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The First Ever Formula E!

September 16th, 2014 by Wilfrid

Formula E cars

So I have watched Formula E from the Internet, didn’t know what to expect. I mean, I am an avid fan of Formula One. Formula series to me is to push the frontier of technology that will one day be commercially viable on road cars. The future is going to be cars running in clean energy. Hence, there is much relevance in Formula E. A few random points for sharing.

  1. Like Formula One, Formula E has formation lap too! But it is excruciatingly slow probably because cars are trying to save on battery.
  2. These cars as you can imagine run very quietly with some really high frequency motor sound. It is very strange to watch a Formula E race. Like some kind of back to the future movies.
  3. First race was in Beijing. A street circuit. 25 laps in total, which is kind of short compares to F1.
  4. Somehow these cars look fragile to me. Some cars did retire. Minor accidents here and there. And then … OK, I shall save that to the end.
  5. Many familiar names on the grid as some came from F1 racing background.
  6. There were two woman drivers on the grind, which is unheard of in F1 sport. For that, I am impressed.
  7. The cars are very much the same. It is about … not tire management but battery management when it comes to race winning. And driver skill primary, of course.
  8. There are some good racing too, since it relies more on the driver’s skill to overtake.
  9. The highest speed I have seen was around 170 kph. Well, my Honda Civic 2.0 has gone faster than that.
  10. I think the battery power is 150 kW (~200 bhp), from what I heard the commentators said.
  11. Pit stop is weirdest thing in Formula E. Because one battery can only last half a race, a pit stop involves a driver driving into his or her team’s tent, get out of the car and jump into a second car with full battery! I think there is a mandated 1.47″ pit stop whereby the drivers cannot go faster (or be penalized). A driver can’t really jump another driver over pit stop. However, he or she could be held up by another driver who exits the tent too early and has to slow down on the exit lane. What?!
  12. FanBoost is another weird thing about Formula E. Fans – yes, you and I – can vote for our favorite drivers and the top three will get a temporary boost of power from 150 kW to 180 kW!
  13. The point system is very much like Formula One, except whoever set the fastest lap of the race gets 2 points. That gives incentive to unfortunate drivers who are a lap or so down for whatever the reasons to get back out and race.
  14. The last few lap of this Beijing race was super exciting. It was Nicolas Prost – son of the legendary F1 driver Alain Prost – leading the ePrix followed by an ex-F1 driver Nick Heidfeld. Onto the very last lap and the very last corner,, Heidfeld made an overtaking move from the inside. Prost instead of conceding the position banged onto Heidfield’s car and Heidfield’s car threw over the curb smashed onto the barrier and landed upside down. Amazing that Heidfield was OK. Then Lucas di Grassi, another ex-F1 driver snatched the win.
  15. Next race is two months later, in Malaysia.

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Let’s Talk About Birthday Cakes And A Birthday Card

July 12th, 2014 by Wilfrid

My family has a tradition. Actually I think most families have the same tradition. They are big fans of birthday cards and birthday cakes. The only tradition I have is to take leave on my birthday. That’s about it. I can’t remember the last time I bought someone a birthday cake, or a birthday card for that matter. I am just not that good at expressing myself. Perhaps I shall start doing something on my sister’s upcoming birthday this August. Something more than buying her a birthday meal. Like every year since she has moved to Singapore.

A birthday card from Bethany

A birthday card from my 4-year-old niece Bethany. “Kau Fu” means uncle in Cantonese. That’s how she addresses me. Lydia is her younger sister’s name. I think she has signed this card on behalf of her sister. It is probably the sweetest birthday card I have received. Bethany loves to draw with me. In this card, from right to left: me, my wife Cynthia, Bethany (the one with long hair), his daddy Benny, my sister Lora who is holding the young Lydia. So sweet she is.

My sister and I often celebrate our birthdays on the weekend, ahead of the actual date as it is kind of strange to celebrate a belated birthday. Finally, after one long year of renovation – all because her contractor failed to extend working visas for his workers – if I may repeat, one-long-year, her new home is ready for moving in. Not that they really need the place right now because she is staying with her in-laws. But it is always good to have a home of our own. Besides, I would feel more inclined to drop by my sister’s place as and when I like. Right now, I feel as though I would be disturbing her in-laws. The future is bright and shiny. I would imagine spending a morning taking my nieces to the playground downstairs. And then sip morning coffee in a food court nearby. Or just lying on my sister’s sofa doing nothing, enjoying the large living room and their brand new hi-fi. Right now, this new home of their is more like a weekend ‘resort’. It could be my weekend getaway too. At least in my wildest imagination, it would appear to be so.

A slice of cake from my sister

My sister’s new home was far from ready to receive guests. Yet, she has organized a birthday party for me. I am very touched of course. And there was birthday song. On the actual date of my birthday, my wife and I drove to the west side of the country and met my sister at her work area for a dim sum lunch. It was like an excursion because Jurong seems so out-of-town!

Ever since my buddy TK is on a date with his gorgeous girlfriend Norra, Cynthia and I have hardly seen him. We were used to meet every week for movies. Now he has Norra and we have Netflix. It is all cool of course. For many years, Cynthia and I have been wishing our friend to find true love. They seem to be happy together and that’s all that matters.

What does it take to have a double date with our buddy TK? As it turns out, my birthday is the wild card.

We often celebrate each other’s birthday. He would buy us birthday meals and we would buy his. This year, as always, we took cue from him on where to dine. He has picked a pretty exquisite Italian restaurant. That was like … fine dining. The food was delicious. That piece of lamb. So very tender and tasty.

A birthday cake, courtesy of TK!

The best was that my buddy TK has ordered the dessert for everybody in advance, in secret. On my plate, there was a special message written with chocolate. The waitresses (read: plural) as they delivered our the dessert sang the birthday song out loud. I blushed like a red lobster. Seriously, that was my first time experiencing this. I was and still am moved.

Pat and I have gone a long way. She was introduced to me after I have decided one day I should get a life insurance. So I knocked on Prudential’s door and she was assigned to my case. Over the years, she is more than an insurance agent to me and I a client to her. We take turn to buy each other lunch, catch up on our family and work life. She lives a healthy lifestyle and has inspired me to live one. I often joke with her that it is of her best interest that I live long and healthy. A day after my birthday, when I returned to work, she drove by and deliver me a box of Royce’ chocolate. So kind of her. I am not a chocolate eater per se. According to my wife, that is good chocolate. I shall take the less bitter ones and leave the bitter ones to her. My wife loves bitter chocolate.

Then there are a whole bunch of warm wishes streaming from my favorite social media Google+. My mother-in-law who is now visiting Singapore together with my wife bought me a beautiful pair of Swarovski cufflinks, with two very pretty large blue crystals. I wear cufflinks on a daily basis. A perfect gift it is.

I am forgetful when it comes to sending money home for my parents in Hong Kong. At times I wish that they were in Singapore so that I can help to manage their expenses. To help me to remember, my mother once said to me, “Son, on your birthday, remember your mother. That’s the time to send money home.”

It is good to ponder upon that. Not the part about money. But the part about remembering my parents as I celebrate my birthday.

Categories: Diary
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The Ocean at the End of the Lane By Neil Gaiman

June 29th, 2014 by Wilfrid

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

This book starts off as an adult fiction. The narrator with no name after attended a funeral has an hour to kill. So instinctively, he drives down his memory lane and into a farm house with a duck pond next to his old home. The girl whom he has met during his childhood Lettie Hempstock has not made a return (it is complicated). He has met her mother Mrs. Hempstock instead. That is the prologue. In the epilogue, he chats with Lettie’s grandmother Old Mrs. Hempstock before I presume returning to his families. Who was the funeral for? What happens to the story of Callie Anders, the girl whom he first kissed, the one who was red-cheeked, fair-haired? Where exactly is Lettie? There are tons of open questions that are never answered. The most obscured of it all is the duck pond that Lettie has insisted it to be an ocean (hence the title of the book). What is in that ‘ocean’?

Majority of the book is devoted to narrator’s childhood, when he was seven; on how he first met the Hempstock family. There was something supernatural about Lettie the small girl, her mother, and her grandmother. This part of the book reads like a young adult fiction. Kind of like a horror story that ended bad. There is heroic sacrifice. And there is childhood innocence. While The Ocean at the End of the Lane is beautifully written, engaging from beginning to end, I wish there was a resolution on the disappearance of Lettie. Or perhaps, the idea is not to have a resolution. Whatever happened in the narrator’s childhood stays in the past. Let not reality kills off our imagination. Was it even real? And not some boy’s imagination? The extract below may shed some light. I could only guess.

Curiously I turned in my seat and looked back: a single half-moon hung over the farmhouse, peaceful and pale and perfect.

I wondered where the illusion of the second moon had come from, but I only wondered for a moment, and then I dismissed it from my thoughts. Perhaps it was an afterimage, I decided, or a ghost: something that had stirred in my mind, for a moment, so powerfully that I believed it to be real, but now was gone, and faded into the past like a memory forgotten, or a shadow into the dusk.

Categories: Book Reviews · Fiction
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Not My First Review, But My First Published On A Magazine

June 22nd, 2014 by Wilfrid

During my blogging career, I have done reviews of various sorts. Like book review requests from the publishers for their online sites. Mobile phone review requests from the PR companies that work with the manufacturers. I have attended movie preview for a local media company that promotes movies and all kinds of products. Miscellaneous write-up on media events. I was used to participate actively on these media events. But nowadays, I am very much retired from that scene, quietly writing stuffs that I enjoy in my website and in Google+.

And then, once in a blue moon, the stars align. All you see is a once in a lifetime opportunity beaming at you from the heaven. It wasn’t something that was handed to me, for sure. It was through persistence with a healthy dose of initiative that got the job done. What am I talking about? Take a look at this.

Marvel Heroes Stuff Review Page 1-2

There is this online game called Marvel Heroes 2015 that I enjoy playing. I would have written a review on my website (in fact I did about a year ago). One day, I was chatting with the editor of Stuff magazine on Whatsapp. He was wondering if I still play Diablo 3 because he has received a game code from Blizzard Asia for a review. That game was fun while it lasted. All of a sudden, an idea has formed.

I have always wanted to see Marvel Heroes featured on a magazine. For some reasons beyond me, I have yet to come across one. Not in Singapore. Not in Tasmania when my wife and I were holidaying there last year. Since my buddy was going to review Diablo 3, why not Marvel Heroes as well? One thing I have learned from my blogging career is that reviewers are best to approach directly to the source. Because I was confident that I could connect the developers with the magazine’s review team, I have suggested that we could do something special that might mutually benefit both parties. Insights make good stories. And the only way to gain insights is through the source.

To cut a long story short, I was asked to write the review instead, as a freelancer. I was delighted for the opportunity of course (stars and heaven, like I have mentioned). Although I have written online reviews for so many years, this is the first time my review goes on print. There was a lot of work behind the scene. A typical game review occupies one page. Because of the insights I have gained through the game developers, I have managed to make it a two-pager. Still, I wanted to give a little extra – for both parties, for me, and for the magazine readers. Why not interview the CEO of the game company Mr. David Brevik, the man behind Diablo 1 & 2 who has revolutionized the action role-playing game genre? And so we did.

Interview with David Brevik on Marvel Heroes 2015

That has pushed the entire article to a three-pager, well exceeds my expectation. The final layout and artwork is beautiful. I see my name on Stuff magazine (local edition). Kind of surreal.

The journey has been rewarding, not without hard work. Writing for myself is easy. Writing for others is hard. I have learned so much through this process. For the entire week, I have written and rewritten the entire piece based on editor’s feedback. The end result is a lot better than my first draft. Who knows? I may write another review for a magazine in the near future.

Categories: Diary · Memorable Events
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Taylor Swift The Red Tour Singapore – The Best It Is

June 10th, 2014 by Wilfrid

When Taylor Swift first came to Singapore, by the time I saw the advertisement on the paper, the concert was a sold out. Then Taylor Swift has made a return. I vowed to get the tickets this time. By noon, all the tickets were gone. In mere two hours! I have signed up for a notification if Taylor Swift is to open a second concert. She does. An email came to me. But I was not able to buy the tickets. Something is just not meant to be.

Or not.

Taylor Swift with her guitar

Cynthia took this picture when Taylor Swift was performing acoustic version of some of her songs with a T-shirt that says “I Love Singapore”.

8 years ago, Taylor Swift has released her debut album. I remember I was in HMV (City Link Mall) at the classical music section, that also had country music and easy listening. I was very impressed by her music. And she continues to impress me album after album.

So, yesterday I was having a mild flu and was working from home (I was on medical leave). My wife also worked from home (she usually does when I am sick). In the afternoon, one mutual friend of ours Hana messaged Cynthia about Taylor Swift tickets. My wife was like, isn’t that a bit too last minute? I was like, what are you talking about?! It’s Taylor Swift!

Hana’s husband called my phone shortly after but I was in the middle of a conference call. I called back and bam! a pair of tickets to watch Taylor Swift in a few hours’ time. I quickly told my mother-in-law to stop cooking. My wife was like, this really sounds like that song “drop everything now”. I was like, yes, yes, let’s wrap up work and go! This is a once in a lifetime opportunity, consider the fact that I can never get her tickets on my own.

Drop everything now, meet me in the pouring rain. Kiss me on the sidewalk, take away the pain. ~ “Spark Fly”.

The atmosphere at the stadium was amazing. There were so many people. Girls mostly dressed in red. Some with beautiful makeup and killer fashion. Some with red face paint. One dude was painting his girlfriend’s face with a lipstick, hers. There were parties outside the stadium. Taylor Swift music was blasting in the air (I know all her songs by heart). Long queues. In retrospect, if there was no standing area, why the need to queue?

A popular place for selfies.

The ticket said 7.30pm. With such a huge crowd, we expected delay. There was a local band opening the show at around 8pm. They were pretty good with the cover music. 8.30-ish, a large shadow appeared behind a huge red curtain that covered the stage. The fans went crazy. Taylor Swift has made an appearance. The curtain was drawn. The stage was unveiled. So was Taylor Swift.

I have watched her Speak Now World Tour Live on blu-ray. I know she performs well on stage. I was half expecting a dumb down version of what could have been a grand tour. Face it. Here in Singapore, most Western artists would give a halfhearted one hour straight show with nothing fancy. One year, Avril has brought in some dancers. We thoroughly enjoyed that show. Thereafter, it is just she and her band. Maybe the revenue from a relatively small venue doesn’t justify the cost of production.

For Taylor Swift’s Red Tour here in Singapore, the production is amazing. The sound was great. There was a huge ultra high definition screen showing Taylor Swift live on close-up augmented with various different visual effects that compliment the show. The last time I saw something this grand – visually speaking – was back in UK, Pink Floyd. The stage and the props were interesting. She has a team of dancers too. Every stare she made, every pose she made – all seem to be so well premeditated to entertain. She is either a natural or someone who works really hard to get everything right.

Either way, she is a great entertainer. What I really love about her show is that she made connection with the audience. She introduced her songs, she spoke about her songwriting process. She even shared with us that her mother was grown up in Singapore. Finally, someone gets it. We understand English here in Singapore. I often cringe when Western artists keep on saying “Hello Singapore” throughout the show. As though these were the two English words we could understand.

She plays various musical instruments. From piano to guitar. Towards the end of the show, she made her way through the crowd, shook the hands, and onto the second platform where the sound engineers were. Playing acoustic version of some of her songs, she danced too on that stage and got all of us on our feet, before making her way back to the main stage.

Beyond the glamour and the entertainment, deep inside Taylor Swift is a young talented songwriting and singer. She sang perfectly throughout the one-and-a-half hours concert, having some big moments that blew the roof off the stadium. I have watched quite a few live concerts, local and abroad. Taylor Swift The Red Tour is one of the best there is.

Singapore Indoor Stadium - Taylor Swift The Red Tour

I took this picture using my phone as we waited for the show to start.

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Geisha, A Life By Mineko Iwasaki

May 27th, 2014 by Wilfrid

Geisha, A Life

Geisha, A Life is an eye opener. My understanding on geisha is very limited. Mostly come from that movie Memoirs of a Geisha, which ironically is a story inspired by the author of this book. But according to Mineko Iwasaki, the author of that memoirs has twisted her story so much so that it is only right that she publishes an autobiography to set things straight. Geisha, A Life is indeed an inspiring read.

So, set the record straight we shall, on what this book is not about.

… I accumulated many more hanadai than time units worked. Every night. I don’t have the exact figures, but I believe I was earning about $500,000 a year. This was a good deal of money in 1960s Japan, more than that earned by the presidents of most companies. (It is also the reason the notion that geiko perform sexual favors for their clients is so ridiculous. With this much income, why would we?)

At the age of five, Mineko was spotted as the successor of a house (and to carry that house’s surname). By then, her father has already sent some of her elder sisters to be maiko (young dancer or “woman of dance”) and eventually to be a geiko (“woman of art” – a specific term versus geisha as “artist”). Hence, her father was reluctant to give up Mineko – the youngest child – to be a successor.

My father introduced us.

She kept looking at me but addressed my father. “You know, Mr. Tanaka, I have been looking for an atotori (“one who comes after” or successor) for a long time and I have the oddest sensation that I may have just found her.”

I had no idea what she was talking about. I didn’t know what an atotori was or why she needed one. But I felt the energy in her body change.

It is said that a person who has the eyes to see can penetrate to the core of a person’s character, no matter how old that person might be.

In the end, Mineko has made the decision to leave her home (at the age of five) and live in the house that groomed her to be a maiko and later on a geiko. She has gone through intensive training on dance, music, comportment, calligraphy, tea ceremony, and flower arrangement as a child prior to her debuting as a maiko.

As someone who is foreign and intrigued about Japanese culture, the amount of discipline and practice one has to endure is astonishing. The author did not seem to have taken a day off during her childhood. Everyday was a training day. And as soon as she has debuted at the age of fifteen, she did not seem to have a break at all (except when she was hospitalized).

I felt compelled to work as much as humanly possible. It was the only way I was going to become Number One. I was in and out of the house so often that the family nicknamed me “the homing pigeon”. Each night I entertained at as many ozashiki as time would allow. I didn’t get home until one or two in the morning. My schedule was in total violation of the Child Labor Laws, but I wanted to work and didn’t care.

One day I was attending a kimono fashion show at a department store. I wasn’t dressed as a maiko, so was able to let down my guard that extra little bit. I was so exhausted that I feel sound asleep on my feet. But I didn’t close my eyes. They were wide open.

In fact, this career of her has gone on till she was 29, at the height of her career before her sudden retirement. During her career, she was the very essence Japanese beauty and tradition. She has met foreign royalties and delegates. She has met many renown artists and professionals. There were many struggles and there were tears and pain. But it has always been her passion and integrity that pulled her through the challenges. Kimonos. I had no idea that kimonos can be that elaborate until I have read this book.

This book Geisha, A Life is going to inspire. More importantly, it gives a glimpse of what geisha does that may not be what you thought it was.

Categories: Book Reviews · Non-Fiction
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X-Men: Days of Future Past Is Amazing

May 26th, 2014 by Wilfrid

X-Men Days of the Future Past

A bunch of us who are playing this Marvel themed online game were super excited for a get together event to watch X-Men Days of Future Past. Some of us have not met each other before the show. But one passion binds us together – Marvel. So we met up. All of us were kind of surprised at how we look like in real life. For example, one best known as Iron-Man is actually pretty hilarious in person. And Dr. Strange is a lot taller than I thought. They in turn were marveled at my ‘multi-tone’ hair highlight and that I am much – shall I say – matured looking than who they think I am. What they don’t know is that my hair was having this special effect even during my younger years. It is just a matter of days of my present past. What do they think of Rocket Raccoon a.k.a. my wife? Err. OK. Next.

I did not like the previous X-Men movie back in 2011. But you know me. Short term memory. And I am always excited by what is to come. The story is set in the future, when the war between the mutants (and the humans that side with them) and the sentinels is almost over. Mutants are facing extinction. The future is bleak. What an incredible fight for survival these mutants have put up against the formidable foes. The amount of teamwork is amazing. Blink (Fan Bingbing) opens up portals at strategic places, Colossus goes in for the punch. Iceman and Sunspot tackle the enemies with ice and fire. Storm powers Bishop’s weapon and Bishop goes in for the kill at range. Even with such teamwork the mutants are not able to take down the sentinels. Because the sentinels manage to absorb and adapt to the mutants’ power. It is always Shadowcat (Ellen Page) sending Bishop back in time to warn the mutants so as to avert the attack (now, I had no idea that Kitty Pryde has this sort of power!). That breathtaking last moment between victory and total annihilation.

But the mutants are tired of running. Professor X and Magneto have decided to send Wolverine back into the past and prevent that one single event that led to where they are in the future – the capture of Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence). Eventually her DNA was being studied and used to enhance the sentinels as the ultimate mutant killing machines.

The story is intriguing. Although it may not be considered as a true Marvel story – since it is common to have alternative realities when it comes to Marvel characters -I found the plot of Days of Future Past acceptable. It has also undone some of the unpopular movie endings in the past through time travel. So I am cool with it and am looking forward to more X-Men movies.

The casting is fantastic. Hugh Jackman is so perfect for the role as Wolverine. Both the younger versions of Professor X and Magneto have done well too. Key to the story is Mystique. I was unsure how our Hunger Game heroine Jennifer Lawrence would perform as a blue mutant. She has handled the multidimensional character well. Being someone strong but yet emotionally fragile, threading a thin line that separates the good and the evil. She has a decision to make. Can she change the future? This movie got me hooked from beginning to end.

Categories: Fantasy & Sci-fi · Movie Reviews
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Alena By Rachel Pastan

May 17th, 2014 by Wilfrid

Alena - A novel

Time like this makes me treasure the fact that I write book summary, even when I feel lazy not to.

Some compare Alena to Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. If not for a book summary I have written last year, I would not be able to recall the connection. The commonality is striking (retrospectively speaking). Alena is dead yet her absence persists throughout the book, so is Rebecca. The narrators in both novels are female and are nameless. Nauquasset is a cutting edge art museum by the sea while Manderley is an estate – both dominate the respective stories. And then in Alena, there is Bernard who owns the museum and in Rebecca, Max.

Similarity between the two novels aside, looking at Alena alone, it is a book that engages me from beginning to end. It starts off with the narrator and Bernard running a little gallery in Russian Hill in present days. An extract taken from her dream last evening.

There I stood on the edge of the road, blue-black asphalt holding the heat. I could smell the tar melting, smell the pines and the brine of the sea, the restless, pungent, ever-present sea, primordial source of life and cause of so much death: floods and riptides, shipwrecks and suicides.

It is a rather unusual way to describe the sea. Throughout her dream, the contrast between life and death cannot be more obvious. In fact, this very first chapter sets the tone for the entire book. This very extract sums up where the entire book is heading!

As a reader, immediately I am hooked onto the narrator’s character as she traces her past starting as an assistant curator. How she traveled to Venice with a boss she disliked and in Venice, she met Bernard. There, she was offered a job as the chef curator in Nauquasset replacing Alena who has gone missing for two years, presumed dead.

I wanted to understand him – to understand Bernard. I felt connected to him by a bright thread, yet we could not have been more different. He was rick and I was poor. He knew everyone and everything, and I knew no one and nothing. What was I doing with him here in a restaurant in Padua? Why had he asked me? Was it pity? Whimsy? A game? What did he see when he looked at me? What did I look like? He could have chosen anyone. He’d had Alena. And now he had me.

Her relationship with Bernard is complex. At first, it smells romance, or a kind of strong adoration from the narrator’s perspective. Alena appears to have played big role in Bernard’s life. But what is it? Throughout the book, the narrator relentlessly trying to find out who Alena was from the people around her – even though almost everyone thinks that she is inadequate, as compares to Alena. How long until my bodily presence had half the substance her absence did? – lamented the narrator.

Storytelling aside, I enjoy reading Rachel Pastan’s writing style. Here is how she describes Nauquasset (which means ‘crown of the sea’ in Wampanoag) the first time – not a distorted version from the narrator’s dream at the beginning of the book but as it is.

The deep azure expanse was flecked and crested with white, and long streaks of gauzy pink cloud floated across the blazing sun, which just touched the rim of the water. A golden road stretched straight across the deepening blue, the near end apparently just below the bluff we were approaching, so that it seemed as though, if we hurried, we could take a quick stroll across the glittering surface toward the sun before it dropped out of sight. My heart bloomed in my chest, beating hard against the lattice of bone, as it had bloomed in the hot Uffizi as we stood before Botticelli’s Venus on her shell. And there, spread like a mantle across the shoulder of the bluff, the long silvered shape of the museum rose out of the sea of grass like the breaching back of a whale. Nauquasset.

The writer must have done much research on fine art. All the objects are described so beautifully as though I am seeing the art from the eyes of a curator. There is never a dull moment be it as she describing even the most mundane items like below or unfolding the mystery of who Alena was and what has happened to her.

I held the pan up. “Hungry?” I didn’t expect him to accept, but he did. I got out a second plate, beige with a brick-red border. The one already on the table was yellow with a design of poppies. both of them were ugly, though the yellow one seemed to be trying not to be, while the other didn’t seem to care. Which was worse?

While I may not fully recall what kind of person the narrator of Rebecca is, the narrator of this book turns out to be a smart woman with sharp eyes for details, someone who exhibits loyalty and with a kind heart. This book does not end where the book begins. So there is a part of me still wondering what has happened as the story ends.

Categories: Book Reviews · Fiction
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Central Business District, It’s Been A While

May 14th, 2014 by Wilfrid

I used to spend years working in the central business district. I know her every smell. I observe her every change. The people. Her vibes. The fond memories. The not so fond memories. CBD is a magical place whereby you think you have spent a year in it but in fact, you are one decade older. It is a place that could suck the life force out of you. Or from a different angle, you may have poured every ounce of your energy into it. The same old routine. That traffic light. Red, green, countdown to red, green, countdown to red. The same route you take when the sun is beating down onto you. That different route you take when the sky is raining cats and dogs. Promoters. Loud music during lunch hours. Smokers. Dust bin on fire. Old man handing out pamphlets of all sorts to zombified office workers. The same old man at the same traffic light 10 years later. The same old man at the same traffic light 20 years later. He sure doesn’t seem to have got himself a promotion. Looking at him looking at me, he must have seen the same face walking down the street. 10 years later, 20 years later, the same old me. Also not having much of a promotion.

And etc.

At least that is how I felt about central business district.

For the last few years, I have been exiled to a place far away from town. Right next to the airport. The air is fresher (except the time when Indonesia was on fire). The grass is green and plentiful. If I am lucky, I may see a butterfly or two shuttling between the bushes. One plane flies across two buildings as it lands. Another plane flies by. My wife often teases me that I work in a suburb. I did not think that I would be happy in the ‘suburb’. But I have grown to like this unique atmosphere of serenity. A place whereby you don’t get to see that many cars. Not that many people. There too are vibes from where I work. Just a different kind.

This month I am being called back to town and am requested to sit in CBD, in preparation of a potential relocation. I am thrilled by the possibility of an opportunity. People are better dressed there. Food, there are plenty of choices. Healthier choices. There is even a new underground station opened right next to my office in town. I met up with old friends today. The street looks different. New buildings. New parks. I was excited by what I saw so much so that my friend Robert could not help but said, “That building has been here for all this while.” Not in my book. But I kept quiet soaking all in.

It is funny how time apart makes the heart grow fonder.

Sunset at CBD

I took this picture using my phone during sunset at the CBD. Ahead was a huge sun. Much bigger than what this photo depicts it to be. Moral of the story? You can read all about something. Or see the picture, watch the video. Nothing beats experiencing it first hand.

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An Amazing Four Days Of Oversleeping

May 13th, 2014 by Wilfrid

Since March last year, I have not had a decent sleep. Some days I sleep for an hour or two. Other days perhaps up to four or five hours. I would wake up in the wee hours feeling awake but not totally. I would try to sleep in the guest room or even at the sofa in the living room before sunrise. Mostly a waste of time. Getting through the day has always been a struggle. It all started with a noisy water pipe from the unit above us, which took them months to have it sorted. Then all the noise of door closing, door knocking, and what-not objects hitting the floor – at five in the morning. I am as though being conditioned into someone not needing a sleep by my neighbors from a foreign country. Weekdays or weekends, it doesn’t matter. For over a year, I have been longing for a day to simply oversleep. Or getting awaken by my alarm clock. I know most hate the sound of the alarm clock. I miss the sound. Because I know if I am awaken by it, I would have had a decent sleep.

Over this long four days of holiday, a tiny miracle happens. I was able to wake up at 8.30 am on Saturday, and then later. This morning I woke up at 10.30 am. I feel amazing. I feel like I am on top of the world again. I have started playing my music. And I have returned to blogging.

Hence this post (and the previous one).

Alena - A novel

I have always enjoy reading. Due to my year long lack of sleep, I have stopped reading. Now that I am getting some, I quickly resume one of my favorite activities – reading. What a lovely sunny day today was – a tad too hot and humid nonetheless. So I suggested to visit the Botanic Gardens for lunch. My wife and I had salad and pizza. The table next to ours a father and a daughter with a Shepard dog (I think). The dog was beautiful. He has attracted so much attention from the ladies passing by. Imagine I have a dog just like that! My wife may be right on one thing though. Maybe I am not a dog person. Rather, someone who is into cats. After our lunch, we read books for as long as our bodies could withstand. 3.30 pm, we rushed back home downing a full bottle of ice water and had some ice-cream. Such a warm day today was.

Two weeks ago, I picked up Alena by Rachel Pastan from a local library. Now that I have the energy, I have a go at it. One critic links this book to my favorite Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. That is a pretty bold comparison and immediately Alena got my attention. I can see the resemblance – in some ways. But Alena is something completely different. I could be wrong. As and when I have finished reading this, I will write an post on this.

One of our favorite Korean actresses.

For four days straight, my wife and I have stayed at home enjoying our long holiday (except that visit to the garden for food and reading). We caught up on our favorite TV series. Like Revenge and a Korean show called My Princess. I love how the Koreans make drama. It is so engaging. It is so addictive. Somewhat like a Western version of The Princess’s Diaries but with a Korean touch to it. I am such a fan of the Korean actress Kim Tae-hee (picture on the right). As soon as I have finished watching My Princess, I have this emptiness engulfing me. It is hard to describe. As though I wanted more. I don’t have this sort of feeling for Western TV series. Maybe that has something to do with my cultural background.

Season 3 Revenge came to the end. Both Madeleine Stowe and Henry Czerny are such great actors. Gabriel Mann acts well too. The rest – including the lead actress – I am not too sure. Season 1 finale was frustrating to watch. Same goes to season 2 finale. It is hard to swallow the fact that the bad guys are winning. Season 3 finale is different. Almost like a bitter victory with some shocking revelation. This whole revenge business is not going to end. Until everyone is dead, I think.

Easy A

After watching that amazing movie called The Amazing Spider-Man 2, I feel like catching up on another one by Emma Stone. The “A” from Easy A appears to be a reference to a classic movie. There is also a reference to the novel The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Something to do with adultery.

Anyway, in a Gossip Girl style, it all started with a self-spread rumor that Olive (played by Emma Stone) had a one-night-stand over one weekend. A gay boy later on approaches Olive in order to fabricate an affair so that people would think he is straight. Soon, there are more and more rumors for various reasons. What a hilarious movie to watch. Moral of the story? There is none. Just pure entertainment. And what a treat to Emma Stone fans.

I have no idea if my sleeping problem is ‘cured’. I hope it does. Only time can tell.

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