Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Ankh angst

It was pointed out to me that the confluence of obtaining tickets to a Neil Gaiman event on Halloween evening is a sign from the Endless Ones that I should go in costume as a Gaiman character. Death from his Sandman series was the glaringly obvious choice -- short of the kohl and ankh pendant, I already had most of the get-up.

It shouldn't be that hard to find an ankh, I thought, as I set off to hit all the trendy streetwear shops downtown. I even tried two suburban malls. I was, err, deadly wrong. I found enough skulls to fill the killing fields, enough crosses to ward off a whole other world of vampires. But no ankhs. I also found out that the trendy 'in' pendant now also looks just like my front door padlock, complete with a key -- if I'd only slung that round my neck instead of using it to lock my door, I'd actually be very hip. I also found that Ican be very 'in' if I wore L's car key around my neck.

I just can't find an ankh outside of Egypt. My next choice is dress as Delirium. Also easy enough -- spray colour my hair orange and purple, and mess it up. But then it was pointed out to me that people would just think I'm going as myself on a bad hair day.

I think I'll just use fabric paint to draw an ankh on my black top. Otherwise, ankhless, people will just think I'm going as Neil Gaiman.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The elephant in the room

I don't know how some of my colleagues do it -- cover a ministerial conference and file on the creation of the Asean Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights and its mission to promote and protect human rights in Asean. All done with a perfectly straight face while behaving oneself in a roomful of ministers as Burma shuffles her feet in the corner of the room.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Wave motion

... because that's how Fortune rocks you.

First off, the disclaimer is that I work in a place with people whom PR professionals feel the need to make nice to, thus resulting sometimes in free donuts, free concert tickets and travel junkets.

And that's when Fortune starts you on an up and down cycle.

Neil Gaiman appears at the Singapore Writers Festival the coming weekend. Tickets to the event are free. But it's the same collocation of if you need to know how much something costs, you can't afford it: If you need to know where and how to get hold of those free tickets, there won't be any left to get.
Score: -1.

Someone posts on the e-bulletin board at work, hoping for Gaiman tickets. Maybe someone had returns, she hoped. I add my name to the wishlist. If someone can get lucky there, I could try and get lucky too.
Score: Hope springs eternal.

My company is one of the sponsors of the festival. So we received some complimentary tickets. To be divided among 3,000 staff across the group. Of which 2,999 are probably Gaiman fans, 2,990 the rabid variety, especially the graphic artists in various artrooms in the building. Fastest fingers to email corporate communications win.
Score: Improving.

I was off for two days. And came back to find that I've scored tickets to Who Killed Amanda Palmer. There're only single tickets to the Gaiman talk on fantasy novels. But that's OK. Who Killed Amanda Palmer was the event I really wanted, and I could give up my place on the wait list for the other events.
Score: Yay!

I also came back to find an email saying that there're free tickets for the New York Philharmonic. On the night that I was offf. So I could have gone, something I couldn't possibly do on a worknight. The email came on the day that I was off. So I didn't see the email. Missed NY Phil on their Beethoven night. That I was informed that they did the Egmont Overture as an encore didn't help.
Score: Fortune gives with the right hand but raps your knuckles sharply with the left.

My supervisor messages that there's a press trip to Krabi. It's smallish, very exclusive, guests are being flown there by private jet. Over the weekend of the Gaiman events. Do I put myself in the draw for the trip? I felt guilty about not using the tickets that was given to me.
Score: swinging. Fortune is really effing with me today.

Husband practically berates me over the phone. Put your name in the Krabi ballot, he thundered. Neil Gaiman will always write another book. You'll never have the chance to fly to Krabi on a private jet for a spa and sea sports weekend.
Score: still guilty but hopeful. If Fortune had smiled on me for the Gaiman tickets, maybe she'd be even nicer with Krabi.

Only three people are in the ballot for Krabi. That's a one in three chance.
Score: on the upswing

I did not pick the short straw.
Score: I still have Neil Gaiman.

Friday, October 23, 2009

One born every minute

The other evening, I was walking through the HDB estate across from my office when all the stray cats hanging about there came running up to me, meowing expectantly. Clearly, there's a cat feeder who goes there regularly and they must have mistook me for her.

I would have thought that the smell of two dogs on me would have driven off any stray, street-smart cats, I told my colleagues.

It's the SPCA T-shirt I was wearing, one said. "Cats can read," she laughed.

Nah, I have "sucker animal lover" in neon on my forehead that only strays can read, laughed another colleague.

Sigh. That welcome sign that's only visible to animals, mentioned by my mother in the previous post, has now somehow plastered itself to my forehead.

So what was one to do but to go to the provision shop at the end of the street for cans of Whiskas.

I challenge you to say no to a hungry animal that's looking expectantly at you. It's much harder than winning the Nobel Peace Prize.

That or there's one born every minute.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Finding the lost

This is Rupert jumping up at Jacky, a black mix of terrier and indeterminate something else, who lives in the next block, when he and he and his human dropped in for a visit.

We meet quite regularly on our respective walks downstairs, where Jacky sometimes gets let off leash -- he only runs speedy circles round his human, never away from her. A couple of days ago, we heard her shouting, looked out the window and saw him dashing off with his human in pursuit, and thought uh oh, he's made a break for it.

Only to hear scratching at our front door. Jacky made a break only to run up two flights of stairs up to our flat. He'd clearly remembered the way from that one previous visit.

My mother thinks that the flashing neon sign, the one that says "lost animals welcome" -- visible only to animals such as the lost collarless boxer that showed up at her driveway, the terrapin that somehow crawled up an adjourning six-foot monsoon drain into her garden, and the stray cat that crawled under my dad's car to breathe its last -- has now somehow moved from her house to my flat.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Yes, he can

When I got into work on Friday, a colleague who was monitoring the wires looked up from her computer and informed me -- with a somewhat taken aback expression -- that Barack Obama had won the Nobel Peace Prize. I'm ashamed to say that my first reaction was: "For doing what?"

It's not that I'm not an Obama fan. I am. It shouldn't matter to someone on the opposite side of the globe who the US president is since we have no say about the matter. But yes, I was happy that he was elected. And was one of the interested millions watching his inauguration on satellite TV.

But I really don't know what he's done so far to win the Nobel Peace Prize, especially as nominations reportedly closed on Feb 1, and there really wasn't much time for him to do anything by that date. An opinion piece in The Guardian newspaper in the UK remarked that he probably won it solely on the basis of not being Bush. Well, that I can live with.

It didn't help that the current issue of The Economist that I just got in the mail on the same day has a feature on Obama's mounting woes, with the week's political cartoon showing him struggling with an unwieldy Afghanistan, and after he had managed that, only to be confronted by a weighty Pakistan.

Other Nobel laureates worked long and hard before they were honoured: Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi, last year's winner Mohammad Yunnus. Even Jimmy Carter got his some 20 years after leaving the White House and Al Gore had to share his with a whole bunch of other people.

That Obama got his on the hopes of what he can achieve rather than what he has already done can only make us wonder what else he might win once he's been in the White House to actually achieve mighty things.

Oh, and my next reaction on the news: Has anybody got a soundbite reaction out of Bush yet? Nyah, nyah, nyah.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Nyah nyah nyah

It's bad enough that the episodes of the Ellen Degeneres talkshow that are being broadcast on the free-to-air station here is six months behind the US screening.

It's even worse that they are shown at 3am. (I catch them because I happen to watch TV at that time of the night after coming home from night shift.)

But it is unforgivable when a whole episode goes missing.

I was watching the show last week when I saw on the little crawler that flashes the next day's guest: Portia Di Rossi. Who also happens to be Ellen's spouse. Now that would be a nice episode to watch, I thought.

The episode never materialised. Play It Safe Broadcast Corporation didn't just apply their usual (insert sarcasm here) light censorship hand, they took an axe to the whole episode.

To say that I was piffed off was an understatement.

But then, I figured there was no point getting angry, writing in or complaining. Play It Safe Broadcast Corporation would only say that they had to follow the Media Development Authority's broadcast guidelines on undesirable content or risk paying a fine.

They probably thought they got away with fooling an audience of maybe 5 people at 3am. Maybe they thought that we didn't notice the crawler. Or that we blinked and missed Portia's guest spot. Or maybe they thought we're stupid.

We're not. We know what you did. And we know how to YouTube. And there it was. Two people glowing with happiness when they talked about their wedding day because they could share their life together. A gay couple who outshone a straight couple when they played The Newlywed Game, the game that tests how well you know your partner.

What's more morally reprehensible or more of a threat to the insitution of marriage: a gay talkshow host who proudly introduces her wife on the show, or a straight talkshow host who recently confessed to having sex with his staff when he was in the middle of a long-term relationship with his partner?

Suck it up, Prop 8 and Section 377a. And suck it up, Play It Safe Broadcast Corporation.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Mathematically speaking

This isn't my usual reading material. I only picked up Why Beauty Is Truth: A History of Symmetry because the Keats in the title intrigued me. And the blurb seemed kind of interesting -- the exploration of symmetry as a mathematical concept. Symmetry has always been key in music, art, dance -- forms that I'm familiar with -- but apparently, symmetry is also the central idea in the theory of relativity, quantum physics and string theory.

I'm no mathematician. I took Maths at AO Level in junior college and failed my first year exams with the astounding grade of 3% (at least one mark was awarded out of pity than for getting an answer correct). The Maths Head of Department hauled me up and sorrowfully pointed out that it was the lowest Maths exam score ever in the history of National Junior College. You need to understand that NJC proudly produced a President's Scholar every year. Up in the assembly hall was a plaque with the names of the scholars, one, sometimes two, a year, every year, in the history of NJC. That year, the year was already inscribed, it was only waiting for a name to go alongside it. I'm sure my record-setting math exam score had nothing to do with it, but my cohort was the only batch that failed to produce a President's Scholar. There was no name to go next to that year. How our principal must have been humiliated.

Anyway, I digress. But not far enough to emphasize that maths is just not my kinda thing. But I'm beginning to realise that it can be an interesting subject and not the dreary quadratic equations I was forced to solve. This month's National Geographic had a really eye-opening article on how origami is more than folding paper cranes, and is a mathematical puzzle involving an algorithm for folding a piece of paper into a three-dimensional object. And it was origami that helped engineers figure out how to fold an airbag into a car dashboard, how to unfold a telescope in space, and extend a heart stent implanted in an artery. Gosh, I should have paid more attention in math class.

Still, the book was hard going in places where mathematical formula were involved. Those were the bits I skipped. But still, it was amazing. For instance, I realised that in calculating frisbee trajectory, my dog was actually working out calculus -- the quickest route between two points. My stars, Rupert, that dumbo who still can't get it right where not to pee, is a mathematical genius.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Community reading

I picked this up at the library, it's one of those fluffy books you know you'll enjoy without much effort. What made it really enjoyable was a post-it note stuck to the index page which listed in short the 100 reasons why dogs make you happy. The post-it note added two more reasons. How thoughtful of that reader. Now I feel like I have to keep this chain going and add reasons of my own. It shouldn't be too difficult. I have expert help at my ankles.