River Safari with the Hs

[humongous puffer fish]

Technically, two Hs and one I don’t know what: Luke is an incredibly precocious 3-year old boy. He’s got blonde hair and blue eyes, and a great handle of symbols and situations.

The oldest H (henceforth titled H1) was my first math professor at CU, and he was funny and nice and always picked on me to answer questions in class particularly when I was daydreaming. If I ever teach I will never pick on students to answer questions.

This post is not about him, however :P This post is to document all the hilarious things Luke said and did. He looks just like his grandpa for one, with the same kind of teeth (and an “ah pek” look, according to Justine lol)

[Perhaps it’s the sandals. They are the same style as H1’s sandals]

Luke was very good at articulating everything he thought. I didn’t know one could be that articulate at 3 years old. His mother (H2) speaks to him like an adult, which I think helps tremendously.

When he saw the “no entry” sign (the red circle with a white bar, with some text below) pasted on a bamboo gate, he asked “why does it say ‘Do Not Enter?'” even though the words below were actually “No Access”. That was the first time I realized he couldn’t read. He’s so incredibly garrulous I automatically assumed he was literate.

He recognizes letters and knows his phonics, like the basic sounds of each phoneme like in the word “food” but he has a little trouble piecing it together.

There were these spinning blocks next to the Panda exhibit with pictures of pandas on them and also descriptions of pandas. H2 read one of the descriptions out, trying to get Luke to pronounce “food” by giving contextual clues to the word (Luke is very good at picking up context).

H2: “What do pandas eat, Luke? Fff-ooo”
Luke: [with great certainty] “Rocks.” (Well, his mum IS a geology professor)
(based on observation of the rocks in the enclosure :P)

He’s adorable and I love him.

We also discovered that the total amount of bamboo one panda eats in a day weighs about 4/3 Lukes. Good Lord.

He also automatically ran to the height chart to measure his own height for the boat ride in the River Safari. For reference, he’s not nearly tall enough. But he really liked the camera, and spent a lot of time hopping between the ropes, all the while glued to my lens :P

Everytime he saw a street vendor, a vending machine, or in fact, just about anything that requires the exchange of money, he would run forward, dragging H2 there, all the while persuading her to part with her money to buy him something.

(At a vending machine selling bottled 7-up and coke and Dasani water)
Luke: “Mom! I need a soda!”
H2: “No you don’t need a soda, you want a soda, but why would you need a soda when we’ve got water right here?”
Luke: [pointing to vending machine]”There’s water here too!”
H2: “Yes, but we brought our own water in this cool dinosaur bottle, look! It’s got water from when the dinosaurs were alive. Don’t you want to drink the water from the time of the dinosaurs?”

They were hilarious together.

(At the cart selling fishballs and slushies and ice creams and things:)
Luke: [dragging H2 over] “Look! Ice cream!”
H2: “We brought our own snacks, sweetie. Remember? Why do we need to buy other snacks? Those are fish balls, and you don’t want those.”

The fish balls were $3 for a stick of 3, which is daylight robbery.

(At the machines that kids can get into, pop some money in, and the miniature car or ship or whatever will start moving and playing music:)
Luke drags his mum over.
Luke: “Can I go on the ride?”
H2: “It’s $2, Luke. We don’t have $2 for these rides.”
Luke: [running up to Z and me, holding out his cap]: Do you… do you have 2 cents?

Money denominations don’t mean very much to him right now.

Perhaps he has potential for a travelling salesman career.

He also likes crawling on the floor and sitting down.

[I think its great that parents are not so concerned about the germs on the floor]

At the humongous aquarium in the River Safari with the manatees, he was obsessed with keeping his balance while walking on the low metal pole running along the edge of the aquarium, and completely ignored the huge manatees gliding in the waters right beside him. H1 said, “What can I say? Kids’ priorities are just not your priorities.”

[Gourmet Monkey sniffing a piece of lettuce to test for freshness]
The entire time we were in the squirrel monkey exhibit H1 was trying to convince H2 to keep a cute little monkey in her apartment for him to visit when he comes to Singapore.
H1: “Don’t you want a monkey in your apartment? You must want a monkey. Look! How can anybody not want a furry little friend in your apartment?”
H2: -rolls eyes-
H1: “How about one of those red pandas? I thought they were pretty cute.”

H1 also told us about the time he spotted a manatee while swimming off the coast of Puerto Rico, at an unofficial beach. He said it was the first manatee people had spotted there in 50 years, and the inscription near the tank in the River Safari also said manatees love warm water! Also, that 2/3 of the volume of their bodies are all lung (where I thought it was fat).

Here he is showing off his re-entry stamp. He’s so affectionate and precocious, once he just ran up to Z and held his hand so Z could bring him around. It’s nice that he trusts all the adults in his travelling group. When his mum asked him to count the number of people in the party, he went
“one, ” (pointing to himself)
“two, ” (pointing to me)
“three, ” (pointing to Z)
“four! ” (pointing to H1)
H2: “Don’t you think you’re missing out somebody here?”

lol. And then he counted again, and got 6. haha. The thanklessness of motherhood.

When we saw the alligators (actually gharials?) in the Ganges river exhibit, H1 told us about the time (maybe in the last year) where he swam with some caimans and piranhas in Brazil (near Sao Paolo). I guess they must be harmless (the exhibit says that despite their vicious reputation, piranhas usually forage for already dead animals) but H1 said that when he was in Brazil, at the same time that he got into the water, a 3-meter long caiman glided into the water as well. “It really makes you think.”

For most of my other professors I worry about their diet, about how much pizza they eat or how much cherry coke they are drinking, if they’ll get diabetes, or a heart attack. H1 is a whole other character altogether. You worry about him being eaten alive by crocodiles. He certainly doesn’t strike one as a Steve Irwin-type person, but on occasion you can tell he likes dabbling with the dangerous.

Day 3 in Ithaca (4th March 2014)

We spent the entire morning pottering around the kitchen! Woke up bright and early, went to the basement to get my hired help up, and I’d started stripping chicken thigh meat of the bone by about 7am.

I did about 3 thighs before LZ had finished his first one :P, and then Chris joined in the fray.

About 3-4 thighs were slated to be marinated with satay marinade, 1 thigh was earmarked to make chicken yakitori, and one thigh for the claypot rice, which we had somewhat unwisely chosen to start off in a crockpot. Switched a small amount of it to a rice cooker in the end since I’d finished grilling the satay/yakitori and Ze had finished stir frying the bok choy and still the rice had not finished cooking.

(Here’s the satay. Forgot to soak the bamboo skewers, so some of them caught on fire :P. You can see them getting a little charred near the edges of the pan)

And the yakitori with little bok choy flowers :)

I threw about 5 wieners (actually rather averse to the taste of lup cheong) and a packet of rehydrated sliced shiitake as well as several fresh button mushrooms into the claypot rice – american style I suppose. The claypot seasoning (I think from Asian Gourmet House) was not as good as I remember it to be.

Ze diced a cucumber and sliced up a red onion for dipping in the satay peanut sauce – I brought the prima pack version as well as another version that was just the peanut sauce, no marinade. The peanut sauce turned out to be slightly spicy, but no more so than the red onion, which got all of us!

Chris gave us enormous mounds of claypot rice each and Rich very little (for fear he wouldn’t like it) but he asked for seconds and there was none to be had! I didn’t know she had already distributed all the claypot rice that was made in the little rice cooker (that she’d inherited from us) or I would never have finished my portion. She forgot that he actually eats claypot rice – in fact she once told me it’s the only rice he eats, which was why I brought the sauce packets over. He did get to finish the satay though, and Buster never got any :P

I also baked a pandan chiffon cake in the morning –

It rose beautifully but the mixing bowl of the KitchenAid was too small to froth up the 8 egg whites I put into it to their full potential. The texture of the egg white was rather significantly different (creamier) than what I normally get in Singapore, not sure why.

We cut a piece for Buster:

I was too full from lunch to eat any of the pandan cake but I did package a box for Ed and a box for Raghu (since Ed likes green stuff and well, I’m willing to bet Raghu hasn’t seen pandan cake in a long time!) It wasn’t as good as my typical results in Singapore, but wasn’t bad at all. I think actually Singapore’s humidity keeps cakes moisturized – I don’t mean moist, like a pound cake, or a butter cake, but moisturized, like the difference between dry skin and supple skin. Our chiffon cakes actually get more tender because of the intrinsic water content in our air.

The roses I gave her still adorning the table.

I lazed about the house taking pictures of things (like the crystal fob I gave her from the German christmas market a few winters ago) and editing photos until it was 5pm and we finally left the house to take a look at all the prettily painted traffic light control boxes.

Chris says the town council recently hired painters/recruited volunteers from IC or IHS to paint the traffic light control boxes at every intersection (near the commons anyway) with flowers and buildings and things – whatever struck their fancy really.

We left just as the light was waning and while I did get lots of photos, I didn’t have time to pick up the cookies-by-weight at Wegman’s for the bell choir. So after Chris dropped us off at Tab (Ze was meeting Dave for dinner at Chili’s while I was filling in for Rachel at bell choir practice) she went to Wegmans and helped me pick out a box of cookies for the bell choir.

Being back at bell choir on a Tuesday night was like picking life right up where I left off. Everyone remembered me and it was wondreful being able to play the handbells again – their Easter songs are so pretty! And, I got to meet Yuna, who is one of the new girls Chris is discipling. When Dave introduced us on the front steps she pointed at me and yelled “Chris Scriber!!!” haha.

After bell choir we hung around to chat – Chris had helped to buy (and deliver :P) the lemon and raspberry jam filled cookies and several chocolate chip cookies (which were the most popular). I managed to try one lemon flavoured cookie en route from Elmira to Denver and it was…interesting. The bell choir people loved it though, which is what’s important.

Dave sort of arm-twisted me into visiting with him and Eileen up at his house at Asbury Drive with his sad eyes and sneaky words, so after he and Ze came back to Tab, after bell choir (I was tired out and ready to go home), I wound up grabbing a bite at Louie’s (my typical order) and eating in the car while LZ drove up.

(Grilled ham and cheese on white)

I was sort of mad at LZ for not just telling Dave that I was tired and had to go back. Bah!

Visiting with Dave wasn’t bad at all though, Eileen was tucked into a rocking chair doing the crossword, the paragon of elderly contentment. I should like to retire as cosily.

He showed us his bottle collection, model car collection, clock collection, and we visited with each other for awhile clustered around the kerosene heater they have in the middle of the living room. Scenes like this remind me of Mansfield’s Camomile Tea.

After visiting Dave we went on a late night ice cream spree at Wegman’s! Rich drove us out to Purity during the traffic light control box tour but it was closed due to construction! D: It was an incredibly sweet gesture though (and about the pinnacle of his sociability, so one has to grab on to it and appreciate it!) We felt just like kids whom he was bringing out for ice creams, just like how Lz’s mum wanted to bring us for ice creams after service at Bethel one sunday before we left, but the ice cream parlor was closed :/ I felt pretty badly for her about that, and also pretty badly for Rich because Purity was closed just when he wanted to bring us there for ice creams. Anyway we decided to pick up some ice cream at Wegman’s after visiting with Dave because Rich didn’t get his Purity fix earlier – I also managed to stroll around Wegman’s a bit more to pick up 2 papyrus cards – one with Hokusai’s wave for LZ’s dad, and a pretty pink one with flowers. We got 3 pints of ice cream:
– Wegman’s premium dark chocolate – my typical order
– Haagen Daz’s cappucino gelato
– Haagen Daz’s green tea (for Chris to try)

When we got home there was great rejoicing in the household – it’s a pity I didn’t get any pictures of our midnight ice cream party :)

Chris said Rich probably wouldn’t try the green tea when I said I would scoop all 3 flavours into the 4 bowls put out, but when he got his bowl he asked “where’s the green one?” So I gave him some in the end :P I’m not sure he cared for it, but the flavour of Haagen Dazs’ matcha ice cream is too mild for anyone to not like it. It gets totally overwhelmed by the chocolate though.

I guess this is how the Happy Endings Sundae got its name!

p.s. Wegman’s dark chocolate ice cream (only $2.99!) tastes as good as ever.

Rainy days and Wednesdays

The nicest place to be on rainy weekday afternoons, is to be trapped in a Starbucks without an umbrella. You can’t return to the office, so you’re forced to plop yourself into a velvet upholstered couch and order yourself a nice hot drink while reading your kindle (or the wide range of not-entirely-trashy magazines they provide)

I stared out the window a lot, to decide if it was still raining and to daydream. The glass façade of Starbucks is perfect for people watching – seeing people scurry like ants to their office buildings without an umbrella, seeing people disembark from the bus and run for shelter, or watching other patrons in the alfresco area sipping their coffee waiting for the rain to stop like me.

It was my lunch break, so there was no hurry to leave. It feels funny/depressing to grab at whatever shreds of freedom you have at work, sort of like you’re confirming, even embracing, your indentured status. It’s not that I can’t take breaks during working hours either, just that my lunch break is the time I feel least guilty about daydreaming.

There is a barista in this Starbucks who likes to flirt with the ang moh chaps, and there are plenty of them who like to frequent the Starbucks in the Science Park because of all the foreign companies who set up shop here (Reuters,Tuv Sud,…). They all seem to have running jokes with her. I can’t tell if she’s Indian or if she’s black – she speaks with a sort of malay/indian accent and has skin the color of roasted coffee beans – can being around coffee fumes all day rub off on you? Her hair is frizzy and poofy, and she usually wears an orchid in it and uses metallic eyeshadow which works perfectly on her skin tone. Very glamorous.

When I wasn’t one with the couch reading my children’s fiction (The Babysitter’s Club is on the menu for these few weeks – I’ve downloaded the entire series from bookfi.org), I was redreaming a dream I had last night that was so relaxing and joyful at the same time, sort of like being on valium, but better.

How can one resume the dreams they were dreaming?

ILO ILO 爸妈不在家

So we went to see Ilo Ilo last night, the Singaporean film that won the Camera d’or at the Cannes film festival about a little boy whose absent parents lead to his upbringing being taken over by a filipina maid.

The cinematography is a bit shaky and there are not that many artistic stills, and the whole 90s Singapore vibe with our wan grey skies and generally colorless habitat is I think easier to achieve during video editing than color boosting your clips (like the difference between using instagram and photoshop). So I think the main factor that led to its Cannes win is the authenticity of the story telling.

The accents are not masked, he’s got the typical middle-class singaporean family + maid down to a T. The child actor (whose name is actually Jiale) was fantastic at being alternately truculent and sweet – amazing depth for a child actor. I know, Jack Neo’s films are also super Singaporean, but the difference is that his films are intended to entertain the local audience (and do in fact stop there), whereas Anthony Chen’s film is incredibly effective/impactful on an international stage. I tried to watch the movie from a foreigner’s perspective and there were so many amazing gobbets of the Singaporean lifestyle one could immediately pick up –
e.g. our parents’ obsession with status and looking good in front of their extended family members – points out exactly how unaffectionate siblings in our parents generation can be – where things like how much money you put in an angpow is a competition with your siblings! Sibling rivalry does not stop past adolescence, and most of us are not introspective/mature enough to put that tomfoolery behind us. Parents are most afraid of losing face, because for some reason their entire life is lived out on parade for other people to watch and criticize as they please – because older generation Singaporeans will criticize generously and similarly also take it to heart. The range of subjects they like to cover are things like: you put on weight, how much do you earn at your job, when are you getting married, etc. The full spectrum of awkward and socially inappropriate subjects to discuss over a family dinner are usually hashed out within the first 5 minutes. The lack of honesty (as regards the simple things) between husband and wife is quite rampant too, most marriages (in our parents’ generation) made either early or without too much communication between the engaged couple – both my parents and LZ’s parents were unhappy on their honeymoon – my mum and dad were standing on the deck of a boat off the coast of Perth when he complained of the heat from the sun. My mum told him he could go and stand in the shade if he wanted and he upped and left her side to go stand in the shade. (That’s why I think my dad is a bit aspergers-y this way. Everything is literal. There are no double entendres, everything is lost on him). Of course the female interpretation of such an act is that he opted for his personal comfort over her company, and my mum immediately got upset at him for the rest of the honeymoon. For LZ’s parents I think he brought her to Hawaii because it’s far and exotic (which is apparently supposed to be touching) but the thing is his mum doesn’t like beach holidays. There wasn’t even a discussion as to where to go on their honeymoon. Amazing! I am so glad for phenomena like social evolution – our generation is so much more aware, has so much more open communication with each other, and while we definitely have our faults there is no way we would commit those kind of mistakes in this day and age.

And then there is the over-arcing thread of Getting Rich Quick. The parents in the movie are obsessed with it: copying down the maid’s passport numbers to buy 4D, and their son is an amateur bookie, cutting out the numbers of each day’s 4D announcements in the newspaper and pasting them into a school exercise book to spot patterns in the winning digits. This boy is like primary 3 or 4! Many (older) singaporeans now still like to buy lottery tickets with little to zero statistical analysis of the winning digits. LZ’s grandparents still do, but they are pretty anomalous in that they’ve actually struck the lottery (the big one) twice. They like to buy tickets when unexpected/bizarre things happen – following the v. scientific notion that weird events do not occur singly, so you are more likely to strike the lottery when something weird has already happened to you. E.g. they like to buy lottery tickets when one of their grandchildren does a shit on the floor. I’m not very sure how that is in any way a lucky event but then again the Chinese think that sweeping the floor is bad luck because you’re sweeping your fortune out the door so maybe the idea is that cleanliness => unlucky and dirtiness => lucky?

Anyway I am really glad a slice of Singaporean life made its way to the Cannes, and that people enjoyed learning more about it. My only beef was that this was set in the 90s (when we were growing up) – the fashion and hairstyles and all were SO retro, and corporal punishment was still condoned in schools (the boy got caned in front of the whole school). This may have given the impression that Singapore is a backward place, since nowhere in the movie hints that the landscape/mindsets portrayed in the movie could only be observed a good 2 decades back. The only hint of modernity was the park bench that the mum sat on when she picked up the flyer advertising a self-help-your-financial-fate-is-in-your-hands workshop. – those curved and lacquered benches only entered the scene after the abolishment of sandpit playgrounds – so the continuity guy did not do enough research. This 90s Singapore setting was probably what led the film festival staff to classify the movie as Made in China. An easy mistake, anyone could have made it, considering how many things are made in China. If I had to hedge I would guess that it was made in China too.

Anyway here is the actual point of this post: we were watching the movie at Vivocity last night (I booked tickets there so we could pop by Franc Franc plus it’s near to work) and at this point Ilo Ilo is kinda nearing the end of its run. It’s only grossed about $700-800k in Singapore, which is pathetic compared to movies like Ah Boyz to Men, which grossed nearly $7m. And by pathetic I mean the local audience’s taste is pathetic, not that the film is pathetic. Even LZ’s grandparents refuse to watch any Jack Neo films because, and I quote, “his films have no class”. So we thought that the cinema would be quite empty, with just the straggling remnant of Singaporeans coming to kaypoh to see why this movie won an international award at the Kenners. At the end of the movie, the music was cut about 3 seconds into the credits, and there were some TV people holding cameras inviting Anthony Chen (the director) down to the front of the theatre! With him was the actress who portrayed the mum, her 1-yr old baby (she was pregnant in the show), and Jiale! They came down to promote the show and I guess to see the audience’s reception. It was really cool, the kind of thing you only see in movie premieres. They all looked mad different from in the movie – Jiale was like a young hipster with black glasses and a plaid shirt (and much thinner than he looks on camera, so I guess it’s true what they say about the camera adding 10 pounds), and the mum was so skinny we couldn’t recognize her at all.

Their discourse was all in chinese, and basically encouraged us to invite more people to watch, and that from tomorrow (today) onwards, the tickets to this movie would be buy 3 get 1 free. So I’m doing my plug here: Go watch Ilo Ilo! It’s actually good – the acting, the directing, the storyline. If you would like to donate to Projek Ilo Ilo, which sponsors tickets for our foreign domestic workers to watch the movie and see how much we appreciate their contribution to our society, you can go here.

It’s like this, Cat

I spotted a Sunda woodpecker in the DSO parking lot today. Actually, I heard it before I saw it, it was tapping away at a branch of the big rain tree like one of those german toy birds that slowly tap their way down a wooden rod because their neck is attached to their body by a wire spring.

I didn’t know rain trees had worms. But I do know a lot of bird (kingfishers, woodpeckers, etc.) inhabit the rain trees here. Nobody really disturbs them, and there are two avid birders alone in my lab. I would like to make a trip to Pulau Ubin one early morning to see what kind of wildlife they have there.

I’ve been slowly reading through the ERP lists they gave us when we were in primary school – those kids’ books are really good, far better than a lot of adult books in my opinion, which squeeze in too many adult things to the point of flippancy. Kids’ books introduce difficult subjects to children – divorce, mothers leaving their husbands and children behind, death – of a pet, a relative, or a friend, fatal illnesses, first acknowledgments of the opposite sex as interesting – and really treat them with the delicacy they deserve. Every word written means something, and humorous moments aren’t sarcastic or posturing.

One good thing about reading these books again is the number of places they talk about that you can now identify with because you’ve actually been there. Most of these books are written by American authors (Firstly as the country with the most English speaking inhabitants after India, and a country with a strong of emphasis on education and children’s literature) so the scenes and settings you’d expect are usually small American towns, or even big cities. The most recent book I read (It’s like this, Cat) has this particular picture:

Coney Island is made to be crowded and noisy. All the billboards scream at you, as if they had to get your attention. So when the place is empty, it looks like the whole thing was a freak or an accident.

It’s sure empty today. There’s practically no one on the street in the five or six blocks from the subway station to the aquarium. But it’s not quiet. There are a few places open – merry-go-rounds and hot-dog shops – and tinny little trickles of music come out of them, but the big noise is the wind. All the signs are swinging and screeching. Rubbish cans blow over and their tops clang and bang rolling down the street. The wind makes a whistling noise all by itself.

I lean into the wind and walk up the empty street. My sweater is about as warm as a sieve. I wonder if I’m crazy to have come. No girl would get out on a boardwalk on a day like this. It must be practically a hurricane.

She’s there, though. As soon as I turn the corner to the beach, I can see one figure, with its back to the ocean, scarf and hair blowing inland toward me. I can’t see her face, but it’s Mary, all right. There isn’t another soul in sight. I wave and she hunches her shoulders up and down to semaphore, not wishing to take her hands out of her pockets.

I come up beside her on the boardwalk and turn my back to the ocean, too. I’d like to go on looking at it – it’s all black and white and thundery – but the wind blows your breath right back down into your stomach. I freeze.

The only time I’ve visited Coney Island (in the noble pursuit of a Coney Dog) was in the dead of the winter with Gareth. I was staying at his apartment in East Manhattan and one day the two of us somehow decided to take off for Coney Island. I have rarely experienced this kind of crazy spontaneity in Singapore, and nothing is really ‘crazy’ here because our weather is good all year round (and by good I mean hobos won’t freeze to death). The whole place looked kinda wan and sad – the author has got it spot on when she says that Coney Island is made to be crowded and noisy. The journey on the subway to the last stop of the D, F, N, or Q train is pretty deserted. First you have to get through Queens, which is always an eye-opener, with the black kids flagrantly breaking the rules and tramping from carriage to carriage. The nearer you get to Coney Island, the more people fall out, like one big Amazing Race. Well it was winter.

And when you’re there, there’s the theme park, completely deserted. You feel like you’re the last one left on earth. The wooden rollercoaster at a standstill. I took a few pictures – fat seagulls, a bunch of roses discarded on the beach.

It was cold, but also not really freezing like in more inland areas, on account of the cold dissipating into the sea. They all turned out tinted with blue. It felt just like a Korean drama, like the last scene in Stairway to Heaven where Kwon Sang Woo hugs his wife and she gradually falls asleep for the last time. All wintertime beaches remind me of that.

Like the narrator in the book, we quickly got out of the cold and headed for Nathan’s, which serves pretty decent Coney Dogs. And which you can find all over NYC, in JFK, and also in your Aunty Anne’s Pretzel Dogs (not in Singapore), so you can imagine how foolish we felt for going all the way there for the original Coney Island Dog. If I am not wrong you can also buy their sausages from Wegman’s.

Nonetheless, without that experience, I wouldn’t be able to be right there with the children in the book, as they met their interesting someone whom they could talk to at length that crushed all your illusions of the opposite sex being icky, childish, and violence-obsessed. I suppose that first person for me was Hongquan, but I highly doubt I’d have left a toasty house in the middle of the winter to meet him on a beach just to talk lol.

The night air was actually chilly last night, so we drove home with the windows down. The car-less route, along Sembawang road that leads into Thomson road, instead of the CTE.

Sembawang road is actually a really picturesque drive, with trees lining both sides of the road, thickset like those statues on Easter Island. Their canopies obscure the night sky despite being feathery as the wings of a bird- rain trees are like that.

I read in one of Beverly Cleary’s books that the fastest way to get a dog’s hair to dry is to take him for a spin in the car with the windows down. So I stuck my head out a window while he drove and it was really amazing. I felt like I was in India (where most of the vans and buses have no AC) but without the burning dung whiff (not to be racist or anything.) We passed open air pickup trucks of bangladeshi workers who were enjoying the night breezes as much as I did. I wonder if they’ve ever heard “Dream a little dream of me.” I think India is the most literate nation (in terms of the number of citizens who read) – I wonder how Bangladesh compares. Amrita inhales books as much as I do, although I think I read faster than almost anyone I know.

We opened the sky window and blasted the car speakers, exhibiting our true punk rocker personas by playing Ravel to all and sundry. We started out with Miroirs which segued into Gaspard de la nuit. Passers-by didn’t even blink an eye.

The night was as young as we were, and it was as if we were all alone in this world. Don’t get me wrong, there was no romance about it. The long drive home wasn’t about something as trifling as ‘us’. It wasn’t a wholeness with nature either, like they strive to accomplish in those hippie communes with their “unplugged” sessions and yoga. It was, in an instant, feeling your most true self, being completely authentic with regards to who you are. Part musical exhibitionist, part wet dog, part Bangladeshi pickup commuter.

My most true self sees stars winking away in the sky, not at me, but in general. Night breezes do not “seem to whisper ‘I love you'”, but are generated by speeding down the road, as evident by the hot zones at every red light. My true self draws a line between imagination and self-delusion.

Poeticism does not always have to be narcissistic.

You are alone when nothing else defines you.

Ant farm (and other desperate situations)

Here is the eponymous short story from Simon Rich’s first book:

— All right men, listen up. As you know, we’ve built seven tunnels and we still haven’t found a way through the glass. I can tell you’re discouraged, and I don’t blame you. Tunnel 7 was our most ambitious project to date and you all risked your lives to make it happen. But rest assured, we’ll be out of this hellish wasteland soon enough. I have a plan.
— What is it? What’s the plan?
— An eighth tunnel. Through the sand.
— I don’t know, sir… we’ve been digging tunnels ever since we got here. We always end up hitting glass. We lost ten men on the last tunnel: Brian, Jack, Lawrence —
— I know their names.
— Why don’t we just give up? I mean seriously, what’s the point?
— The point? The point is we have no food or water. The point is we’re trapped in this crazy desert, and if we don’t find an exit soon we’re going to suffocate.
— What kind of God would put us here, just to torture us? Sand to the left… sand to the right…
— It’s a test, William. He’s testing us.
— You’re right. We can do this. We just have to work ten times harder than we’ve ever worked before! (Starts digging.)
— You want to know something? I’ve got a good feeling about this one. A really good feeling.

He’s so amazing. For those who missed the similar parody I first posted on this blog on the trials of a classroom hamster, here it is.