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