pink Dolphin will be inseparable.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Puppy love

Some days, we just have to admire the tenacity of the bond between dog lovers and their dogs. Q-tip has done a massive purge in the bathroom AND the bedroom. While I was surveying the damage, Mimi, prevented from reaching the tray by the mess, promptly peed in the kitchen.

Pardon me while I go fetch the mop. My tears are forming a little puddle on the laminate floor.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

A ball of string looks at another

Everything is string. I spent an afternoon examining plasticized human remains and concluded that we are held together by string, we move through and interact with our environment by precisely manipulating string, and we are entirely composed of string: a sentient winding of bundled knots and fibres. We're essentially a rag-doll puppet moving on its own power.

Of course, there's different kinds of string -- different textures, different elasticities, different compositions even. Nerve fibre is different from tendon, which is different from veins and capillaries, which is different from muscle tissue, which is different from bone matter... but however you look at it, it's all just string.

The idea is mildly unsettling. We think of ourselves as more than just cables and wiring all twisted together, but that's all that remains of us when the spark of life has left the body. These bodies have been lovingly and carefully preserved and sculpted by the exhibitors so we, the living, can see ourselves in these frozen, exploded images and marvel at the "piece of work that is a man" -- before walking out the front door looking to stuff ourselves with more junk food, indulge in more bad habits that will undoubtedly hasten our own impending necrosis in the days to come.

I admit, it got to me. Side by side with healthy specimens were also diseased ones to show how their donors probably met their ends. There were aneurysms; cancers; tar-blackened lungs; fatty-smooth, engorged livers; shrunken, overworked kidneys; a heart enlarged by stress and strain; and a couple of genetic abnormalities too. All the time I was wondering if the donors could see themselves inside-out as we can them now, would they have changed their habits, their diets or addictions in exchange for a few more years of life?

Am I going to change mine? This twist of string, yarn, twine, fibre, tubing, wire all compactly woven into the thing that is me could perhaps do with some slightly healthier habits. Starting tomorrow.

Body Worlds is at the Singapore Science Centre until March 2010, in case any other woolly tangle of string is interested to go see.