Two years have passed since I have written my thoughts on Fifty Shades of Grey. How time flies. It is funny that whenever I talk about Fifty Shades in public, people either not that comfortable talking about it or some give me that weird look.
Truth be told, as comfortable as Dakota Johnson going naked in the show, I have no problem talking about it in public.
I think First Shades Darker is artistically done. Think on this. This show could have gone wrong in so many different ways. It could have been so awkward to watch. Even if it was as “good” as the previous installation – whereby good or bad is totally subjective of course – it would have been acceptable for me.
Fortunately, this one is better.
The character Christian Grey played by Jamie Dornan is more relatable this time around. More human. Less weird. Indeed, Anna Steele played by Dakota Johnson is changing him for the better. Thank goodness.
Jamie is more buffed up this time. Wow, his muscle. I am inspired to work out. With the beard and all, he looks like a real man! I always thought that he was kind of vampire-ish in the last movie.
I don’t think Dakota is the prettiest actress in Hollywood. But her being so comfortable with her body … there is something very empowering about it. As though she has developed this aura of command.
The chemistry between the two has become much better than before, which is understandably so from a storytelling perspective.
In short, I love Fifty Shades Darker, though I still have no clue as in what gets darker in this installment. I am looking forward to Fifty Shades Free.
I have been playing this free-to-play ARPG game since closed beta, March 2013, and have clocked in thousands of played hours. I enjoy creating YouTube video guides for this game. Click here for a list of videos I have made prior to patch 2.0.
I am starting a new era with this “biggest update ever”. And hence this new post. This list may look short now. But I promise, with your support and encouragement and your help in spreading the words, it will grow.
Ask me anything. Drop me a comment on my YouTube channel. I will try to answer. May Odin bless you!
Yours, Wilfrid (in-game ID is “Lace”) – a fellow Marvel Heroes fan.
Update: Jan 21, 2017. Adjustment after biggest update ever patch 2.0 is live.
What can I say? For Marvel Heroes fans (yes, you). By Marvel Heroes fan (that’s me). I hope you will find this quick reference guide useful. Feel free to print it out, hang it on to your wall, impress your girlfriends / boyfriends / parents / children that you are indeed playing a very complicated game. This game means business.
In this card, you can quickly find:
Hero archetype ordered by hero names.
Hero archetype ordered by archetype.
Attribute and Infinity Gem color mapper (yes, this game is getting complex).
Attribute popularity index (for you to price your priced artifacts perhaps).
You may pass to your friends but please do so in entirety (I need to ‘advertise’ my YouTube channel and feed my plants). This guide is free, on me. But I may sell you different skins of the same guide in future.
Kidding. Click the image below for your free download!
On the day Trump shocked the world, I was watching the US election on TV while waiting for yet another treadmill test to be conducted in yet another health clinic. My first test a month ago has shown some abnormal ECG pattern. The pattern tells a story. A borderline possibility that insufficient oxygen level is delivered to my heart. Now, that was not a very good news and as you can imagine, it has affected me, emotionally speaking. I will get to that in just a bit.
After a week’s waiting, I saw the doctor who has conducted part of the initial health screening so that he could read out the report to me (with some added flavors). He then referred me to a cardiologist who sent me to another health clinic so as to do another treadmill test. This time with the ultrasound heart scan before and after the test. The health clinic then generated another report on the spot. I hand-delivered that report to my cardiologist on the same day right after my scan so that he could read it to me (with some added flavors). I cannot imagine the amount of money involved with so many parties, so much time.
The last time I did the treadmill test I had been fasting for 12 hours. Also, I was pretty unfit. This time round, I came prepared. I was able to complete 5 stages with my heart rate exceeding 100% of my maximum based on my age. My body wanted to give up 2 minutes before the end of stage 5. I think the last 30 seconds was the hardest part of the run. It was mind over body.
In the end, it did not matter. The ECG was still borderline abnormal. But the heart scan before and after the run was fine. Hence, it is case closed: false positive.
This experience has taught me a few things.
Health is indeed wealth.
I can’t imagine what it is like for those who are living with heart diseases. The constant worry that at any time, the heart may fail.
While it is impossible to live a stress-free life, try not to stress up people around you. This applies to work and life and anything in between as well.
I have become more active. I actually feel good. In fact, I feel much better.
Whatever measured get managed. I should have invested on a wearable that comes with a heart rate monitor a long time ago.
The next day, I felt like a new man. All of a sudden, I felt like making some new shirts. So I paid my tailors at CYC Raffle Hotel a visit after dropping my wife at work.
I could go for the cheaper fabrics like I often do. Or I could go for the latest collection, which could be as much as 40% more expensive. I could also opt for some of the add-ons like solid color collar inlays and brackets to make the shirts looking even more fantastic. At work, some people often add stress to me reminding that I am a director so that I need to do more, much more. Since I am a director, I really ought to buy some better quality shirts so as to at least look like one.
Due to all these irrational rationalizations, I have spent more than S$1,000 for 6 shirts. To continue my spending spree, I met up with my old friend Robert for lunch at Asia Square and have spent more than S$18 on a Mexican fast food meal.
Every time I had that burrito and that Mexican guava drink, I would say to myself: no way I will eat this again, so expensive. But I keep going back for more. That burriot and that Mexican guava drink has become my comfort food.
Last night, while I was blogging, my wife played World of Warcraft. When I was done blogging, she watched a Turkish TV-series called Magnificent Century. It is about a Christian slave girl being sold to the Ottoman Empire and has got the Sultan falling in love with her. The slave girl looks very much like a younger version of Drew Barrymore. In another word, while my wife distracted my blogging with World of Warcraft, she too has distracted my Path of Exile gaming with a very interesting TV-series.
Like she is now distracting my blogging with Magnificent Century.
After dropping my wife at her office, I returned home, made myself a cup of coffee wanting to start my study for the project management profession exam. I took a look at the book that is as thick as a phone book. I gave up and have decided to record a video for the game Path of Exile instead.
I really ought to study. I have almost completed chapter 3. I got to the last page of the chapter and remembered that I have to memorize 47 or so processes. I closed the book and moved onto my next agenda.
Time to leave home as I have a health specialist appointment at two in the afternoon. My plan was to drop my car at my rental parking lot in town and take a train to Orchard. Lunch at Somerset 313’s food court (a rather uptown shopping mall) was good. My favorite Vietnamese stall is gone, together with HMV downstairs. I found a nice Japanese stall instead, which seems to be run by a Japanese. I had fried Mackerel with rice. It was yummy.
And I took some photos while I was killing time crawling from malls to malls.
After my appointment, I have a decision to make. I could take the train back to the car. Or I could walk.
Just that, the whole journey would be close to five kilometers under a very warm sun with a pair of shoes that were not fit for walking long distance.
But hey. How could I pass out an opportunity to do some outdoor activities while I am not working?
I am home! I could study. Or …
… I could swim! I have tried a different way in my swimming approach hoping that my not-so-smart Garmin wearable vivoactivity HR could automatically detect my laps perfectly.
Of course, I could only dream.
One of my favorite games Marvel Heroes has a special announcement. I have got to work on my next video!
Tonight’s dinner was stir fry chicken breast slices with green and red peppers, boiled green vegetable, and brown rice. I love cooking. It is therapeutic.
After dinner, time to continue working on my next video! I like making videos on announcement related topics (one hour or so together with recording). It does not take too long to work out the materials. I really hope that it will be useful for the fans of the game.
It took me one and half hour to write this blog entry. Time now is 11 pm. And I blame Magnificent Century. Men are really not good at multi-tasking.
In my current line of work, once a year I have got to take a two weeks long holiday. Normally, my wife and I would take a long haul flight to somewhere far as tourists. This year round, Cynthia has changed job, I have a project management professional exam to prepare, and we want to save some money. So I am staying put in Singapore for the first week of my holiday. Next week, my wife will join me.
I woke up like every other working day. Except, today is day one of my holiday! During my shower, I overheard my wife gasped and groaned loudly from the kitchen. My guess would be that she has once again made a mess while juicing vegetables and fruits. I could imagine juice all over the tabletop dripping onto the floor. Actually, all I wanted was to give her a hug. My wife is not a morning people. Yet she pulls herself out from the bed every other morning to make healthy breakfast for the two of us. As it turns out, there was a bit of a mess. I took over the washing after my shower relieving her for her daily routine.
After dropping my wife at work, I was back at home. Time to swim! As I am becoming more active these days – all thanks to this Garmin wearable watch that tracks heart rate among other things (which is mostly pretty dumb) – I managed to swim rather intensively for half an hour non-stop. I was looking forward to collecting some good data through my smart watch. Then again, my Garmin wearable watch fails me like before. I reckon if I was a professional swimmer, this watch would have automatically counted my lap time nicely. But I am not. Never will be. I have got to figure out a way on how to swim so that the watch can figure out what I do.
My plan after my swim was to make some French toast. The eggs were beautifully beaten; four slides of bread were trimmed; the coffee machine was ready. Just as I was soaking the bread onto the egg mixture, I saw some green mold on the bread. Now, that was disappointing. Perhaps I should have an early lunch instead.
I could take the car. Or I could walk. It is a 1.6 km walk from my home to the nearest food court. Why not exercise more?
It was drizzling so I brought along an umbrella. The walk to the market was pleasant. Overcast with fresh breeze. The food options were pretty meh though. Mostly unhealthy stuffs. I had black chicken herbal soup with cabbage rice – the healthiest food I could find in the food court. The chicken was prepared with its skin intact. And the cabbage rice was cooked together with thin strips of pork belly (which regretfully, I only discovered the latter as I was halfway through my meal). Not entirely healthy stuff.
By being active means that I would need more food intake. So I bought some banana from the wet market. The shopkeeper asked what sort of bananas I would want. There were so many types of bananas. Different shapes, different colors (one was muddy brown in color!). He asked if I wanted to fry them. I said I just want to eat them raw.
I bought some buns too as I plan to have some tea break with my wife this evening.
On the way back, I took a different route. It was a 2 km walk instead. The sun was up. With the rain, humidity shot up the sky.
After yet another shower, it is time to study! I made myself a cup of Nespresso all ready to prepare for my project management professional exam.
I barely survived the first chapter when I needed a nap.
So, nap I should.
I felt great! Time was running out though. There were so much to do today. I wanted to continue my study. But the material is really boring. So I checked out my YouTube channel and replied to friends’ comments. Yesterday I have published a video about our 16th wedding anniversary. Oh yes. Time flies.
I should study for real. I managed to finish up to chapter two. Very much common sense materials, so far.
It is music time! I miss playing music. My Filipino neighbors downstairs are super noisy from time to time. They love to sing karaoke. We could vividly hear all the notes and screaming. Well, guess what? I too used to jam. I could be pretty loud too! Except, there ain’t many in this world who have heard of or even like what I play. Because I write my songs. There is a saying in Singapore. If you can’t win them, join them. Good luck consuming my work-in-progress music /grin.
I have got to stop whatever I was doing (i.e. jamming) and start preparing for dinner. Tonight was chicken soup cooked with chayote. I have already deboned two chickens over the weekend. This soup was prepared with two chicken carcasses and two chicken thighs and drumsticks. Skinned.
After the dish was all set inside my pressure cooker, I continued jamming till 17:30. I had no idea that playing music can be a good workout to the heart too!
Time to leave my apartment and pick up Cynthia at work.
Home sweet home and dinner was at seven. The soup was delicious. We expected no less /smile.
Time to blog. My wife is now playing World of Warcraft with her level 85 Undead Warrior. This is very distracting.
French title is called Le diable au corps and I have read this several times over very recently. This book is rather thin. That helps. But mainly, because it is a good read. The book and the author has an extraordinary background. The book is an extraordinary read. If I could only bring 10 books into an island of isolation, The Devil in the Flesh would be one in my collection of solace.
In the line of creativity work, what have I done when I was 16 to 18? I did not even start writing my first song. Raymond Radiguet wrote this book inspired by his affair with a married woman when he was 16. The author died in 1923 of typhoid fever at the age of 20. The Devil in the Flesh is a work of a genius (borrowing my French friend Yvan’s exact words and I agree). I could only ponder upon the what-if.
The main character – a 16 years old boy – is having an affair with Martha Lacombe, a young woman whose husband is fighting the WW I. The emotional journey as well as its details within and the immaturity displayed is so real that I reckon for those who have been in love or have a crush with someone in the younger days should be able to relate. I can relate every bit of it.
The context is important. Back in the era of WW I, affair of such nature I would think could be frown upon. Even being condemned. The opening page sets out how the story would unfold in a lighthearted manner – which dominates the entire novel despite the tragic end.
We lived at F., on the banks of the Marne.
My parent disapproved of friendships between the sexes. But our sensuality, which is born with us, though for a time it remains dormant, was aroused rather than quelled by their disapproval.
I have never been a dreamer. What appears dream to others more credulous than I seems to me to be as real as cheese to cat – in spite of the glass that covers it. Yet the glass does exist.
If the glass breaks, the cat takes advantage, even if it is his master who breaks it and cuts his hand in the process.
One day, Marthe took the narrator for a furniture shopping trip for her future home as her fiance is still at the front line fighting a war. Naturally, Marthe would want to pick what her fiance wants. But influenced by the narrator – out of jealousy no less – Marthe begins to doubt her decisions and instead, sides with the narrator’s rationale, and picks what the narrator wants.
At the end of this exhausting day I could justifiably congratulate myself on my achievements. Item by item, I had succeeded in transforming this marriage of love, or rather of infatuation, into a marriage of reason, and a strange marriage of reason at that, since reason had no part in it, each finding in the other only the advantages provided by a marriage of love.
As she left me that evening, far from seeking to avoid further advice, she had asked me if I would help her during the next few days to choose the rest of her furniture. I said that I would, but only if she swore that she would never tell her fiance, since the only chance of his coming in the end to accept this furniture was for him to think that it was entirely her own choice. Then, if he really loved Marthe, what gave her pleasure would also please him.
Inevitably, a book with such topic, I would want to see how the author explores intimacy. In this scene, the narrator is with Marthe, inside an apartment with only the two of them. A fireplace is set with a special fragrant from the wood pieces that are sent from Marthe’s fiance’s family. At times I wonder if the book title was born from this scene.
As she slept, her head on my arm, I leaned over to look at her face, which was surrounded with flames. I was playing with fire. One day, as I approached too close, though our faces were not touching, I was suddenly like the needle which, having once moved a fraction of an inch beyond the mark, is in the magnet’s power. Is it the fault of the magnet or the needle? I became aware that my lips were on hers. Her eyes were still closed, but she was quite obviously not asleep. I kissed her, amazed at my boldness, whereas in fact, it was she who had drawn my head towards her mouth. Her hands clung to my neck; they would not have held me so fast in a shipwreck. And I did not understand whether she wanted me to save her or to drown with her.
What I also like about this book is the playfulness of this love affair, which makes the story all the better to relate. No doubt, the author (and the narrator of the story) was mature beyond his age. But time and time again, as the narrator throws tantrums and does things out of sort, all these remind me of their young age. I have been there done that. And I am certain many readers too.
Love wishes to share its happiness. A woman who is cool by nature becomes demonstrative, kisses you in the nape of the neck and invents innumerable tricks to distract you if you happen to be writing a letter. I never wanted to kiss Marthe so much as when her attention was taken up by something else; or to touch her hair and undo it as when she was pinning it up. In the boat I would throw myself upon her and smother her with kisses to make her let go of the oars and let the boat lose its way among the herbs and the white and yellow water-lilies. She saw this as a sign of uncontrollable passion, whereas I was really in the grip of this powerful urge to disturb her. We would then moor the boat behind some tall tufts of grass. The danger of being seen or of capsizing the boat made our sport all the more pleasurable.
In one particular scene, while Marthe was away from town, the narrator took a young girl Seva into Marthe’s apartment. He gets Seva drunk, wanting her not out of lust, but out of greed. Also, the narrator is fully aware that it is rape that he is about to commit.
Soon, words get to Marthe as the landlord has made a complaint that the house is not a brothel. While our narrator manages to yet again talk himself out of the situation which is not unexpected of, it is the way he internally justifies his act that intrigues me. I would say, the author was well ahead of his age.
Just as a bee plunders in order to enrich the hive, a lover enriches his love with every passing desire that besets him in the street. It is his mistress who benefits from this accumulation. I had not yet discovered this discipline that gives fidelity to unfaithful natures. When a man, lusting after a girl, transfers this ardour to the woman he loves, his desire is the stronger for being unsatisfied, and will lead the woman to believe that no one has ever loved her so much. It is a form of infidelity, though in most people’s opinion morality has triumphed. Such duplicity leads to profligacy. One should not condemn too readily therefore men who are capable of infidelity at the very height of their love; they should not be accused of frivolity. They reject this easy subterfuge and refuse to confuse their happiness with their pleasure.
After reading this book a couple of times, I ponder upon the title. Who is the devil? And why is he or she the devil? Presented with a similar situation, I probably would have done the same. But that was 1923 when the tradition and value may be different from today’s modern standard.
If I go along with the interpretation that to lie is a sin. To seduce and to fornicate with a married woman is a sin (a mortal one no less). To have caused one’s death would also be a sin. And since Diablo is the Father of Lie and more, it would not be wrong to interpret the narrative himself as the devil in the flesh. Harsh though, I must say. Almost like a self-punishment for the narrator’s regret, for perhaps the author’s regret.
I have planned this Monday holiday months in advance. Because Tuesday is National Day, a public holiday. I have been wanting to have some time on my own, to reflect upon life and to simply admire nature, to be connected to the ‘bigger picture’. It seems that our souls need nourishment once in awhile especially when day in day out we are stuck in a corporate rat race.
In some ways I am happy that my wife needed to work today. When both of us are on leave, we would take our time doing very little, at home mostly. Nothing is wrong with that of course. A different kind of soul nourishment. A mutual nourishment.
After dropping my wife off to work at a quarter to nine in the morning, I drove to the Botanic Gardens, a UNESCO site.
This plan of mine did not get hatched until late last night. Botanic Garden always makes me happy. Be in as in Hong Kong when I was studying or in Singapore. Today felt like a makeup session for a birthday outing that I did not have.
Armed with a camera phone, a book, and a bottle of water, I felt happy even before entering the garden. It took me some time before I could find a parking lot by the street, right at the back of the children’s garden, which is on the far end of the map.
As expected, the day was warm and the air was humid. I got a bottle of water but I forgot to bring some suntan lotion. I got a book but I forgot to bring some insect repellent.
I love my new phone. Finally I could take some photos to commemorate my days, edit and upload along the way with GPS tagging. Six hours my phone’s battery has lasted. I was tired but delightful at the end of the trip.
So where was I? Yes, the parking lot.
I am amazed that so many people hang out in the Botanic Gardens on a working day (though I must say, many must have taken leave today like me). My plan was to have a nice breakfast inside the garden upon arrival. But since I was parking so far away, I took a stroll instead as I headed towards my first destination – a restaurant that serves proper breakfast.
First thing that greeted me besides the toilet at children’s garden was a group of old folks trying to exercise. That scene actually scares me. I am motivated to start doing some exercise asap. I hope my back would bend better than them when I am at their age.
Casa Verde is right in the midsection of the garden. Quite honestly, the food is very so-so. And it is rather pricy. But the decor is rather OK. I managed to find a seat inside the airconditioned section of the restaurant. I could sit outside though. But today was a warm day. Cool air was a welcoming sight.
So I order an overpriced egg benedict that cost S$16. An additional cup of what appeared as an instant coffee that cost an extra S$4. I still enjoyed my breakfast though, because today was a happy day.
Over breakfast, I have started reading The Devil in the Flesh by a French author Raymond Radiguet. A book I have borrowed from the library. I don’t know how anyone can read books these days. I was so distracted by my electronic devices.
Talking about electronic devices, what’s wrong with the world today?! Here I was immersing myself into nature, listening to the sound of the insects, of the birds, and of the wind brushing against the tree leaves (of course, the sound of construction nearby can be annoying). I saw waves and waves of people glued to their electronic devices playing Pokemon Go as though they were possessed, living inside a world of augmented reality.
It is very easy to spot Pokemon Go players (more so because I was once an Ingress player).
They are often in group talking to each other while interacting with their electronic devices.
They have a tendency to stop in some random spots again interacting with their phones or tablets.
At times, they look stressed (which is strange because no one should look stressed inside a garden).
They are oblivious to all that is around them. I bet even as Taylor Swift walks by, they would still look for those virtual beings.
Very often, you see them carrying a power pack to charge their phones on the go. Some would actually play with two devices (ah, good old Ingress days of mine).
Also, at times, these players (or hunters?) tend to cast me a suspicious look. As though I am there to steal their price.
Look, this is a garden. The only time I would cast a suspicious look to a fellow visitor is when he or she looks like a terrorist.
But then again, who am I to judge? I have lived through those insane time with Ingress (the step-father of Pokemon Go?). I am still spending a lot of time at home playing video games, even at my age. To my defense though, I think what is going on behind closed doors is none of others’ business (duh, my YouTube channel has betrayed me). Roaming in public places like Botanic Gardens in a zombified state, that is weird.
Or perhaps, I am the weird one. Because if I am to count the number of people whom I have come across playing Pokemon Go versus those who were like me enjoying the scenery and the ambient, we the real lifers are definitely outnumbered.
I got lost a few times inside Botanic Gardens. How often when you read a map by the roadside and even though it has “You Are Here” in a font and color that cannot be missed, you just not sure which road leads to where?
If I were to design roadmaps, I would certainly go that extra mile and draw two things right at “You Are Here”. A simple line to denote where the signboard is from a top down view. And a man or an eyeball showing you where you are facing.
One great thing about getting lost is – besides the extra exercise I so need (remember the old folks at the beginning of this entry?) – I came across places that subsciously I wanted to visit but I was not really looking for them.
Like a toilet and a place for food. The gift shop was a bonus.
By the time my late lunch was served, my colleague at work has already called me for help. The good news was that it was not something unexpected. I was mentally prepared. The bad news was that I was at least two kilometers away from my car, not counting the extra miles I would need to partake once I got lost. That is a story for another day.
Or not ever.
On another positive note though, I really enjoy reading Devil in the Flesh. It is about a young boy in love in great details. It is about a young boy in love with a girl who is with another man. It is about a young boy infatuated with someone older than him. All three, I can relate.
Earlier this month, our government has announced that 30 hectares of forest will be cleared so that more housing estates can be built in Teacher’s Estate. Believe it or not, I am someone who likes nature and I do feel rather sad hearing this news. Had this took place in Hong Kong, I would imagine a series of protest or demonstration may follow. But here is Singapore, no one seems to care enough. Does forest make money? Obviously not. So why do we care?
Singapore is a modern city. Greenery is a treasure we shall behold. Opposite my home, a highway is built. We were used to seeing a vast piece of greenland in front of our condominium. At dawn, we were used to see a beautiful layer of mist rising from the vegetation across the main road in front of us next to a reservoir. Today, this piece of greenland has been removed, made way for the construction of the highway.
This new deforestation announcement does not come as a total surprise. Near to our home, a train station is under construction, ready in 2020. As of today, it makes no sense to have a train station in our quiet estate. There are virtually nothing here except a few condominiums. Hence, I have been anticipating something big is going to happen.
According to the URA masterplan, new housing estates will be built. They are likely to be highrises too.
What so precious about Lentor Forest? According to a position paper by Nature Society:
URA’s summary of the wildlife records has noted the presence in the forest of the following nationally and globally threatened mammal species:
1) Sunda Pangolin: critically endangered.
2) Banded Leaf Monkey: critically endangered.
3) Sunda/Greater Slow Loris: =assumed extinct, but now regarded as rare by mammal experts.
The Lentor (Tagore) Forest is indeed very rich in forest birdlife. NSS has recorded 71 bird species out of which there are 31 forest species, resident as well as migratory. This comes to 41 % of the total species recorded there. Out of this, 14 are uncommon resident species, and 1 rare (the Blue-eared Kingfisher Alcedo meninting). Out of these uncommon residents, 10 are listed as nationally threatened while 5 are globally threatened.
Last but not the least, the vegetation.
From the URA biodiversity report, it must be said that the forest, 30-hectares in size and contiguous to the Teachers’ Estate, is rich in biodiversity. This is very well reflected by the fact that, from NParks’ finding, at least 32 species are worth salvaging, among which are 100 specimens of the Elephant Foot’s Fern […] What is very striking from a conservation point of view is that there are 2 critically endangered species, 3 endangered and 6 vulnerable species (inclusive of the Fern mentioned above), as reported by NParks. This is simply amazing for a relatively small secondary forest in Singapore.
In the good old days when my knees were still strong, I was used to jog pass Lentor Forest all the time. I would start the 4.8km route at around 6.50am when the sky was dark and the air was crisp and fresh. As I made my return trip at 7am, the sun rose from the horizon. I would experience that magical moment when plants started the photosynthesis, as though I could hear the plants at work. That imaginary humming sound. Be one with nature. That kept me go on jogging.
I think for those who don’t live around Lentor, it is just another piece of land made available for some modern buildings. For me, it is something special.
Just how big or small is 30 hectares? The entire Singapore Sports Hub is around 35 hectares.
Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage is a fascinating read. In fact, this is my third read in the span of a few years. Each pass I am able to spot more linkages between the plots. And more passages highlighted for future reference.
Like many of Murakami novels, Colorless is filled with mysteries. The main character – a 36 years old Tsukuru Tazaki – recounted one moment in his college life, that he had contemplated to commit suicide. It all started with a group of five back in school. Every one with a name associated to a color except Tsukuru.
Soon, the other four friends began to use nicknames: the boys were called Aka (red) and Ao (blue); and the girls were Shiro (white) and Kuro (black). But he just remained Tsukuru. How great it would be, he often thought, if I had a color in my name too. Then everything would be perfect.
Out of nowhere, all four friends of Tsukuru have refused to talk to and to meet with him. The shock was so intense that he had lost the will to live.
“That was the first time in my life that anyone has rejected me so completely,” Tsukuru said. “And the ones who did it were the people I trusted the most, my four best friends in the world. I was so close to them that they had been like an extension of my own body. Searching for a reason, or correcting a misunderstanding, was beyond me. I was simply, and utterly, in shock. So much so that I thought I might never recover. It felt like something inside me had snapped.”
Tsukuru recounted his story because his new girlfriend Sara wanted to know more about this emotional burden that has been hindering the relationship. More so, Sara wants Tsukuru to face his past. As Sara has once said:
You can hide memories, but you can’t erase the history that produced them.
This sets off the direction of Colorless with the ultimate rewards of Sara becoming Tsukuru’s serious girlfriend and Tsukuru getting to know exactly what went on with his four best friends abandoning him at the same time.
The good news is that this book is an entertaining read from beginning to end. The not so good news is that at the end of book, you still would not know the answers to the two ultimate questions. But here lies the brilliance of this book. We could imagine what the outcomes would be. But we may never grasp what is real. Like our main character Tsukuru once experienced. There are going to be plenty open questions.
And he couldn’t grasp the boundary between dream and imagination, between what was imaginary and what was real.
What I love most about Colorless is how well planned the plot is. Sara does not appear often in this book. But she drives the entire story. She uncovers the issues and she wants a resolution. Even as Tsukuru (and the readers too) has no clue on what to do next, Sara drops hints at the crucial moment on what is to come. She is like the prophet, always one step ahead. While many including I would debate on what Sara would do with Tsukuru when all is resolved, I am leaning towards a happy ending because Sara comes across to me as someone who knows exactly what she wants. Her moves are reliability predictable. I doubt she has any agenda except to remove this emotional burden of Tsukuru so that their relationship can move forward.
Now, the story between Sara and Tsukuru is easy to summarize. How the mystery unfolds is not. Because the subplots are subtly linked through different time lines and storyline. And how the dreams affect the imagination which in turn distort the reality adds another layer of abstract to the story.
Putting all that aside, there are consistent references to having to make hard decisions, though seemingly unrelated during my first read. Let’s think of body and heart.
In this dream, though, he burned with desire for a woman. It wasn’t clear who she was. She was just there. And she had a special ability to separate her body and her heart. I will give you one of them, she told Tsukuru. My body or my heart. But you can’t have both. You need to choose one or the other, right now. I will give the other part to someone else, she said.
(This would make a good conversation. In real life though, which would you choose and why?)
In the context of corporate ‘brainwashing’ though executive training:
I have some good news for you, and some bad news. The bad news first. We’re going to have to rip off either your fingernails or your toenails with pliers. I’m sorry, but it’s already decided. It can’t be changed. Here’s the good news. You have the freedom to choose which it’s going to be – your fingernails, or your toenails. So, which will it be?
(That pretty much sums up what real world can be like at work.)
And finally, the resolution.
“And in order to do that, I had to cut you off. It was impossible to protect you and protect her at the same time. I had to accept one of you completely, and reject the other one entirely.”
To go back to my leaning towards a happy ending, let’s go back to the final conversation between Eri (Kuro) and Tsukuru.
“But it’s strange, isn’t it?” Eri said.
“That amazing time in our lives is gone, and will never return. All the beautiful possibilities we had then have been swallowed up in the flow of time.”
Tsukuru nodded silently. He thought he should say something, but no words came.
What was it that he wanted to say as he was pondering upon whether or not Sara would accept him in the very end of the book?
Not everything was lost in the flow of time. That’s what Tsukuru should have said to Eri when he said goodbye […]
What then survives the flow of time? I believe that it is hope.
We truly believed in something back then, and we knew we were the kind of people capable of believing in something – with all our hearts. And that kind of hope will never simply vanish.
While I am happy to be able to extract that much from the book, one side-plot still eludes me is on Haida (Grey).
Haida became Tsukuru’s best friend after Tsukuru has decided that dying was not the best option moving forward. Besides, to will his heart to stop was as he found out later an impossible task. Here are what I have gathered from the story of Haida.
Grey is a mix of black and white. The two colors that symbolize Shiro and Kuro – the two girls in the original group of five. It seems to me that Haida is a male replacement of the two.
The sexually insinuated dreams between Tsukuru, Shiro, and Kuro has been once replaced by a dream involving Tsukuru and Haida, also sexual in nature.
To me, the original group of five reminds me of a hand with five fingers. It was natural. Haida has come across as the sixth finger.
Haida once recounted a story of his father (also called Haida) to Tsukuru. At one point, Tsukuru thought the story came from Haida himself.
Haida (the father) has met a jazz pianist called Midorikawa (Green) who in possession of (1) a mysterious small bag, (2) a special ability to see aura, and (3) a deadly burden that temporarily granted him the special ability but would cost him his life unless he could pass this deadly burden to a willing party.
Haida (the father) did not accept. Midorikawa has then disappeared.
Haida (Tsukuru’s friend) all of a sudden disappeared from Tsukuru’s life.
The story of his father may have been the story of Haida himself.
One of Tsukuru’s side mission is to find out what happened to Haida in order to fully remove his emotional burden. The book does not seem to have a resolution on this side-story.
Years later, a formaldehyde jar containing two severed sixth fingers are found in one of Tsukuru’s train stations.
This jar, I presume, belongs to Midorikawa – the mysterious small bag. So the story is real. Could this be the resolution?
So many ways to interpret the story. Did Haida accept the deadly burden and hence explains his second disappearance? Did he have the special ability all along or only after his first disappearance? Is that why there were those surreal moments between him and Tsukuru? More importantly, how does this story branch relate to the main story, if at all?
Still, Tsukuru felt that Haida’s clear eyes had seen right though him that night, to what lay in his unconscious. Traces of Haida’s gaze still stung, like a mild burn. Haida had, at that time, observed Tsukuru’s secret fantasies and desires, examining and dissecting them one by one […]
One constant theme in this book is about death and disappearance, heartache and reconciliation, reborn and recover. That much I can be certain of.