Monday, December 31, 2012

Apocalyptic Roundup: The Best of the Year which Didn't End

I guess the world didn't end, so I've got to write this. Here's to 2012, one of the best years I've had so far!

1. The Totally Awesome Birthday Surprise
For the first time in my life I had a surprise birthday party, and it was mine. Thanks to my parents, who outsourced the idea to Xi Min, who organized it, you sly old codger you; and thanks again to everyone who came down and played hilarious Pictionary on disposable paper table tops late into the night!

I've done my sentence, but committed no crime. After two years of learning how the world really works, I come back out into the world with this inane notion that things will be different. I am proven both right and wrong. Nevertheless, I am overjoyed to be out, and so happy that like alcohol at the airport, I'm duty-free!

3. The Japan Trip
Oh man, this is going to be one of those highlights of my life that I'll look back on when I'm 60 and tell my grandchildren about. This was such an awesome trip in an amazing and beautiful country. I saw so many new and different things, tried many new kinds of food I never would have tried back home, and met so many amazing and friendly people. I am definitely going back sometime in the near future, but I am very thankful I had the opportunity to visit a different part of the world.

4. Experience Yale-NUS Weekend
I found out that I got accepted into Yale-NUS while I was in Japan, and once I got back I immediately had a two-day stayover camp to experience Yale-NUS. And I have to say that I was completely sold by that experience. Not because of the professors, or the deans, or the admissions officers; but because of the people, the bunch of amazing and wonderful and overall human people that I met that night. I had the most enjoyable conversation through to 4am that I have ever had while I was awake.

5. The Intern Life
Working at Yale-NUS has been like, the best job I have ever had. My office is just full of wonderful people, insane in their own ways, but it makes going to work fun and exciting. My colleagues are more than colleagues; they're friends as well, and I know I'm going to be really sad come next year when I have to be a student and not an intern anymore. But in the meantime, I'm going to enjoy every day of work I have, giving tours, ordering mugs, making designs, reading articles and sitting at the coffee table, laughing and chatting.

6. Licence to Drive
I guess I'm more grateful for this than other people might be, because it took three tries and enough money for a trip around the world to get a small plastic card which society decides is the only way you can be certified of piloting a four-wheeled automobile worth a hundred times as much. I do think that I'm one of nature's pedestrians though, and considering all the traffic on the road, I'd rather take the bus.

7. Singapore Toys, Games and Comics Convention 2012
I don't recall this year's STGCC being as awesome as previous years'. Nevertheless, I had a good time wandering around the comics stands, and was quite happy to find some of the titles I was looking for. I also remember some of the best cosplays this year, including a Power Girl, a Poison Ivy, and an awesome dude who did a very simple, yet very effective Clark Kent/Superman.

8. Anime Festival Asia 2012
I enjoyed this year's AFA more than the previous years', perhaps because I knew a lot more and could recognise a lot more things. Madoka movie was excellent. Cosplays were generally really good as well, but it reminded me that there is a lot more in that world that I don't know. I think what I really enjoyed most was the concert; I knew more of the artistes performing, like fripSide and LiSA (LiSA!!!), and I even managed to get into flow's songs, even though they were at the end and I was exhausted by then. I got my dose of orange Mirai-ness, so I'm quite happy.

9. The Team Fortress Photo
If there was anything that was as exciting as it was frustrating this year, it was this. Try getting a bunch of people to come together in a virtual world, where everyone is able to kill everyone else, and get them all to stand together to take a photo, without killing anyone. What should have been a fifteen-minute shoot ended up being a two-hour ordeal (STOP KILLING THE PHOTOGRAPHER DAMMIT), but in the end it was a great screenshot at the crossroads of our lives, where we couldn't all play together at the same time.

10. The Girl in the Red Dress
Last of all, here's to that girl in the red dress who I brought on tour around RC4, whose mysterious smile sparked something in my heart; thanks for suggesting to me that maybe, sometimes, there might be such a thing as "love at first sight".

The Year in Entertainment

Anime: Baka no Test no Shokanjuu, Bakemonogatari and Nisemonogatari, Steins;Gate, Kanon, Infinite Stratos, Fate/stay night and Fate/Zero, Carnival Phantasm, Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie

I finally finished watching both seaons of Baka Test and they were hilarious. I didn't they could build on the stupidity and running gags of season one, but they did. Both Bakemonogatari and Nisemonogatari were mind-melting surrealistic mythological mashups which had really, really nice animation. Steins;Gate was a good time-travel story; Suzuha obviously best character. Infinite Stratos was a waste of perfectly good technology for an international harem. Fate/Zero was AWESOME, and is totally worth being outcast as an otaku for. Carnival Phantasm was another surrealistic comedy; I got the parts which involved Fate characters but didn't understand much of the Tsukihime references (race episode is BEST EPISODE). Finally, the rewatch of Madoka in the form of the movie was undeniably brilliant.

Books: Terry Pratchett's Bromeliad trilogy, Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan trilogy, Eoin Colfer's Artemis Fowl: The Atlantis Complex, Misha Glenny's McMafia, DC's Final Crisis and Final Crisis: Aftermath

I finally cashed in on my Kinokuniya membership and bought Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan, Behemoth and Goliath, and again I marveled at a world so fantastical yet utterly believable and amazing. Deryn is a tsundere. I borrowed the latest Artemis Fowl book, and I didn't feel it was as good as the earlier books, but an interesting continuation of the Artemis saga nevertheless. I also borrowed McMafia, the only book on this list which is non-fiction, and though I haven't finished it yet and the narrative weaves in confusing and not-easy-to-follow ways, it's provides fascinating insights to the global network of organized crime. I finally finished DC Comics' Final Crisis even though I'm still missing the last Countdown to Final Crisis book (curse you, frantic apocalypse hoarding). And Terry Pratchett once again produces a brilliant story laced with satire and symbolism in the form of four-inch-tall creatures, who are perhaps more human than they appear.

Movies: The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises, Looper, Les Misérables

All those years of fanboying finally paid off in this year's releases of The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises. Looper was a decent time travel action story, but in the end the grandfather paradoxes just messed with my brain too much. I finally watched Les Misérables in its entirety, and I must say that the music is good, Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway are awesome but Russell Crowe can't sing for nuts.

TV Shows: The Batman

I managed to get my hands on all five seasons of The Batman somehow, because I wanted to rewatch it for the epic reimagining of some of Gotham's iconic villains. Even to the end of Season 5, where I think Batman's integration to the Justice League wasn't very well done; the villains still stole center stage. The show boasts the best Joker voice behind Mark Hamill, the best Riddler and the best Mr Freeze and the best... well, all the villains, actually.

Music: Kurt Schneider mashups, Lindsey Stirling, The Sing Off, Gangnam Style, Les Misérables, Book of Mormon, Matilda the Musical

Kurt Schneider stepped up his game this year with a number of awesome mashups with other start-up artistes, most notably Victoria Justice and Max Schneider's Maroon 5 medley and that beautiful mashup of Payphone and Call Me Maybe. Lindsey Stirling wins my Pretty Musician of the Year award this year by really just producing great music, from the Skyrim theme to her African rendition of Rihanna's We Found Love. The Sing Off, the a capella American Idol, was a beautiful find near the beginning of the year, and still never ceases to amaze me. Gangnam Style gets special mention, because it's rare that a song enthralls the entire world in such a fashion. In musical news, I love Thérnardier's song Master of the House, because it's just so witty and rhymey and unserious about itself. Matilda the Musical I chanced upon because it's got lyrics written by Tim Minchin, and it's pretty good, though I don't understand the story much because I don't think I ever read Rohl Dahl's Matilda. Finally, The Book of Mormon takes centre stage as Best Hilarious-M18-Feel-Good-Religious-Satire Musical of the Year.

Games: Sid Meyer's Civilizations V, Borderlands 2, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Bioshock, BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger, DC Universe Online, Dungeon Defenders, Super Monday Night Combat

I think Bioshock is one of the best games ever made: excellent story, animation, immersion and gameplay. I'm about halfway through Skyrim right now and it's been excellent as well; what I love about it so much is that there's always something new to discover, and the quests are immersive and the world is richly detailed and designed. Civilizations V, I never would have imagined, is actually uncontrollably addictive; and it's very interesting and educational (though very complicated) as well. BlazBlue is probably one of the first few games I've tried to pick up properly, but I still can't play any character other than Noel Vermillion, who is so freaking adorable. I found DC Universe Online to be amazing in terms of gameplay and execution, and the fanboy in me just loves recognizing all the characters; but because of the lag I couldn't really play it well. Dungeon Defenders had a pretty interesting concept: a tower defence and first-person shooter hybrid; levels made it a grinding game though, but it was pretty fun. Super Monday Night Combat was my first foray into other online shooters after Team Fortress 2, and it was another hybrid game: a first-person shooter and Multiplay Online Battle Arena (DotA) hybrid. It was a pretty cool concept, but again, people just became noob-haters and I gave it up. Finally, Borderlands 2 is pretty awesome; the developers kept everything good about Borderlands and threw in some new stuff (like an engaging plot) to make the game just so much more awesome.

YouTube: Two Ronnies, Thank God You're Here!

Thank God You're Here is an improv-type show where they throw actors into a scene they've never seen before, and they have to (to put it bluntly) bullshit their way through the performance. It's based on an existing improv-game, but of course blown up and embellished for a television audience. It's brilliant fun, but of course look for the Australian run of the show because it's hilariously better, and it ran for way more seasons. Also, I've been watching a lot of Two Ronnies sketches lately, and they're mostly side-splitting. It is sad though to see how they've aged; the fat one lost so much weight and the small guy grew fat. Nevertheless, their material is pure gold, one of the best the British comedy machine has ever produced.


Well, that's it for 2012. It was such a nice number, too, for a year. Guess the Mayans long counted wrongly. Oh well, onward to lucky 2013!

Happy New Year!
The Edna Man

Friday, December 14, 2012


I don’t drink. Not by a long shot.

I’ve never really enjoyed the taste of alcohol. It’s the same reason I’m not fond of chilli. How can the masochistic infliction of pain on one of the most crucial and sensitive parts of your body be considered culinary? I can see why you might want to drink it, perhaps in the coldest winters when a long pull of vodka will put fire in your belly and hair on your chest. But otherwise, you’re throwing a caustic liquid down your alimentary canal – how does that even make sense?

But let’s ignore the taste for a while. Let’s say they manage to invent an alcohol which is tasteless, or you take it intravenously. It should be fine if you ingest small quantities – I had half a glass of wine yesterday, and nothing happened. Sure, small doses of red wine are supposed to be an excellent antioxidant and help your heart and whatever.

But yesterday was my first time seeing people truly intoxicated, and it… terrified me. I saw how it really lowers your inhibitions and, perhaps, clouds your judgment. It honestly scared me.

I believe that every single human being on the planet has a tremendous capacity for evil, existentially speaking. I don’t see it as much as an “original sin” thing as much as it is a “human nature” thing. It’s just how we are, regardless of the existence of a divine presence or not. And one of the reasons we’re not rampantly killing or murdering people in the street every day is because we have a socially-constructed set of rules and regulations with enable the conscious mind to act within a generally accepted, lowest-common-denominator standard of insanity. (And it never works all the time, even when people are sober.)

And then alcohol comes in like a sneaky joker in a game of cards. The “get-out-of-jail-free” of life, but instead of jail, it’s social conventions. And you lose control one of the most important things in life: your mind. You take the backseat in your brain and put a bottle of whiskey in front of the wheel, and expect him to make it out of the inner-city maze of the social commute when that bottle knows all the theory but has never seen a car.

It’s like your consciousness is the single guardian of all the screwed up stuff in that Pandora’s box of murder, rape, pillaging and queue-cutting that we call our heads. And when you down six shots in a row, you give him a day off and tell him to come back tomorrow. How do you rationalize that kind of thing?

You can’t, because you’re drunk.

The Edna Man

Friday, December 07, 2012


So today I had my first photo shoot.

No, I didn't go taking pictures of cosplayers with a tripod and wide-angle lens. I was the one being shot at.

I still don't know why my boss picked me to be in the shoot, since, you know, I have a face that launched a thousand ships. Away. Fleeing in terror at the sight of my horrific visage. But I was chosen, so there you go. I'll be plastered all over the official documents, student handbooks, curriculum guides...

I get why people want to be models now. You don't really have to do anything much, just act natural and listen to the photographer's instructions. Not really a very tough job. Of course, it might be different in the fashion industry or something. I don't know.

But yeah, I basically got paid to hang out with my friends for a day. And stare awkwardly into their eyes.

The Edna Man

Monday, November 12, 2012

Anime Festival Asia 2012

So AFA Singapore's fifth anniversary and my third year at AFA.

I originally wanted to write a blow-by-blow account, but I'm too tired so I think I'll write my overall impressions of the main events.

Movie. A large part of this AFA was spent watching the Puella Magi Madoka Magica movie, which was excellent. The animation was great, though I'm probably not veteran enough to see if it was better than the original. It was nice to relive the entire retelling of the story, and of course, make new links with my preordained knowledge of future events. The only gripe I have is the Claris opening theme thrown midway through the second movie. It didn't seem to serve any purpose to the plot at all, and seemed to be included only to make the movie longer. But overall, the story was brilliant, and I am super-hyped for the third movie next year.

Merchandise. I spent more at this AFA than the others, I think, but I'm quite happy with my purchases. I got some really nice art and a bunch of Mirai stuff which makes my heart beat orange so it's okay. I also noticed that coming back from Akihabara, AFA merchandise looks very... spartan. It just compare - the size, the scope, the quality, the price; I think I was spurred to look at every single booth here because I knew that I would never be able to do the same in Tokyo.

Cosplay. There were some really good cosplayers at this year's event. (I say that every year.) I think the organisers chose Expo for this year's event partially because there is so much more open space for cosplayers to set up and do their thing; they really crowd out the place at Suntec. Naturally, there were a lot of costumes I could not recognise, but I realise I do recognise a lot more then when I first came. There was an incredibly cute Guilty Crown cosplayer. Oh, and I met one of my OM girls, and she was cosplaying as something I didn't know; that was a surprise.

Concert. It's been barely six months since my LiSA concert in Tokyo, but I was really excited for the Saturday Anisong concert. I both admire and feel sorry for Babymetal's members; I don't know if they know that what they're doing is not metal at all, but I do admire them for sticking through it and giving it their all. I found m.o.v.e. to be particularly entertaining, the guy especially (he was hilarious), and I'll be checking out some of their songs in the future. I think I should have listened to more fripSide before the concert, but I danced out during the Railgun songs I knew; pity about the mic problems though. Yoshino Nanjō is really pretty, and she was the only artiste of the night to have a costume change! LiSA was explosively awesome, and I now remember the WiLD CANDY chorus dance moves I learnt from her Japan concert. LiSA always has so much energy, it's electrifying. I am not too familiar with FLOW, and I was really tired out by the time they took the stage, but I rocked out to the songs I recognised. I was sitting next to this Malay couple and the guy apologised for bumping into me during the m.o.v.e. segment, and commented that he had waited nine years for them to come to Singapore. So along the course of the concert we struck up a conversation, and I think I asked a couple of awkward questions (naturally), but they were really nice and promised to add us on Facebook.

Company. I only mention this because of its unprecedence: Xi Min invited Austin to come for the Sunday festival for a "cultural experience". I was pretty sure Austin wouldn't be terribly interested, but he followed us around and kept asking Xi Min stuff. I tried to explain a couple of concepts to him, like Japanese anthropomorphism and the idea of "moe", but I don't think I did them justice. I think a lot of cultural things need to be experienced to be appreciated; you can tell a person exactly what a hot spring is supposed to look, smell and feel, but ultimately it's in diving in (not literally) that you really understand. I also thought that Austin might have been expecting a more detailed and structured approach, similar to how they do it on travel shows on television, but this is pure conjecture on my part.

Miscellaneous. There was a point in time today when I left the Madoka movie and wandered into the hall, only to find myself at the back of a crowd at the LiSA meet-and-greet session. I couldn't really hear anything the translator was saying, but I could see her, and that's all that matters, right? Anyway, it was nearing the end, and when she was done she wasn't led through the back way, but out through the crowd, and as luck would have had it, she left at the exact opposite side of where I was standing. Graaah.

Musings. During the concert I had an idea about a lightstick battle; just having a standing army in the darkness break open their lightsticks in unison as the camera panned across them. It captured my imagination, such that during some of the songs I didn't recognise, my mind kept coming back to ways to use lightsticks as weapons, even though I tried to keep my attention on the music and the epileptic strobes. I wonder if this is caused by my continuously multitasking with music when I do work, which might subconsciously influence my brain to think of other things when music is on. Also, during the concert, I was suddenly seized by a desire to be one of them, one of the artistes on stage; not for the fame or fortune, but for the sheer exhilaration of performing and getting people hyped up with you, so now "Be part of a band performance" is now totally on my bucket list.

All in all, AFA 2012 was a blast, but I'm really too tired to think straight anymore.

The Edna Man

Monday, October 15, 2012



Watch this video. Fully. In its entirety. There are shorter videos out there, with just the highlights: the jump, the chute, the family. They don't do it justice.

Today, a man walked off the edge of space, broke the sound barrier, and parachuted to Earth.


"I know the whole world is watching now. I wish you could see what I can see. Sometimes you have to be up really high to understand how small you are... I'm coming home now." --Felix Baumgartner

This guy. History won't be made like this for a long time.

I have an incredible fear of heights. It's probably natural, a survival instinct hardwired into my genetics, but I mean, I get vertigo when I have to jump chasms in video games. And I've taken leaps of faith before. A couple of metres off the ground, onto a slide. Two storeys, at least. Not bad, I would think. I always noticed it's the act of jumping that is the terrifying part. Once you let go, once you're in free-fall, it's easy. It's almost fun. It's the jumping that my brain refuses to do.

Then, there's this guy. Thirty-nine kilometres into the sky. He looks down at the Earth, and at that resolution you can't define any object. It's all just hard, painful, bone-breaking rock. You can practically see the curvature of the planet, at that altitude. And he looked down, and I would believe he was imagining the breathtaking, life-changing plummet to the cold, unforgiving land below. Then he rips off a historic one-liner: "Sometimes you have to be up really high to understand how small you are..." and his brain threw his body off into the void.

Thirty-nine kilometres. If I could drive my learner car straight up, it would take me an hour to get to that point. If you took Singapore, and pulled it out of the South China Sea, and stuck Jurong into the ground vertically, the guy jumped from somewhere around Changi Airport. He took four minutes.

As I watch the video, I'm wondering what the people in the control room were thinking. This guy just threw himself out of a capsule from the stratosphere. My first, irrational, thought would be, "HOLY CRAP SOMEBODY CATCH HIM". But they were all sitting there, cool as cucumbers, watching a guy plummet to possibly certain death.

And then, your thoughts turn again to the man in the pressure suit. At that altitude, you can't tell how fast you're going, because there's nothing to take reference from. You might notice the ground getting closer, but since it's so big, it doesn't seem to be coming at you very quickly. You're just floating there, like swimming, but without water, while around you the friction is heating the air and a cone of atmosphere is forming behind you.

What do you think he was thinking of, in those four minutes and nineteen seconds of utter and complete freefall? What would you be thinking of? There's that nagging at the back of your head that you have to pull your chute sometime during the decent; but would you take a moment to step back and enjoy the view, knowing that you're never coming by this way again? Would you be contemplating man's insignificant existence in a chaotic universe, or would you be screaming "YOLO!" silently in your head? Would you be thinking of how many views this stunt is going to get on YouTube? Or would your scumbag brain niggle you with the possibility of your oxygen running out, or your visor cracking, or your chute failing and leaving the largest blood splatter in human history, or...

Originally, I thought it was really ironic that Red Bull would sponsor this event. But after all, flying is just throwing yourself at the ground, and missing.

Gives you wings,
The Edna Man

Sunday, October 07, 2012

The Fox and the Grapes

So I was bringing people around on tour today of the temporary campus, and my tour group was somehow mostly made up of girls. Anyway, there was this girl in a red dress who was quite pretty and kept giving me this really mysterious, crooked smile which sparked something in my heart every time I turned to talk to the group.

But being the awkward guy that I am, I have no idea what I should do now. I wander around the large dining hall, talking to random people and giving advice and answering questions, but I spot her out of the corner of my eye, and she's looking at me too. Great. She's sitting at a table talking to her friends, though; not like she's going to come up to me and ask me questions. I notice she does get up eventually, but goes to talk to a professor before leaving with her friends through the main doors.

I mean, whatever, right? It's probably not love. It couldn't be love. How can you love someone you don't even know? Girls like her don't go for guys like me anyway. She could be a psychopathic axe murderer, for all I know. I don't even know her name. I can't even really remember what she looks like.


Dissonantly cognitive,
The Edna Man

Friday, October 05, 2012

That... Something Moment

So you're in your early twenties - well, you could be in your late twenties or late teens or even early thirties, but for the sake of argument here we're going to go with early twenties - and you're hanging out in a public place with your relatively similar age group friends (let's assume you have friends) and the conversation somehow, invariably, inexplicably, inevitably, comes around to relationships; specifically those of the social kind; and even more explicitly those of the interpersonal, bipartisan, non-platonic kind.

And, theoretically, these friend are relative strangers, a phrase which, in certain contexts, is an oxymoron: they are people you know and presumably have a friendship with; they are certainly not mere acquaintances. And as such, there is still much about these friends you do not know about, so regarding prior knowledge of such relationships, all bets are off. And as the conversation swings around like an out-of-control drag racer on a windy, windy mountain road, these friends regale you with their takes of romantic debauchery and epic trilogies of love lost, and their trials and tribulations and breakups and split offs.

So there you are, sitting there hypothetically, and know you have to say it. The joke is there, hanging around that mischievous part of your mind like a kitten with a whoopee cushion, waiting for your words to bring it to life and create nervous laughter in the world. This is the only chance you'll get: the timing is right, the words are in place, it's the perfect punchline.

"I never have these problems!" HAHAHAHAHACRYCRYCRY

Which brings be to the crux of this thought experiment: what do you call This?

"Mixed emotions" is an obvious first contender, but it does not do this phenomenon justice. It has been said that the best example of having mixed emotions is seeing your mother-in-law drive off a cliff in your new Lexus. So mixed emotions comes with a implication that you feel both emotions simultaneously. But This, This is different. In This, there is a realisation component, a time factor where the words are processed and the other meaning is slowly eventualised.

One might next turn to the term "bittersweet", but again the word does not connote the emotion precisely. Inherent in the lexicality is the presumption that the "bitter" part comes before the "sweet" one; yet the dread realisation here again is the latter emotion. Bittersweet also defines a simultaneous emotional circumstance.

The last refuge of the confused analyst would be in the word "tragicomic", bringing to mind the stereotypical theatre masks - the happy, smiling face and the sad, moaning visage - which have become symbolic of the stage. It is perhaps the closest and most accurate term thus far - defined as "a situation having both tragic and comic elements", our poor, pitiful joke has certainly earned in that respect. Yet it is still lacking a certain something.

Maybe it's just schadenfreude.
The Edna Man

Sunday, September 30, 2012

If Life Was a Movie

If Life Was a Movie, parody of If This Was a Movie by Taylor Swift

I'm just a geek, your typical nerd
Wasn't born with the cutest face
Shy and dorky; slightly awkward
Socially weird, and lacking grace

You're the beautiful and popular girl, baby
Sociable, innocent, pretty smart
Wouldn't spare a second glance at me, maybe
So how am I to win your heart?

I could bump into you, accidentally
Pick up your stuff, and, flustered, say sorry
Watch as your train departs into the night

Stand at the prow of ships, say we're flyin'
Cryin' over your corpse if you're dyin'
Guest star in a real famous show somehow
And if life was a movie, you'd be mine by now

I can't breathe; it's like I'm suffocatin'
How did you find out that you're my crush?
Playing the montage of our perfect dating
And something I said kinda makes you blush

So, I'm hoping that it's true, I don't have a clue
I'm stuttering now, out on your front road
Grab my collar and pull me close to you
Kiss me on the lips and the soundtrack explodes

Chase after you past airport secur'ty
Dance with you on both sides of a palm tree
Stand in the rain outside 'till you came out

Show you that your boyfriend is a huge jerk
Turn up unplanned at the place that you work
Holding you close after you've had a fright
And if life was a movie, you'd be mine tonight

If you like me, if you love me, if you really care
You would toss your head and let the wind blow through your hair
When we run we're gonna know our fate is sealed:
Together in slow motion in an open field

I'd try to
Fall onto you in a game of tag, an'
Brandish my sword to vanquish that dragon
Stare at the sky, and wish upon a star
You'd know wherever you are

Propose to you with thousands of flowers
Kiss you upside down with spider powers
Random pedestrians burst into a song

Confess to you with a bunch of placards
Save you from the villain and his dumb guards
Seranade you from your bedroom window
And if life was a movie, you'd be mine I know

You'd be mine somehow
It's not the kind of ending you wanna see now
Baby, where's the happy ending?
Oh, I thought you'd be mine by now


How many romantic movie clichés can you recognise?

I don't think I did a extremely good job with this one, mainly because country music has an incomprehensible meter and stupid stressed syllables in all the wrong places. Also, while I am relatively in tune with romantic movie clichés, describing them in ten syllables is really quite difficult.

Aww man, life, this is why we can't have good things,
The Edna man

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The World According to People with Colourblindness

They crawled out of the twisted, auburning wreckage and tumbled behind a dune. "Dammit," John swore, "I can’t believe that son of a beige got us."

"We got creamed," coughed Rachel. "His bomb must have sapphire to the cargo bay and when he pearled the trigger it blue us white out of the sky."

John looked around at the desert, stretching away into the sunset. "Well, unless we can salvage some coins and convince a passing Bedouin to celadonkey to us, or a camel, or something; it looks like we’re marooned here."

Rachel sat down beside him with a deep cyan wrapped her arms around him. "What a cerise of unfortunate events this was," she murmured. "Maybe if I knew then, black when I was younger, that money isn’t everything, that I don’t really need to be vermilionaire… maybe I wouldn’t have ecru-ed all that debt, and maybe we wouldn’t be on the run from the law and the coppers."

John laughed. "Damn, Rachel, you sound so jaded! I can azure you, everything is going to be just peachy." He stroked her hair gently. "We’ll get the cash out of here, and next thing you know, we’ll be cinnabar somewhere having a long, cool drink; or indigolf course on our private island, kicking back and getting a tan."

John sat up. "Remember I told you how I red many books about survival when I was an ultramarine in the navy?"

Now it was Rachel’s turn to laugh. "I know how fawned you are of repeating that," she greened, her teeth gleaming as she put on her best mocking voice: "'But the taupe brass thought I had violet tendencies and kicked me out,' etcetera, etcetera."

John grabbed her by the waist and lifted her off her feet as she squealed with delight. "You know I’m magenta-lman," John said. "And no matter what, whether we die olive tonight, or whether we grow together to a ripe gold age, I will give you the lavender affection and the luxury that you deserve."

"You are such a j-ochre, John!" Rachel cried happily. "Put me down and get your ebony fingers off me!"

John put her down but pulled her in close. "You carmine, Rachel. And you always will be."

Rachel squeezed him tightly. "I love you too, John." She sighed as she pulled away. She knew her lilac-ed conviction but John was too capricious and blond-ed to notice. "But I pink we should see what we can rescue from the jet. The fire’s dying down but ivory that the smoke will give away our position."

The thick pillar of smoke rose into the air as they picked their way gingerly across the hard limestone and the glowing ambers. "Let’s see if we can mauve that wing out of the way," said Rachel.

"That looks like a Cerulean feat," said John, folding up his sleeves. "This is a job for bronze over brains." Rachel a-gray-ed.

The crumpled piece of metal was fuchsia-side to reveal a large trunk. "What do we got?" asked John.

Rachel rummaged through the luggage. "There’s a couple of umberellas, but it’s not like it’s going to rain anytime soon," she said. "There’s a ring of khakis for, I think, a Porsche, and – yellow? What do we have here?"

Rachel pulled out a sheaf of papers, slightly charred but mostly intact. "They’re maps!" she exclaimed. "This one’s a celeste-ial star chart… this a map of England! They’re all mixed up!" Rachel cried in frustration. "This is so purplexing. And they’re not oranged in any kind of order!"

John scuffed around in the wreckage while Rachel rifled through the maps. "You could give a pewter me," he offered, but Rachel just shook her head and said, "I’m puce-d to doing this myself."

“So what chartreuse-ing?” John asked, eventually.

"I think this one shows the surrounding area," Rachel said, spreading the map out across the trunk. "There’s an aqua-ifer in that direction," she pointed. "If we make our way there, we can follow this road jasper our normal walking speed, un-teal we get to this town here by midnight!"

John saw that there was a silver of hope left. "Let’s go, ma cherry, and maybe turquoise and girls of this little mining brown can russet us up some grub."


I tinct, beyond a shade of doubt, everything pales in comparison to colours. We take it lightly and know it cannot be im-prism-ed, but hue knows what the dark, secret in-gradient is? If you are at achromatic, candlelit dinner and you ex-spectrum, not wine, what pigment of imagination is saturating your thoughts?

Or, you know, synesthetes.
The Edna Man

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Imagination and the Multiverse

We know that the capacity for human imagination is limitless. It is one of the few things that sets us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom. It is such an amazing ability to be able to surpass your perception of the current reality and look through time, to see the past, or to dream the future. We can see things that do not yet exist, or that cannot exist.

We all have this talent, this capability of imagination. Some people use it more frequently, some people focus their inner sights only on certain things. But it is usually employed to fathom the unfathomable, to see that which does not exist in one's perception of the here and now.

There are many different versions of the multiverse theory. I don't know whether it's a higher dimensional plane, or a bunch of parallel timelines, or something which might not hold based on quantum physics or mathematics. But I do believe that the multiverse exists, and this is how I think it works.

Every choice we make in our life splits time into multiple possible futures. From the large, conscious, life-changing choices like who you choose to fall in love with; or the small, arbitrary, subconscious decisions like which foot you step on first when you leave your house. The choice you ultimately make shunts you to the reality you currently exist in; but the other one could have easily existed as well, couldn't it? And I believe that it does, in some form of parallel universe.

(There are some who would argue that I have not gone deep enough, that even the random location of each electron and the vibration of each subatomic particle in each point of time and space would vary across infinite permutations, creating a "plane" or "volume" of existences. To which I say, true, but these are choices which we have little to no control of, and the chances that they will affect us are infinitesimally small.)

So, assuming the existence of parallel universes, here's my theory: our imagination lets us "see" the events in these parallel universes. It it not a mental process in which we "create" images and ideas from nothing; it is a "sense" and a means of perceiving the events which don't exist in our here and now. We look through the windows of our imagination into another world.

That's a vaguely heartening thought, isn't it? That somewhere in this crazy, mixed up multiverse of ours, there are worlds where magic is a real and everyday society hidden from plain sight by illusions and memory charms. Worlds where giant sentient androids disguise themselves as common vehicles and wage a secret war for our planet. Worlds in which cities are mobile, leaving large tank tracks in their wake; where genetically-modified beasts roam the landscape and turned the tide of a world war; where death is merely a second chance at love and life; where the greatest of kings is a tsundere and her knights are all girls.

It is also, perhaps, a very sobering thought. That the extents of human creativity and the marvels of human invention that we know of today are nothing more than copies of another world who has already made them; replicated in ours by a man who peeped across realities and copied their ideas.That we are not the gods we think we are, the creators and sculptors and engineers of divine inspiration or inexplicable intuition, but pale imitators of other worlds.

But that is not to say we should stop dreaming, for it is the best thing we have right now.

I see,
The Edna Man

Saturday, September 08, 2012

An Open Letter to the Saviours of the West

Dear Saviours of the West,

Help. Please, you must help us. We are trapped. We are caged, we are tormented, by our oppressive legal system and totalitarian government. We are, how you say, being put down by the Man. You must save us, please.

I am sure you cannot even begin to imagine how subjugated we are under our autocratic government. Our media is heavily controlled by the hegemonic authorities; newspapers, television, everything. The fact that I was able to obtain an Internet connection to type this letter, by smuggling into the country an illegal wireless router, is already a miracle of which I might not be able to replicate. They broadcast only what they want us to hear, their  brainwashing and propaganda and lies.

There is constant fear. Our homes are raided randomly every week, for evidence of creativity and self-awareness and critical thinking. Arrests are a regular part of everyday life, and executions are held daily in the public square; the heads of the worst offenders are mounted on stakes, as an example to the rest of us. We live in perpetual terror, because anyone on the street might be a member of the despotic secret police, who have orders to shoot anyone suspected of being a traitor on sight.

But I have heard that in the West, you are Free. Free to speak out against your government, and protest and riot and cause destruction in your streets. Free to choose your own leaders, to decide which one of your own will control the rest of you. Free to own firearms and kill whoever you want to kill, not just who the tyrannical government wants dead. In the West, it is said, all are equal; though some are more equal than others, of course.

So, please, I beg you; I bid you stand, Men of the West. Come and liberate us. Bring your armies, and your soldiers, and your bombs; bring your guns and swords and explosions, and free us from the authoritarian bootheel of our fascistic police state. Because heaven knows that we cannot do it ourselves.



The sad part is that I didn't really have to exaggerate that much.

Why is there so much ignorance in the world?
The Edna Man

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Forever Alone Singapore

I've recently seen this post making its rounds on Facebook. In it, the twenty-year-old girl (I am pretty sure it's a girl) writes that she has "fallen in love" with London and is "breaking up" with Singapore. It's beautiful, flowing, emotional prose, believe me; and if you don't, you should take some time to read it.

My first thought, admittedly, was: "This is the kind of girl you don't want to fall in love with." The kind of girl who doesn't accept you for who you are, tries to change you, fails, and moves on. The kind of girl who will walk out of the marriage twenty years from now because you're still the man she married. That was my first impression.

Don't get me wrong; hell yes Singapore is way too conservative and traditional and focused way too much on surviving and not living. We're not perfect, not yet. But it's not going to get any better if we turn our tails and leave the country. Who's going to replace the leaky pipe, when all the plumbers say they rather go to where the pipes are already fixed?

I love being jaded. I love being cynical, I love being misanthropic. I love seeing the world for what it really is; but that doesn't blind me to what the world can be. People think that you can't be idealist and pessimistic at the same time. You can. You hope the world is going to get better, but you doubt that it will. But that doesn't mean you stop hoping. You've lost, then. Lost everything.

And this is my second thought. The sad, inevitable future. The realisation that even if we changed this country, if we turned it around, if we managed to have a cultural revolution, throw out all the old ideas, usher in all the new ones, we'll have the exact same country, but now with the opposite minority. Can you imagine it? People leaving Singapore because it's not conservative enough?

Most of our cities and major civilisations were founded on geographic and historical bases. They have each generated and engendered a culture unique to themselves, and some people, some minority, is going to be unhappy in that culture. It is inevitable. They just don't fit in, or they prefer another culture, which, with the rise of long-distance travel, communications and globalisation, can be advertised around the world.

So here's what I propose we do. We take every single person on the planet and ship them off to the moon. There, we categorize people according to their personalities and outlooks and which city they would fit best in. We'll send the open, liberal types to London, New York, Paris, and the conservative bunch to Singapore. We'll send the rugged, adventurous group to Kathmandu, and the faithful, religious people to Vatican City, Mecca, Jerusalem, Varanasi, Lhasa.

Then we'll stay on the moon, and watch as the world slowly burns back to normal.
The Edna Man

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Do Fishes Dream of Aquatic Sheep?

So you're walking down the street, wondering what is going to drop out of the sky for lunch today; whether it will be the huge torn chunks of bread, or the grains of dried macro proteins and vitamins (which don't have the same great flavour). Suddenly, the sky darkens, and for a moment you're thinking it's the giant hand with the algae flakes; but it just keeps getting darker and darker.

Then, a shimmer, a distortion in the fabric of reality, quickly spreading across the grey sky before it fades away. You look around expectantly for the dehydrated shrimp to come floating down, but there's nothing around you. The sky ripples again, a smaller one this time; then another, then another; the concentric circles vaguely hypnotizing, but apparently harmless. And then there's the sound, like a million drums pounding out of rhythm, but muffled, muted.

A sudden flash of clarity strikes you, and in your mind's eye you see your planet in its entirety: oblong and transparent, from the top surface of the atmosphere to the very bedrock on the bottom, with the large mechanical filter running down one side. And you see - no, sense - these enormous asteroids of air, gigantic balls of invisible gas, hurtling toward the surface of your planet, their impact sending shockwaves across the surface of your atmosphere, before merging with it and becoming one. The ripples peter out, slowly dissipating, until there is only one every few seconds, before they fade away completely, and the sky slowly gets bright again.

The vision is still clear in your mind. You have seen the planet - you know how the universe works! You are undoubtedly a prophet, a soothsayer, a wise man - it must be your destiny to share your wisdom with the world, and lead your people towards greater enlightenment and-

Hey look! Earthworm! On a hook! Woooooo!

Have you ever wondered what fish think rain is?
The Edna Man

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Awkward Penguins

I recently made a Facebook status about how I'd grow up and write a book called "How to Introduce One Group of Awkward Friends to Another Group of Awkward Friends and Get Them to Talk In Five Easy Steps", because it's one of those things that life doesn't teach you, you know? Hell, I've been on the awkward receiving end before, and I'm telling you, it's not pretty.

So hilariously, people from all over my friends list are liking it and commenting on it. People whom I've known for years as GEPs, old teachers, army friends and now my university-mates. But the hilariously, ironically hilarious part is that NONE OF THEM TALKED TO EACH OTHER, which is just so... life is so absurd, you know?

Hilariously absurd.
The Edna Man

Thursday, August 16, 2012

He Died Laughing

I, being of sound mind, do hereby declare that my funeral must be a comedy.

My grandfather passed away on Sunday, a couple of months after my grandmother. My uncle also passed away earlier this year. I've been to a number of wakes and funerals this past few months and, after experiencing the solemnity and heavy-heartedness, I am dead certain that I don't want mine to be the same.

So this is a pre-recorded message to my friends, my family, the people who knew me and will know me: my memorial will be hilarious. Because I believe that it should not be about mourning death, but celebrating life. Because life is a joke, and death is the punchline.

So make jokes. Do tricks. Laugh. Pun. Write satirical eulogies. Subvert traditions and challenge conventions. Be unconventional. Make it themed. Make it a musical. Put the FUN back in FUNeral. Do improv. Do black humour. Do insult comedy, for all I care; it's not like I will be able to get offended or anything. Pull a Python. Rhyme.

And when you hear the dry chuckle from the recesses of the coffin, you'll know you have my approval.

Laughing all the way to the grave,
The Edna Man

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

The Final Terminus

The war is o'er, we're going home;
We've disconnected from the front.
There are no newer maps to roam
And no more cursèd spies to hunt.

No ducking under snipers' shots,
No more of those quick overruns;
No need to flee from one-eyed Scots,
Nor fear the howling sentry's guns.

No need to call over to heal,
Nor dread the clinging, deadly flame.
No fish or sandvich for our meal;
It's all the rage to quit this game.

From here we'll all walk our own ways;
From time's attack there's no defence.
We'll pick a class and give our days
To capturing intelligence.

But we did great things, back in our prime:
We launched a monkey into space!
The rocket jumped up over time,
And pushed the payload, won the race.

We formed a clan; the world we'd taunt!
A dominating, killing spree.
We never had much loot to flaunt,
But still one big, mad famiry.

There was no thought, back at the start,
That one day we'd run out of Steam.
We all have pushed the little cart;
We all were credits to the team.

Perhaps one day, at our own leisure,
We'll meet again to fight the fight.
But mentlegen, it's been a pleasure
To have played with you tonight.


Unless it's a farm,
The Edna Man

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

How Many Idiots does it Take to Take a Screenshot?

It's been about two months, and the [famiry] is gonna break up.

We started playing Team Fortress 2 last year, when it came out Free-to-Play. Since then, we've had a small, slowly growing group of players, culminating in about eight to ten guys running around a virtual battlefield killing each other with rockets and fish. The [famiry] was an inside joke born in Japan when Lou Ee brought his laptop over and played TF2 on the Japanese servers.

We had a good two months, we brothers-in-arms; pushing karts, building sentries and übering heavies. We have fought together and died together, captured intelligence and defended points, and now the war is over. And we're all going home.

This morning, we tried to take a photograph - a screenshot - of us, the famiry, in-game. It took us two whole hours. Most of it was due to technical difficulties, but once we all managed to get into a single server, people kept killing the photographer, or backstabbing each other, or building sentries in a crowd of people.

I thought it was exasperating at first. Frustrating, that a bunch of supposedly mature twenty-one year olds couldn't stand still virtually for five minutes so that a screenshot could be taken. That we couldn't supress our trigger-happy urges to maim, ignite, and riddle everything in front of us.

But when the shots were taken and everything was said and done, I realised that that's what a family is. It's not perfect. They are going to annoy you at times, and be obnoxious, and irritate the hell out of you. But all that is what being a family is all about. You hate each other to death, then you laugh about it and meet up for lunch.

There are two types of family you can have. One is the one you are born with.

This is the one I made.
The Edna Man

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Geek hipster: I was a nerd before it was cool

I recently read these two articles on, which is both suspiciously informative and highly NSFW. Anyway, these articles are proposing that the term "nerd" or "geek" is being outdated in these modern times because all the things that used to be associated with these words is now "cool" and "mainstream" and "pop culture". And before the hundreds of you spam the comments with how "nerd" is different from "geek" and post links to their etymologies, I'm going to start here by saying that I'll be using the terms interchangably, since they (used to) have the same general connotation, i.e. in that you were a social misfit because of certain reasons, like having a collection or being a gamer or basically being a fan of anything that was not mainstream.

If you examine some of the social and technological explanations put forth by the articles of why this change has come about in modern culture, it makes a lot of sense. The era these words were thrown about was a time where money was paramount, and that getting a house and a car and a girlfriend were the most important things in life. There were no computers in those days, not the computers we know of; and there was certainly no Internet. People were ostracized for having an unconventional hobby, or for valuing something that wasn't valued by the majority.

It's all different now. Technology has changed a lot of things. The Internet connects like-minded people together now in ways never before seen. And when companies realised that there was such a large population of people willing to part with their money for obscure things that they could mass-produce, the economies of scale just racked up. Intelligence isn't a minority anymore - you need some brains to operate all the technology around you (though the world is still full of idiots). Things that used to be exclusive to a small group of enthusiasts are now being introduced into the mainstream media, being pop culture.

A lot of you may wonder why I'm writing about this phenomenon, because how can it be a bad thing? People who used to be ostracised and shunned and excluded now have their interests shared by a large majority of like-minded people! It's like Hitler announcing that Judaism was "quite cool" and having a bunch of Nazis come over to your bar mitzvah in their yarmulke and shouting along while you say "Oy vey". You are not reviled or hated anymore, but are one of many; how can that be bad?

I put forth two reasons why the world isn't as straightforward or wonderful as that. The first is quite understandable: geeks and nerds still exist. There are still people who are ostracised for liking things which are not mainstream. One example that comes immediately to mind is anime in Singapore (and Japan, for that matter, but let's keep things within our borders). It's still being shunned by a lot of the outside world for a lot of the same reasons comic books were shunned back in the day. Though its followers are growing in numbers, they are still generally perceived as reclusive peverts who would rather indulge in "cartoon" girls than "real" girls. It's not even that anime is more risque or explicit than other types of media - Hollywood has been sexing it up for years - but it's just not common enough yet to enter any kind of national consciousness.

I have very few problems with people who like specific things: games, anime, guitar, sewing, high-altitude skydiving - I mean, whatever makes you happy, right? What I do find sad about these people is that they are usually fanatically devoted to their area of interest, but are woefully ignorant in a lot of other areas. I guess this is more of a personal thing: I prefer to be a jack of all trades, to dabble in all knowledge, whether it be psychology or pop culture, because knowing a bit about everything means that you'll never be stuck in conversation with another person. And a lot of humour nowadays is pop culture and, as a comedian, I strive to know about my world and all the funny relationships between everything in it. So it really saddens me that some people don't know who George Clooney or Anne Hathaway is - like, you don't have to obsessively follow every tabloid and stalk every TMZ news-site and rattle off the list of actors and actress who have won an Emmy three times - but it never hurts to know a bit about everything.

The second reason why the world isn't a better place now that nerdism is mainstream is because nerdism still isn't. Not in the way that it was ostracised in the past. Even though a lot of ideas have filtered into mainstream media, the inherent nature of pop culture is that it has to cater to the masses, which usually involves a lowest common denominator of some kind so that the most number of people can like or understand it. Everything is watered down. I think the Internet has to take some of the blame here: by reducing our attention spans to only process the most repeated short bursts of information, the market for quick, compartmentalised entertainment is the market right now.

I watched The Dark Knight Rises yesterday, and at the end of the movie I was just mindblown. As a comics fan for almost a decade now, I thought Christopher Nolan's vision of the classic characters was fantastic, and as a fan of good storytelling I thought his trilogy capstone was jusy bloody brilliant. And as I'm sitting there in the theatre watching the credits roll, taking deep breaths to calm the blown-away feeling, I realise that none of the people now streaming out of the cinema will ever get the full effect of what I was feeling then, that same level of "holy-crap-that-was-awesome" that defined that movie for me. Because I knew the lore. I knew what all the characters represented and symbolised before I stepped into that dark hall, and I knew their relationships and their true identities, and somehow the big reveal and plot twist in the end was so much more meaningful to me as a comics fan, than it would probably be for someone who is just watching it to see Batman punch the crap out of a bunch of thugs. Comic books are still not mainstream; comic book movies are.

Here's the thing: I don't want to come across as a snob, that just because I know more about the comic book history I am better than you in any way. That's not what I was feeling at all. I actually want to know how to transmit that feeling into more people, people who have never picked up a comic book before and who might do so now. Because that feeling is one of the best feelings in the world, and I don't deserve to be the only one to have it.

Geeks get the girls,
The Edna Man


So, that was The Dark Knight Rises.

I have no idea what to do with my life anymore.

Mister Nolan, you are a genius, and I salute you. You are also a sneaky, conniving bastard, and you sold me so completely that I thought you had changed the lore. And for that, I thank you, because if you didn't, I wouldn't have enjoyed myself so immensely. You sly, double-crossing con-artist master of misdirection you.

You couldn't have picked a better Catwoman,
The Edna Man

Monday, July 09, 2012

Barking Spiders!

So, after all this time, I finally finish Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan trilogy.

It started out a couple of years ago, when I picked up Leviathan from a library. I recognised the author's name, having read bits of his Midnighters series before (first and third; I never could find the second book). And the blurb was too interesting to ignore.

Then a couple months ago I decided to get the set as a birthday present for Ernest. It was during the Great Singapore Sale, and I realised that it was so worth it then I went back a couple weeks later to get it myself.

And I just finished the last chapter a couple hours ago.

The Leviathan trilogy is an alternate history set in the chaos of World War I. In this steampunk world, Charles Darwin not only theorised evolution, but discovered DNA, the "life chains" which form the basis of every living creature. A few decades later, Britain is a metropolis of genetically-modified creatures, replacing machines in almost every regard. In contrast, German scientists shunned treads when constructing their war machines, and instead developed walker technology. The two world powers, Darwinist and Clanker, are poised on the brink of destruction.

The assassination of the archduke of Austria-Hungary is enough to plunge Europe into war. On the night his parents are killed, young Prince Aleksandar of Hapsburg is smuggled out of the family home and into the wilderness, heading to the neutral territory of Switzerland. Meanwhile, in London, a young Scottish girl who wants to fly dresses up as a boy and joins the Royal Air Service as Dylan Sharp, and ends up aboard the pride of the British fleet, the Leviathan.

It's a fantastic set of books and probably the first steampunk setting I've plunged myself into. Without giving away too much of the plot, the story has everything, from secret romances to badass inventors, airship battles to walker revolutions, intricate politics to adorable lorises. Also, did I mention the giant freaking airship made from a genetically-modified whale, or the giant tesla cannon which was supposed to warp the Earth's magnetic field as a weapon?

Because it's the world that Mr. Westerfeld has created that has enthralled my imagination. From one worldbuilder to another, it's not easy to come up with a world that works on its own. Sure he had our history to guide him along, but the technology is so vastly different, it's life-changing. And he didn't have to just plan out one civilisation: Britain, Germany, the Ottoman Empire, America and Mexico are just a few places on the global tour.

And what's so great is that everything is so well thought out, like how well everything fits together in a system that works. What sold me, in the first book, was this small description about the signal system aboard the Leviathan, the giant whale flagship of the British fleet. The foundation of Darwinist technology, true to their name, is the use of fabricated creatures in lieu of the many machines we use today (or at least, in those days). And the Leviathan operates not just as a single creature, but as an entire ecosystem: kept buoyant by hydrogen, which is produced by bacteria in the whale's gut; the bacteria are fed organic food - honey, collected by the fabricated bees and game caught by the ships aerie of strafing hawks, which double as weapons against enemy airships and aeroplanes. This barely scratches the surface, but I want to talk about the signal system.

See, the bridge has to send signals to the engine pods to dictate the speed of the ship: full ahead, half speed, etc. So instead of the crank system that I keep seeing in ocean liners, they have a fabricated piece of cuttlefish skin on each end of artificial nerve wiring. A piece of coloured paper is placed over the one in the bridge, and the creature's skin mimics the colour, which is imitated by the other piece of skin over at the engine pods. That's barking brilliant, that is.

So, read Leviathan, and Behemoth and Goliath. Don't let the "young-adult" tag scare you off one of the best imagined worlds of all history.

Bella gerant alii, tu, felix Austria, nube.
Let others wage war; you, happy Austria, marry.
The Edna Man

Monday, July 02, 2012

Of Cats and Comics

Okay so I had a very weird night this morning.

I surface from unconsciousness at around 5:30 am, still confused from some forgotten dream. I was going to immediately slip back under, when I catch this noise on the edge of my hearing. My first thought was, naturally, that it was some Fatal Frame ghost here to devour my soul, but then when I struggle back to awakeness, I realise it sounds more like a television set left on. But I could see my hallway from my room, and there were no flickering lights, and my parents' room was dark.

As I strained my ears trying to identify it, I realised the sound was more like a television left on with people speaking continuously, but like muffled and piped in from the end of a long tube. I curiously wonder if it's a neighbour's set left on, or possibly watching some final Euro cup match, but the dialogue was incomprehensible, and too continuous to be anything from a programme.

So I lay there on my bed, irritated to death about the noise but trying to get back to sleep. About five minutes into the repetitive background soundtrack, the sound gracefully morphs into a cat's long MRRREEOOOOOOWWL and I realise that I awoke to the sound of kitty porn. I mean, sheesh, get a room! Now I understand why cartoons always show people throwing boots at cats at night.

Anyway, I get back to sleep. A couple hours later I'm having another dream. I'm not making any of this up, and I cannot believe how insane my brain gets when it's trying to organise thoughts while I'm in hibernation mode.

The dream is about this game show called "Man Up", which is a mind-over-matter type show and tries to see if their contestants can overcome certain problems by just "manning up and doing it". This episode, contestants were myopics and were challenged to overcome their shortsightedness by not wearing their glasses, and see if their eyesight improved over the course of the game. Their glasses were kept in an easy-to-access location and surrounded by cameras, so that any contestant succumbing to temptation would be eliminated from the game.

There's a mix of male and female contestants, and they were locked up in a house and forced to not use their spectacles for a week. One part my brain televised was a short interview of one of the women, after a day of blurry vision, and the hosts were asking her "Have any of you started dating?" and the woman said, "What? No!" and one of the hosts said, jokingly, "Yeah, because the love triangle would be too big, right?" And they all laugh, but the woman stops suddenly with a serious face and pulls out a huge chart depicting the romantic relationships of all the contestants.

My brain wisely cuts to the next scene, and it's the end of Day 1, and with everyone managing to survive without their eyewear for a day. So in the Survivor-style wrap-up, there is a game challenge for the remaining participants. And the game works like this: they each pick a guy from the two teams and task them to write two four-panel comic strips each. The catch is that when one strip is placed above the other, each column is supposed to be coherent when read downwards.

Still with me so far? The catch is that the first strip has to be about Mr Bean, and the second strip has to be about bananas, and the dialogue in each column-comic, when read, must produce a lie, or a false statement. Also, they are given little pictures on small squares, which they must incorporate into the first comic.

So my subconscious is looking at one of the strips, and it's amazing. The top row shows four men on an island, separated into four panels but it's one of those panorama comics, and the last one is Mr Bean. And this particular guy got pictures of body parts, so he incorporated them into his four men. I remember the picture of Mr Bean in the last panel was eating a banana. And the thing is, he wrote his dialogue under the four cards, so I couldn't see what it was. The strip below was made up of anthropomorphic bananas, each saying some short catchphrase, and I only remember in the last panel the words "You, and me." And I was sooooo freaking excited to see what the downwards colums would read, but I couldn't because they were blocked by the cards, and then, to my utmost horror and disappointment, I woke up.

Scumbag brain,
The Edna Man

Monday, May 21, 2012

On Driving

After a dozen driving lessons, I think I can conclude that I'm one of nature's pedestrians.

Perhaps it's the thing with the clutch.

I'm also terrible at multitasking when I'm in control of a one-tonne death machine on wheels.

Walk the talk,
The Edna Man

Monday, May 14, 2012

4am Conversations and Other Epic Stuff

I Had A Conversation at Four in the Morning and All I Got was A Bunch of New Friends, Honourable Mentions for the Rest of the Day from the Organising Staff, and a Vision to Change the World.

I went over to the YaleNUS Weekend on Saturday. I was vaguely aware it was going to be fun, but not in a real, concrete way: the adrenaline rush I had from meeting people in Japan must have spilled over to this. I had my doubts; I'm not very fond of the average Singaporean. Then again, the Japan experience undoubtedly dampened them until I was, on the whole, generally, it could be said, by and large, on the whole, optimistic.

So I turn up and go through the normal sales spin on YaleNUS, and somehow manage to stay awake through the whole thing. I enjoyed the lectures, all three of them; I especially loved how the professors were so passionate about their own subjects, and that passion translates to an eagerness for us students to learn.

But I think one of the highlights was the conversation I had with a bunch of other people at the Hangout Hotel at Mt Emily (which, might I add, always sounded like a hospital to me). We were playing taboo late into the night, which was interrupted by a Popeye's Chicken study break simulation, and somehow afterwards the game never resumed, but conversation slowly inched in, like the tide, and brought in the seriousness and intellectual discussion which took its place.

I'd like to think that Xi Min was the trigger, the catalyst for the discussion when he brought up the fact that experiencing the world was an important thing to do. It all snowballed from there, coming round to volunteering in Singapore and the education system and scientific paradigms and social discourse and paradigm shifts in society and the human race.

I have no details on the conversation, and a memory at 4 am is like a wet sieve. But I would love to say that I was pleasantly surprised that these people, whom I assumed to be typical Singaporeans, actually threw up a complex and intellectual discussion of which the likes I have never participated in before. When we broke up the meeting at that mythical hour, I felt like I had faith in these people, that Singapore was not a hopeless, lost country. Granted, ten people out of five million is but a handful, but now there is hope for the future.

I don't know what else to say, but I'm definitely going back.

Saxton Yale,
The Edna Man

Monday, April 30, 2012

The Japan Trip - Day 16

Morning of the LiSA concert! We woke up early, pushing open the coffin lids into the harsh daylight, and walked a short distance to our permanent temporary residence, the Khaosan Tokyo Annex hostel, located in the bustling city district centre of Asakusa. We checked in and found out that we were on the fourth floor, and unlike Khaosan Kyoto, this guest house had no elevators. So after a number of tiring treks up and down the flights of stairs, we stationed ourselves in the common area to wait for Lou Ee, who would be joining us.

Lou Ee appeared in the late morning, having travelled by himself all the way up from Narita Airport. He dumped his bags quickly, but since we checked in at different times, he got a different room from us. It wouldn't matter though, since our fourth floor had another common area and he would be there playing Team Fortress 2 almost every night.

First stop of the day was the Tokyo Animation Museum. We happily managed to get lost trying to walk our way there. It wasn't a very touristy part of town, and we didn't have a very accurate map, and nobody wanted to ask for directions.

What is it with men and asking for directions?
We finally managed to get to the place, but not before passing an upcoming bookstore, a post office, and a crime scene. No, seriously, there were a bunch of Japanese police and detectives standing around a stairwell to these apartments and looking like they need a forensic. As gaijin, we just walked past them as nonchalantly as possible.

The Tokyo Animation Museum! How many characters can you recognise?

The museum itself was not the sole tenant of the building. In true Japanese space-saving fashion, the museum was housed on the third and fourth floors, where the first two floors looked like the lobby of a hotel. There was a huge grand piano and plush chairs and exquisite marble flooring and everything.

Most of the exhibits were about the history of Japanese animation, and even a couple about the history of animation itself. There was a huge timeline of anime from the original 1950s Astro Boy all the way to 2010, when the wall was last updated. I recognised a couple of names on the list. There was also a large area reserved for the animation creation process. I always knew that animation was a long and painful process, but I seeing it all there made it look so much harder. For say a five second scene of a girl walking on the street with the wind blowing her hair, the artists have to draw a bunch of poses for the walking animation, and a huge panorama for the street, and multiple frames of the hair in motion. Then they put the pieces together on transparency, layer them on top of one another take a photo. That's one frame. Then they replace it with the next pose and next hair piece and wind the panorama a few millimetres to the right and take the next photo. It's amazing. A good thing that computer animation is taking a lot of the strain of these manual processes, and speeding up animation in a good way.

Lou Ee obviously has to try out sketching on the touchpad.

It's a typical artist's workstation. Mine is similar, except without all the paint.
On the upper floors were special exhibitions. There was an exhibit from one of the anime studios, which did Vampire Hunter X or something like that, so it had a lot of the concept art sketches. There was another studio which I did not recognise. There was also an anime library, where you could borrow discs of classic anime to watch on the computers there. I managed to find a copy of Gatekeepers, possibly the first anime I watched, not counting Akazukin Cha-Cha, which was an English dub anyway.

The anime library. Little kids not included.
On our way back to the station, we passed by this large glass building, where the keen otaku eyes spotted a couple of girls in school uniform, ushering a large crowd. The group just naturally gravitated towards it, and when we get to the building, we find out that there was a school band performance that day, which explains the demographic of parents and old people. Ironically enough, one of the parents asked us to help them take a photo of her and her friends, which I thought was so hilarious since for the past fortnight, we were the ones asking people to take photos of us.

A pretty obvious demographic, when you think about it.
We had lunch at a small noodle shop near the station, with the customary vending machine out front. It was quick and tasty and good.

The aforementioned noodle shop. No, I can't read the sign

Holy crap! A mountain of soba for only 590 yen!
After lunch we split ways, since Bryan and I were headed for a LiSA concert and the other three weren't. If you want to know what debauchery and shenanigans the trio were up to on their misadventures, you'll have to ask them.

An explanation is probably in order. Bryan first proposed this idea of going to the LiSA concert while we were in Japan. She's a up-and-coming new J-pop star who rose to fame through Angel Beats and the opening of Fate Zero. This is the first concert for her worldwide tour of her first album, Lover"s"mile. She is freaking adorable. The original idea was for all four of us to go, but JX and XM didn't want to pay. Bryan managed to get tickets through a Japanese auctioner, and it came up to $200 each, which I think is a pretty good price for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The concert was held in an open air amphitheatre in a large park on the outskirts of the city.

Bryan dragged me to the concert three hours early because he said we won't be able to get in before then. I was unwilling to do so, since I didn't think there was any point being there so early. And I was mistaken.

That's all the people in front of us.

Everyone and their grandma was there ahead of us. There was an hour-long queue just to get to the merchandise. I wasn't really looking for anything, maybe just a shirt as a souvenir and memento of this once-in-a-lifetime experience, but judging by the queue, they'd be out of merchandise once we got halfway there.

It was funny though. When we joined the queue we were standing by this lamppost, which marked the end of the queue. As we moved forward, joking about hardcore fans and concert-goers, and discussing about LiSA's more attractive female fans and their fashion sense, we noticed that even though so many people were there ealier than us, we still weren't the last. People were queueing up behind us as we were inching forward, and the funny thing was, the queue never passed the lamppost. We theorised that it was due to some collective sense of shame, that even the most dedicated of fans wouldn't want to be seen queueing for so long; or maybe it was due to some sense of pessimism, that one would realise that there is no way there is going to be any merchandise left at the end of that line.

A couple of hardcore fans.
We finally manage to get to the counter, and realise that all the shirts in our size were sold out. (Heard the joke about the shop which sold out of small and medium sizes?) So we had to manage with the large. We also bought a pack of trading cards each, because hey, money is heavy and LiSA is cute.

Gotta collect them all!
Once we made our happy purchases, we wandered off into the park. And speaking of hardcore fans, we saw a couple of them, decked out in full LiSA fan gear and dancing along to the tunes, rehearsing them before the big show. One guy was wearing a headband and a large, pink trenchcoat, which was the most hardcore of the lot.

LiSA's Number One Fan.

Nearby in another of the park's large open areas, they were having another festival, which turned out to be some anniversary of a radio station or something like that. I was thirsty and Bryan was hungry, but there were very few food stalls around. In the end, we ended up getting some organic ice cream; and since we couldn't read the labels, picked at random. Bryan got apple pie, and I got plain vanilla. We also picked up a couple of free fans, and there was an AKB48 advertisement spread on one side, so that was my first foray into the shady and inescapble world of J-pop idols. Oh yeah, there was also a handshaking event by some group called the Fairies, which I thought was quite hilarious. I tried persuading Bryan to queue up for a handshake with real Japanese idols, but he refused because he didn't even know who they were. Some people.

Concert time!

We get to our seats and are quickly disappointed we aren't sitting next to any cute fan girls. No matter. LiSA more than made up for that. She is so freaking cute and adorable! And the concert was amazing. I loved Crow Song and Ichiban no Takaramono and Jet Rocket and WiLD CANDY. The atmosphere of the crowd is so different from Singapore's, so much more energetic and happening. Even after the concert ended, most of the hardcore fans in the front row stayed to listen to the filler tracks, and kept singing along with them. That is true dedication, or obsession depending on your psychiatrist.

Left-right-left-right back-front-back-front something something...
Another happy funny thing happened as we were leaving the amphitheatre. We were walking along with the crowd, just really happy and high after the energetic concert, and the video crew was standing by the road, and guess who has the great ironic unforgiving luck to be chosen for an interview? That's right, yours truly. Pity I didn't speak A WORD OF JAPANESE and had no idea what the video guy was asking me. When I said I didn't understand, he just waved me away irritably like I was a gaijin. Just think, I almost had a chance to be ON THE LiSA DVD and I blew it because I had no idea what to say. Siiiiigh.

Bryan and I had delicious curry udon for dinner.
On our way back to hostel, we got lost in the dark streets. Fortunately, we met a guy at the pedestrain crossing who was staying at the hostel too, and he brought us back. He looked Japanese at first, but then he was speaking English with an American accent. Turns out he's from Florida, and is called Eddie, and he was staying alone but visiting some friends. He was a cool guy, but I didn't get to talk to him much for the rest of the trip.

Aaaand when we got back, Lou Ee was hooking up his laptop to the Japanese Team Fortress 2 servers and killing people in Japanese.

Our bunk, as modelled by a sleepy JX.

*All pictures in this post courtesy of Bryan.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Japan Trip - Day 15

A funny thing happened in the toilet today.

I'd been wearing the yukata all the time in the hostel, to get into the whole feel of the traditional Japanese clothing and all, and so I'd sleep in it and everything. That morning, I woke up and went to the toilet because I had to empty the rear ballast, if you know what I mean. So I enter the stall in a why-am-I-up-so-early stupor, lock the door, turn to the porcelain, and then the spark of sobriety wakes me right up: how am I supposed to do this?

For those who don't know, the yukata is shaped like a very baggy bath robe, but not made of towel material, and that's all you wear above your underwear. It's like having a really thin trenchcoat: it trails all the way to your calves. I'm standing there, wondering if I should take everything off to do it, or if I should try to billow the back end out like a pianist throws out his coat-tails before his performace. In the end, I settled for a compromise: I let it hang on one hand over the side. It would have been a very embarrassing situation if there were any witnesses; unfortunately, I was the witness, and I felt like an idiot.

After another awesome breakfast, we grabbed our bags and travelled to Tokyo from Odawara, a very short trip considering how close we were to the capital already. After dumping our bags off at our accommodation for the night, Bryan brought us to the Harajuku District, a long shopping street full of clothes and apparently the Tokyo hotspot for lolita fashion, the thing girls wear with lots of black and lace and black lace. Unfortunately, that week being the start of Golden Week - the week where there are a few national holidays such that the whole week is after office hours - there were millions of people but no one wearing anything avant garde.

Look at all the swanky people not in the photograph.

It was past lunch time, but the streets and restaurants were all crowded, so there was nothing for it but to go to a very normal-priced place for lunch. It was a fusion pasta restaurant, which I thought we should have gone anyway, since foreign food with the Japanese flavour twist is usually very delicious. I had a great pasta with cream sauce, prawns, asparagus and roe.

Most of the street was girl's clothes, which I don't find very interesting unless they're on girls, but Xi Min picked up a map somewhere and found out that there was an Evangelion store, so we paid it a visit. There was a lot of Evangelion merchandise, and I half-wished that I had watched this classic anime before I came to Japan, so I could appreciate stuff like this more. I did manage to catch a glimpse of some ang moh otakus though, which I thought was hilarious.

Xi Min's next spot was the Nico Nico Douga store, which I thought was a bit odd - it's like YouTube having a shopping mall. What would you get in there - you go in and pay to watch funny Internet videos? But apparently it sold all the indie stuff, things that amateurs made and put up on the site, like Vocaloid soundtracks and other stuff.

Doujin music and fluffy mascots. What isn't there to like?

Harajuku is also swarming with Africans. Presumably they're immigrants, and most of them are touts, harassing pedestrians to come to their shop. Bryan warned us about them though, and said some of them were pimps, and told us to shake them off, just say "I don't know" in Chinese, because they knew both English and Japanese.

After snaking our way through crowded streets, you'd think we'd go to a big open space, like a park or something. And you'd be right. On our way towards our next destination, we cut through Yoyogi Park, a really huge area of grass and trees that can rival Botanics anyday. Yoyogi Park is apparently famous for being the meeting point of all those rock-and-roll Japanese who cosplay Elvis Presley, but on the day we went there was a disappointing turnout and barely anyone was rocking the King's slick curl, let alone the cowboy tassels and pelvic thrusts.

Spot the Elvis Impersonator!
Yoyogi Park is also home to many talented buskers, who make a living by performing street art almost every day of the week. We were first greeted by World Yo-Yo Champion!! Tommy, who was already halfway into his act and winding down into his finisher.

That's after knocking out a dozen evil ninjas with his yo-yos. Victory pose!
He is indeed very talented, and he does a killer wind-up-toy-marionette act. However, it was a bit too slow for a finale (he set it to some classical music-box-type music) and was just after his exciting fast-paced action-packed stunts, so it didn't seem as energetic at the end.

Puppet strings? Yo-yo strings? Get it? It's all a metaphor for life!
But all work and no play makes Yoyogi Park a dull... garden. The grass was strewn with thousands of people, all just lazing around, eating, chatting, playing games, throwing frisbees and walking dogs. There's an unbelievable number of people having picnics - though it must be a lot better having low humidity, minimal heat and an obvious lack of mosquitoes. I even walked pass what looked like a mid-afternoon office party, with men and women in office attire sitting on a large chequerboard mat with sandwiches and wine glasses. Alcohol really is Japan's national pasttime.

Also, the propensity of local nature not to rain every few days must be a contributing factor.
But back to people doing all kinds of stuff. I really think these temperate climates are so much more dynamic, because nothing discourages people from coming out and being one with nature, and doing all the stuff they'd normally be doing at home, outside. Dog-walking is an adorable favourite, and so is cycling and practicing musical instruments. See, anyone trying to play music in public in Singapore would get complained at faster than you can say "But it's not illegal!" then get slapped with a fine for not registering with the government. At the large fountain (which conveniently shut off before Bryan could spend the next half hour capturing the perfect split-second shot of the water streams hanging in the air), a bunch of people had set up a full percussion band.

That guy didn't have a chair the entire time we were there.
Granted, their instruments were a really rag-tag bunch, including a number of bongos and those things that Buddhist priests whack that makes that weird hollow sound, but they sounded good. What's more, it's not just Japanese people playing it, but a whole group of people from around the world: Africans, Japanese - there was a lady who looked a bit Mongolian. And all pounding together, if not in harmony, then at least in rhythm. Faith in humanity restored.

Oh, and that guy in the blue shirt at the back, with the sling bag? He was dancing his own crazy dance back there all throughout the gig. I don't think he was one of the drummers, and I don't think he had much sense of rhythm, but he was popping his moves like nobody was watching. I have to take my hat off to that guy, for either being so courageous or so oblivious to dance badly in the middle of a thousand people.

Holy crap! Isn't that George Clooney and Angelina Jolie?
Tango dancing practice. We could have done without the underarm hair though.
We spent a good hour wandering through the park, just watching people having fun in their own ways. We stumbled upon the dog run about halfway in, filled with dozens of adorable dogs and separated according to size.

They're all freaking adorable.
We wanted to run around then, but had some urgent toilet trouble. So we managed to hunt down one, and were coincidentally reminded about the benefits of being born male, and having the ability to pee while standing. Suffice to say, if there were any girls in our group, we'd still be standing there, waiting for them.

Few people vandalise more beautifully than the Japanese.
After heading out the exit and across the overhead bridge, we happle to stumble upon a gay-pride party. Completely coincidentally and unintentionally. Now I have nothing against homosexuality, but this wasn't just any normal gay-pride event: this was the Tokyo Rainbow Pride After Party.

Oh god, what is that guy wearing?
It's disturbing enough to be sexually harassed by members of the opposite gender when they're falling down drunk, but can you imagine being sexually harassed by people of your own gender while they're falling down drunk? Coupled with the fact that this is Japan, and people will wear absolutely anything if they're drunk or crazy enough, and you get some really disturbing costumes, of which words would not do your imagination justice.

Have fun in your nightmares tonight.
Seriously, those costumes might look attractive, maybe even sexy on girls. But men weren't meant to show so much flesh. Especially grown men without the bodies of wrestlers. Eurrgh.

Another thing: the toilets aren't safe.

So we escape the clutches of same-sex debauchery and head towards Shibuya, another shopping district with more upmarket and branded goods. It was famous for the five-way scramble crossing, which is a pedestrian crossing across a busy five-way intersection where, every few minutes, all traffic is stopped, and pedestrians are allowed to cross to whichever side they want to cross to. Keeping in mind this is one of the busiest cities in the world, and the traffic lights are keeping back a tidal wave of pedestrians for a long few minutes, the crossing invariably freaks out the flashing green man until he turns red in embarrassment. The crowd is so large, you can get lost in there and drown.

Now imagine an out-of-control steamroller.

Walking across the crossing is not very amazing - it's just like walking through a normal crowd, except when you realise that you're in the middle of the road, and all that's stopping a bunch of murderous drivers from running you over from five different directions is a bunch of lights and the illusion of rules and order. I would really recommend stopping right in the centre for a moment, making sure not to knock into anyone, and just turn in a circle very slowly and look around. It gives you a feeling of insignificance, like you're just one person in a world where everyone is minding their own business, living their own lives, going around you like clockwork, everyone mixing for a brief moment but then going their separate ways.

Add that to your self-worth.

We had an early dinner at a fast-food curry place. That's one of the things I like about Japan - there are fast-food outlets of almost every variety of cuisine. It's got to do with the hectic lifestyle there. They're mostly designed for individual businessmen rushing through lunch, sitting by themselves at the counter and speeding through a quick meal. They generally don't have tables for groups, which usually caused us problems when we all have lunch together.

So... delicious...

It was still early in the evening, so we visited the large music store overlooking the crossing, Tsutaya. It has a Starbucks on the second floor, and it offers a fantastic view of the crossing and the people swarming across it. It's quite narrow and small though, so there is almost no chance of getting a good seat unless you come before it opens in the morning and are prepared to queue for an hour. Tsutaya itself was huge, and again it is very different for a country with a large enough population to support its own local music. K-pop is also slowly making an impact in the Japanese music scene, with most Korean artistes having both Korean and Japanese versions of their songs. I bought dad a Blues Brothers CD, because it was one of the only things I had seen so far that I thought he might like.

Bryan was highly amused by this second-hand CD and its coincidental relation to the Aya Hirano sex scandal some years previously.

The upper levels were filled with DVDs of television shows and movies, and there were whole sections which are just for rentals. Right at the top of the building was a bookshop and cafe, and above that, not connected to the elevators and separated by an external staircase, was the embarrassing manga section where all the otakus go.

And then another awesome event happened here that really made this Japan trip so much better than any planned tour. While we were looking at a shelf, Bryan suddenly remarked, "Hey, isn't that shelf moving?" So we instinctively all freeze in place, and you can feel it: the building swaying slightly as if caught in a strong breeze or slight typhoon. And, almost right on cue, the staff are leading us away from the shelves, towards the open area near the elevators, in case the tremor knocks over any heavy books and concusses us and we sue for damages. So add Achievement Unlocked: Survive A Mini-Earthquake to our list of crazy stuff we've done in a foreign country.

When I imagine getting killed by comics, this isn't exactly what I had in mind.

That night, we slept in a capsule in a capsule hotel. It costs about as much as a night at our hostel, but it really didn't come with any other facilities besides the bed and bath, as well as a small locker bigh enough for three shirts. If you wanted anything else, like charging your phone or extra shampoo, you had to pay for it. It was an interesting experience though, sleeping in what is essentially a box with a matress. Contrary to popular belief, it wasn't coffin-like at all; it was in fact quite spacious, except there is no space for anything else except yourself. I think in part it is because of the lack of a door - I think if you could close your capsule you'd die of claustrophobia before suffocating.

Who needs floors or bedside tables?

It was lucky that we had the traditional baths in the ryokan already, because if not I wouldn't have any idea what to do at the capsule hotel. I didn't get into the heated bath though, because most of the patrons were old or middle-aged businessmen, and I didn't enjoy the idea of sharing bathwater with someone old enough to be my grandfather.

After the bath I sat outside on the balcony in the freezing night, enjoying the frigid breeze and the beautiful view across the river. XM came to have a talk, and soon we were expounding on a variety of subjects. Bryan joined us soon enough, and I learnt a lot about his personality and outlook on life.

*All photos in this post are courtesy of Bryan.