Monday, February 27, 2017

The Author's Reality is Better

I didn't know what to expect from Bear Grylls' first novel 'Ghost Flight' (2015) because he's this ex-SAS soldier turned television survivalist celebrity. His television shows and adventuring expeditions are enjoyable. He has published non-fiction books related to those television series. But this... I mean, this is a novel, fiction writing... even if he has been assisted by ex-journalist Damien Lewis. (Reviews here, here and here.)

Protagonist Will Jaeger is an ex-soldier haunted by the brutal kidnapping and deaths of wife and son. Then he was recalled to active duty to lead an expedition team to recover a Junkers Ju 390 aircraft and its contents in some desolate part of the Amazon jungle bordering Brazil, Bolivia and Peru. Of course there would be Nazi secret weapons recovered, including means of biological warfare, and secrets of the Third Reich and Allied Forces finally revealed.

'Exactly,' Narov confirmed. 'As to the Röntgen Kanone, there is no direct translation into English. you might call it a death-ray or direct energy weapon. It fires a particle beam, or electromagnetic radiation, or even sound waves. It sounds like the stuff of science fiction, but the Nazis were long rumoured to have had such a weapon, and to have used it to down Allied aircraft.' 
Narov's gaze met Jaeger's through the eyepiece of her mask. 'It seems as if it is true, and that they held on to their Röntgen Kanone until the very last/' 
Jaeger could feel the sweat pouring down from his face. The heat was building to intolerable levels, and the perspiration was tarting to condense insides his mask, blurring his vision. He figured they should head for the rear and try to open one of the side doors, which lay just aft of the tailplane.

I understand there'll be more books coming up in this series featuring Will Jaeger. The second novel in this series titled 'Burning Angels' (2016) is out. I'm not impressed. It might fare better as a movie. I won't be chasing this series. This is a classic case of how the author's reality is much more exciting and thrilling than his uhhh thrillers. 😶

Friday, February 24, 2017

A Body Combat Class

All these gym terms. I was a tad confused by all the classes and the descriptions on Virgin Active's website didn't help much. Had to ask the friends about the differences between 'Body Pump' and 'Body Combat', .

Anyway, I made the mistake of telling the friends that I was going for my first ever 'Body Combat' class. They laughed so loud. They asked me about how I felt about punching the air, fighting invisible ninjas. Hmmmph. They were like, "Why do you even bother?" AIYAH. These people ah! For fun mah. I don't need to spar with people all day or use judo moves or hit a sandbag. I didn't feel like stretching out that day; had enough work done on the abs, and simply wanted to move a little. I was not up to putting on wraps and gloves to the gym's 'V-Fight' or 'Impact' classes that afternoon.

Okay lah, the class was kinda fun. The instructors are crazy fit. They could clearly box methinks; their techniques are sound. But you won't get martial arts pointers here. LOL. Go to a proper certification level course or something if you want that. The whole idea of this 'Body Combat' class is just to emulate martial arts moves. The class was packed! Is it such a popular activity? Jumping around? The music was terrible. I had to try to shut it out.

I'm not sociable and am not fully comfortable joining group workouts. But such is the nature of the gym's scheduled classes. Well, I tend to avoid eye contact with most people, and generally, nobody bothers me beyond superficial civilities. Anyway, my objectives of working up a sweat and moving the limbs for the day were achieved. It wasn't exactly taxing. At least I wasn't drenched in perspiration. FWIW, the class isn't that easy because if you punch hard and pulse and jump all through 30 minutes (out of 45 minutes), you'll burn them 600 calories easy. And yes, fighting invisible ninjas felt pretty all right.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Sleeping Bears 🐻

When the man and I travel, sometimes we get two queen beds instead of one king bed. Often, it's very nice to have the whole bed to myself. 😬 Very nice to not be rudely jabbed in the eye or slapped awake by an errant hand or stray elbow. Anyway, we never sleep curled up together. Cramps lah! It's ridiculously uncomfortable. Sorry folks, the movies lied. 

At home, right from the start when we first moved in together, we have two separate blankets on the bed. I insisted on that. It isn't possible to share one. I do not share blankets. Over the years, stuffed toys of sorts have creeped up on the bed. Okay, mainly animals, not cartoon characters. Now these fluffies get rotated about; they are washed weekly and sunned before being kept for the next rotation. However, two big brown bears and two cows hang out permanently. The bears are mine and the cows belong to the man. But he has taken to claiming a bear for himself. Fine, he can have one.

The other night, the man went to sleep with my two bears. I tried to slowly pull one back. Didn't work. He hung on to both bears. Stopped pulling and read a bit. After an hour, I slipped my hand into his. Still asleep, he obediently and automatically held it. So I got the other hand on one bear and wrestled hard. No luck. He simply turned to the other side, pinning the bear underneath and away from my clutches. Whaaaaaat. He'd take my hand but not give up a bear. Thief! 😠

The next morning, he claimed complete innocence of stealing the bears. He tends to wake up earlier than I do, and often, even if he has stolen them bears in the night, he places the bears back in my arms before leaving the room. That night, I took both bears, hid them under my blanket and refused to give him one. Pfffft. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

That Blue Dinosaur Motif Pouch

Opened up the envelope and started grinning. It was a little pouch I had wanted to get, but didn't get around to sorting it out and then completely forgotten about it. On a random day, it arrived as a gift from J. I don't recall mentioning anything to her. So it was a wonderful surprise!

It's pretty well made. It's that blue dinosaur pouch with its motif drawn by Sheng Jie from Pathlight School. Now I understood why J only asked me an all-important question, "Blue or green?" At that time, I didn't know why she asked and of course she refused to tell. Apparently there's a version in green and teal too, as well as brown and pink. I like this blue much much better. When in doubt, I will always pick blue over green. :P Hurrah!

J had helpfully suggested that the Kindle fits into the pouch. The Kindle goes into it fine with a few essentials of lip balm, eye-drops, two credit cards and cash. Quite spacious. However, I first used it for a less glamorous purpose- to contain ang pows during the lunar new year. Hehehe.

Now, I can simply carry it out on days when I don't need the whole bag of assorted essentials. Minus the Kindle. The denim pouch is lined with nylon, making it water resistant. On days that I might get rained on, I simply plonk the essentials within a ziplock in another water resistant pouch, and slide them into the fabric pouch, effectively ensuring that hours of rain won't kill the phone or cables or cash.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Getting Prata

While sending L and P to the airport, we stopped at Springleaf Prata Place at Jalan Tua Kong for an early dinner. This was a short stay in Singapore for them. Given their packed itinerary chockfull of meetings, they wouldn't have had the time to go out to any prata stalls or biryani shops for a few good ones. We had an hour before they were due to check in at the airport.

Pure carbs! Mmmm. We ordered prata kosong and chicken murtabak, accompanied by fish curry. It's gotta be fish curry. The chicken curry here isn't good. Ordered mutton curry too. For more flavors, beehoon goreng ikan bilis putih was added. I really didn't know how we polished off all these dishes. There was even a chocolate-banana prata, which was totally eaten.  

It was raining heavily and this meal totally hit a spot. It would definitely be better than a meal in-flight. We know the friends love spices and local eats like these. I needed a cold drink, which came in the form of a 'less sweet' teh ais limau. Our guests washed down dinner with steaming hot cups of teh halia, something unfamiliar yet familiar. Ginger tea with milk, Singapore style. They loved it.

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Ghosts Don't Really Matter

I first flipped through Laura Whitcomb's 'A Certain Slant of Light' (2005) in a cafe in Thailand. Was intrigued and bought the e-copy without doing much research into it. Big mistake. The story started off strong. But at some point, I groaned because I thought it was going to turn into a cheesy love story. (Reviews here, here and here.)

Protagonist Helen is a ghost. She's been dead for 130 years, remaining at age 27. She has to attach herself to a human host (who's unaware of her existence) in order remain in the Light, so to speak. She picks very literary-inclined hosts who love literature, reading and own books. Then one fine day while at school with her current human host, schoolteacher Mr Brown, she met and fell in love with James, another ghost who remains at age 29.

James has taken over 17-year-old eleventh grade student Billy Blake's body because his spirit went wandering when he overdosed on drugs and had to be sent to hospital. So to the world, Billy Blake's alive and okay, except with some odd changes to temperament and doing much better academically. Helen found a body to sit in in 15-year-old Jenny Thompson who's Billy's schoolmate, so that she and James could be together in flesh. At that point, I groaned. It's essentially YA. Oh dear. What happened to that super promising plot?! This is not going to end in the way I think.

Mid-way, this book turns excruciatingly painful. Even tone changes. Almost died when I got to the end. 😐 Wasted my bloody time reading. No wonder I finished it over coffee. The supernatural elements are negligible. Apparently, this book might be made into a movie. Riiiight. It's 'Twilight' all over again.  ðŸ˜±

All this I observed from the corner of the ceiling above them, but now I was passing out of the room, right through the roof. I felt my heart fold out like a blossom not only because Jenny had saved herself and Billy had found her but also because I was being drawn to heaven at last. I was sure I could see some light ahead and then James smiling at me as if through a hole in the sky no bigger than a cat.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Happy Lunches This Month

Many friends know that I'm not keen on them buying me gifts on special occasions. Can't quibble if it's something small, but knowing the friends, something 'small' takes creative effort and ends up being rather time-consuming for them. A card is very welcomed though. I love cards. I'm soooooo delighted that V heard me. Well, that's not to say she isn't naughty at times too, but I'm very glad she also largely chooses gifts in the form of donations to causes close to my heart, one of which is shark conservation. 🦈❤️

She has decided to buy me all my lunches this February. (Chehhh I forgot to take photos of our meals.) We meet fairly often, and getting out for lunch in the CBD on week days has been good between work meetings and all. Effectively, via all these meals, they make up a birthday gift! I can't quite object to being fed hearty and not-too-decadent food. I've definitely lucked out with this girlfriend whom I've known for a decade now. I admire her discretion, integrity and drive. She's a gem. I look forward to her friendship in the next decade and beyond.

I'm missing a photo of a coffee cup in this collage below. It's supposed to represent how I've been shamelessly stealing cups of kopi-o-siu-dai off of her since 2015 when she shifted office to this current one. She has got one of 'em fancy swipe/value cards at the foodcourt; for convenience's sake, she always buys coffee, yet refuses to accept payment or allow me to top up the card for her. So I've completely given up on trying to pay her for coffee. Hahahaha. I'm still leeching kopi-o-siu-dai off of her in 2017. 😏😇😘

Thursday, February 16, 2017

華藝節 ::《暗戀桃花源》三十週年演出

At the curtain call of the Singapore show.

Bravely attended 'Secret Love in Peach Blossom Land'《暗戀桃花源》at Esplanade's Huayi Festival. Staged by Taiwan's Performance Workshop (表演工作坊), this well-loved classic written by Stan Lai (賴聲川) was first performed in 1986 (when Taiwan is still under martial law and has been separated from mainland China for 40 years), and has had a number of film adaptations made since.

Esplanade has also brought in this play a decade ago for its Singapore debut. Of course I know nothing about it. 2017 is my first time watching the much-raved-about play. This 30th anniversary version is directed by super-talented actress, director and playwright Ismene Ting (丁乃筝). The girlfriend wanted to know the title of the song the actor sang right at the start. I assumed it was an original song written for the anniversary edition of the play, but an initial google search turned up nothing. It sounded familiar, so some furious googling the next morning led me to è”¡ç´çš„《追尋》.

Two plays within a play. Of two bickering drama troupes that somehow booked a rehearsal space at the same time and date, creating loads of arguments and conflict. They eventually halved the space, and in a magical twist of brilliant scriptwriting, the actors began to complete one another's lines in spite of them rehearsing completely different plays set in different eras and storylines. Basically, it's really about separation and reunification. To choose to remember or forget, to live in the present or hold on to the ghosts of the past. There must be a political comment in there somewhere about Taiwan and China. Of which I refused to delve into. I didn't need the English surtitles since not much Min Nan (閩南語) was spoken.

The play even bothered to use local references and even a mention of the actors acting in local film-maker Jack Neo's madcap shows as a...corpse. 😂 I rolled eyes at that. Some bits were seriously lame and super corny. There was a random character walking around looking for another equally useless person. I thought that was completely unnecessary. I only wished that the scenes with both plays interacting on their halves of the shared stage were increased. That was witty.