Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Yearly Roundup: Best of Friday the 2013th

It's been another whirlwind roller-coaster ride of a year, with many crazy things happening this five hundred, twenty-five thousand, six hundred minutes. So in no particular order:

1. The Yale-NUS Experience
Oh man I love my college. I've never had this feeling of admiration and respect for an organization since - well, ever. I guess because it's still small, or I'm not privy to the secrets to make me jaded yet; either way, I find it so much more human than any other organization I've been to. Like people actually care about other people as human beings, and not just as cogs in the machine or competition that you have to eliminate. And living on campus, away from my parents, and with this inclusive and wonderful community, is just really, really great. I'm learning so many things too, so many ideas and topics I wouldn't have found out on my own. I don't think I made a wrong choice, coming to Yale-NUS. From gaming in the common lounge to hanging out in the Shiok Shack, Yale-NUS is my home now.

2. New Haven and New York
And let's not forget the incredible opportunities to travel to places around the world, including the awesome three-week orientation at Yale University. I loved every minute of it; even the boring lectures are not so boring when you're being bored in a whole other country. Living at Yale was comfortable and cosy, except when it rained in the middle of summer. But it was fun traveling around, visiting places like Mystic Seaport and the rest of New Haven.

Also: NEW YORK CITY! My first time in the Big Apple was a huge, huge blast. It has such a different culture from Singapore; it just feels more alive somehow. I watched a musical (Wicked!) freaking LIVE ON BROADWAY, which has somehow always been one of my dreams for a long time; and also watched a comedy musical play off-Broadway, which was also really fun and hilarious; wandered around Times Square at midnight; and even explored the other precincts outside Manhattan island: the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens (and touched the famous Yankee Stadium); stayed in a GORGEOUS PRESIDENTIAL SUITE thanks to one of my friends and a bit of serendipity; and watched a BRILLIANT improv comedy show TWICE. It was an incredible, incredible experience, and one I hope I will never forget.

3. Indonesia and the Ramayana
I don't think I've travelled this much in a single year before. This year also marked my first trip to Indonesia; a fun experience and one in which I got to know a lot more of my classmates a little bit better. I also learned a lot about this culturally-rich country, from one of the most amazing, friendly, and well-versed professors I've ever met. It was great just being in a different place, with different worries and different concerns and different food. I love srabi; I think it's probably my favourite food from that place. And after staying up for an entire night watching a shadow puppet play, I think I've been desensitized to how terrible wayang is. From watching a cultural epic performed in ballet to watching a drag queen perform traditional dance; from seeing how shadow puppets are carved and painted to seeing how batik is made; from munching on nasi goreng and avoiding jackfruit like the plague; this was a wonderful trip that I'm glad I chose.

4. Horse-riding in Malaysia
I TAMED A WILD BEAST AND SUBMITTED IT TO MY WILL no actually I just sat on a horse and let it lead me around a sandy arena but it was SO FUN and now I can ride a horse so in case I'm ever dropped into a desert or a jungle and have to ride a horse to escape I can totally do so without freaking out too much. Also, second trip done solely with friends (first being Japan) and it was great, great fun. (SETS IS EVIL.)

5. Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Arkham City
Oh man, I haven't played many games this year but these two TAKE THE CAKE. As of this writing I've also finished the main story for Arkham City, and it is amazing how many iconic villains from the Batman mythos they managed to fit in this time. (I especially love how you interrogate Riddler henchmen to find his trophies on your map this time.) It is just one incredible, immersive, ultimate fanboy experience and it's great that I managed to chance upon that Humble Bundle sale.

6. Hosting Snapshots
Ever since I watched Neil Patrick Harris open the Tony Awards, I've always wanted to open a show with my own musical number. And this year, I got the chance to do so. And even though it wasn't as grand or surprising as NPH, I enjoyed every minute of it. I've got one taste of it, and now I'm hooked. I need the stage; it's in my blood (figuratively speaking).

7. Singapore's Landmarks
So there's almost no point going to tourist traps in your own country. But thanks to Yale-NUS and a great friend, I managed to visit both the Gardens by the Bay and the new SEA Aquarium on Sentosa. The Gardens are beautiful, filled with so much green and other colours I can't see; and it's just cool enough that you want to fall asleep there surrounded by the best in artificial nature that money can fabricate. Honestly, it's a lovely place, and I'd actually pay money for the season pass to go there and just relax and chill. And the SEA Aquarium is amazing; I've always been interested in sea creatures and marine biology - again because of all the colours I can't see - and the place is just full of thousands of fascinating and diverse creatures, like my favourites, the stripey zebrafish. And I actually poked a starfish with my finger wooooo now show me on the doll where the scary human touched you.

8. Have a Chris Tee Christmas
My family Christmas parties are always pretty boring, and I much prefer the ones I go to with my friends. I helped my mom make her delicious baked pasta for this potluck party, and it was DELICIOUS because I had to add the cheese myself and so I just showered it all on. There was so much good food, and Italian porridge, and desserts and cake and stuff, that I was stuffed. I also hung out chatting with my friends till 2am, which is great and almost impossible to do since I'm not actually in RC4. And I also drove for the first time in a year, on a night road so it was relatively easier but I do sure need the practice.

9. Legally Blonde: The Musical
The new musical I experienced this year was Legally Blonde, and despite my initial expectations it was a hilarious comedy musical with great songs and a touching story. It doesn't hurt that a lot of my friends are totally into this musical, and keep singing it with reckless abandon almost all the time.

10. Her
Well, this year I fell in love. And not some stupid girl-in-red-dress love-at-first-sight nonsense, but the honest-to-goodness, head-over-heels, I-want-to-spend-the-rest-of-my-life-with-you kind of love. And although it's been a crazy crazy experience, I've done so many things I've never done before, and seen so many things I've never seen, and through all the ups and downs oh man this is sounding very euphemistic. But the truth is I love someone, and I wouldn't trade the experience for the world.

The Year in Entertainment

Anime: Accel World, Baccano, My Neighbour Totoro, Attack on Titan
I watched a lot less anime this year. I think it's because I don't commute anymore; I used to watch episodes on my mobile device because it was just nice for all the travelling I made. Now since I'm not commuting because all my classes are just downstairs, I'm not watching as much new anime. But well. I've been re-watching a lot stuff because of introducing them to friends. Anyway. I thought Accel World was iinteresting; not for the storyline (and the improbability of the romantic premise) but, like Infinite Stratos, for the battle system and the mechanics. I also really like the battle character designs, and I'm watching mainly to see how many different ones there are. I really liked My Neighbour Totoro, but thanks to Sean I cannot unsee all the symbolism that laces this innocent-looking children's movie. I'm still midway through Baccano and Attack on Titan, so I will refrain from passing judgment till then.

Books: DC's Blackest Night and Brightest Day, The Long Earth and The Long War by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter; Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman; American Gods by Neil Gaiman; The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
Besides all the books I had to read this year for classes, I reread a lot of Terry Pratchett books because the Clementi library has so many of them and it's so much closer. I did manage to get my hands on the book I've always wanted to read: Good Omens, written by two legendary authors, and it's as every bit as good, if not better, than I hoped; a brilliant and hilarious story about humanity and the importance of its place in theology. I also finished The Long Earth and am halfway through The Long War, and it's a fascinating world-building exercise based on the premise of parallel Earths void of humanity, and asks a very interesting question: what would happen to humanity today if we had a solution to scarcity? My Dean's Fellow got us all books that we'd like and swapped them around with all the people in our DF group, and I got someone's The Last Lecture, which I've watched and been mindblown by a while ago. The book doesn't have that same impact, but it does have a lot of interesting life lessons I'm slowly incorporating into my everyday. Finally, I've been working up to DC's Blackest Night crossover event for a long time, and I am still hyped about the emotional spectrum, which I think is one of Geoff Johns's greatest masterstrokes. But if Blackest Night was good, Brightest Day was fantastic. There was one point in the story where I mentioned to Karen, "If I turn the page, I find out everything." And I think that's the measure of a brilliantly-crafted story: if you keep the reader (or audience, or whatever) hanging on until turning a page becomes a life-changing event.

Movies: Man of Steel; Thor: The Dark World; Iron Man 3; Memento
I've not watched as many new movies this year as well. Man of Steel was an okay-ish Superman movie; as a hardcore fan, I hated the fact that Superman kills and Lois Lane is like an ace investigative journalist for like two minutes before becoming nothing but a damsel in distress. Thor 2 was as typical a Thor movie as the first, save for Tom Hiddleston, who is fast becoming the only iteration of Loki in the same way Mark Hamill and Kevin Conroy are; and the final piece of evidence for that fan theory a couple years back linking everything to the Infinity Gauntlet. Iron Man 3 was okay, not as exciting as the second movie I think. And I finally watched Nolan's mindscrew Memento, and it's an amazing thriller with a very mind-blowing ending.

TV Shows: Running Man
I realise I've never exhorted my love for Running Man here before. But I've watched a lot of this recently, starting all the way from the beginning of the series at episode 1, and I've found it so hilarious, that it doesn't matter I don't know any Korean. Yoo Jae Suk is bloody hilarious, and I think Lizzy is damn cute. Anyway I watched what has to be the best Running Man episode I've seen so far, a Christmas special where they all had "superpowers" and a battle-royale free-for-all.

Music: Legally Blonde the Musical
I don't recall much new music this year, but what I do recall is this comedic gem.

Games: Batman: Arkham Asylum, Batman: Arkham City, Hearthstone, Darksiders; League of Legends
I've extolled about the Batman: Arkham games enough, I think. I got Darksiders a while back in a Humble Bundle, and it's a pretty interesting hack-and-slash platformer. Hearthstone is Blizzard's World of Warcraft TCG remake, and even though it will never capture the complexity and depth of the cardboard version I followed for a long, long time, it's pretty fun and very quick. And League of Legends has become one of my more mainstay social games, with so many people in my college playing it. I'd like to say I'm getting better, but I'd like to say a lot of things.


Well, see ya, 2013. 2014, let's see what ya got.
The Edna Man

Friday, December 20, 2013

Batman: Arkham



Okay okay here's the deal. I bought Arkham Asylum and  Arkham City a few weeks ago, and I just started playing Asylum during these holidays. And oh my gosh, it is AMAZING. For a fanboy like me, this is a dream come true. Kevin Conroy as Batman, AND Mark Hamill as Joker? Holy crap, I'll take two. (And I did.)

Gameplay is exciting and interesting, and very skill-based. It's a brilliant game which highlights Batman's detective skills, not just his combat ability. And there's so much puzzle and problem-solving; it's really an amazing game. I don't want to ramble because all this has been said and done, and I know I'm late to the party. But WOW, this was an incredible experience.

And oh man, the Joker is properly insane, perfect; but man oh man the Riddler is BRILLIANT. So few media portray a good Riddler; The Batman's was really good but this one is oh so much better.

I can't wait to play Arkham City and wet my spandex again.

The Goddam Edna Man

Thursday, December 12, 2013

A Stable Vacation

In an unprecedented turn of events, my mom let me go on a trip with my friends to Malaysia for a couple of days. I was surprised as... I was, I guess.

I've never been on a road trip to Malaysia before, save for that one time when I was younger and my whole extended family on my dad's side took a whole coach up to Kuala Lumpur for a couple of days of shopping and food. This trip was much more fun: I was going with friends, that family that you choose! I was singing musical songs with Carmen and Daryl most of the car ride, while Wei Jie was clearly murdering each and every one of us in his mind, multiple times.

We stayed in this country club on the outskirts of Johor, called the Legends Golf and Country Resort. It's this sprawling compound with golf courses and horse stables and bordered by palm tree plantations. It's a pretty nice place, not in the polished wood and marble way, because this still is Malaysia; but it's grand in size and scale. We stayed in this suite in this section of the club pretty far away from the main entrance, and it was a bungalow thing with a huge common area and two gigantic bedrooms. It was really nice and comfortable, and the bathrooms were gorgeous. I wouldn't mind showering in bathrooms like that, only I wouldn't want to clean them every week.

On the way to the suite we passed by this small wood-and-wire-netting structure housing a bunch of animals. Apparently the club is home to a pretty robust natural sciences programme, and they have rabbits and chickens and even monkeys for children to come round during the holidays and learn about the animals. There's even a small farm for growing local produce. Anyway Xi Min and I were very amused at the time to see one of the signs saying Paradoxurus hermaphroditus, also labeled as the "Toddy cat", and we were laughing at the "Paradoxurus" part, because we thought it might be the scientific species of Schrödinger's cat. But upon coming home I learned that it was the scientific name of the Asian palm civet, which isn't a cat at all but a close relative (yay genetics syllabus in Scientific Inquiry!). It was funny while it lasted.

The food was pretty good. There's one small restaurant in the club, and it served really delicious helpings of nasi goreng and mee goreng, Penang char kway teow and nasi lemak. We were constantly waited on my this Indian waiter, who I presume didn't have a very good command of English (it's Malaysia, after all; he probably had better command of Bahasa), and was constantly frazzled at having to deal with a table of a dozen hyperactive and noisy teenagers and young people.

One of the main reasons we came out here in the first place was because people wanted to try horseback riding, and I too was one of these people. I have never done it before, and it was pretty fun! My mighty steed was called Jazz Malone, which is such a cool name. I called him Jazzy for short. He's a pretty easy-going horse, although he did have a tendency to start walking forward when the horse in front moved off, without waiting for me to nudge his flanks; and also to pull his bit forward to have more free rein. But it's actually pretty easy to ride a horse, if all you want to do is clop forward at a leisurely pace. Forget trotting, cantering, or galloping; that's advanced stuff, that is. Amrullah got pretty far, up to trotting I think. It seems to be pretty hard; you have to bounce to the rhythm of the horse, which means you have to grip its flanks with your thighs. Crazy stuff.

Anyway I'm pretty happy to get as much time actually spent riding the horse in that hour as I did. Because Malaysia, I'm sure there were a lot fewer safety regulations to follow; or if there were, they didn't spend time explaining to us. It was get helmet, adjust stirrups, up on horse, go. (Though of course, because Malaysia, they stopped us ten minutes before time was actually up.)

At night we went to look at the stars. There's a lot more stars in the sky there than in Singapore's sky; but not as many as I would have liked. I recognized Orion instantly, it being the only constellation I could identify. I tried looking for the Big Dipper, but couldn't spot it. There was a cluster of stars which might have been the Seven Sisters nebula, but I vaguely remembered that it wasn't visible from Earth with the naked eye; I could be wrong. I also caught a shooting star whizzing by. There was supposed to be meteor showers around the time we were there, but a couple of days after we would have had to leave. I think we spent an hour in the middle of that road, just staring up into space, at the stars, and at the vast infinity of the universe.

Hanging out with my friends was awesome fun too. We played a bunch of games, like Sets, which I cannot play to save my life, because of colourblindness (and the yellow light we were playing under didn't help). And I introduced Shadow Hunters to them as well; that was crazy fun, especially with Amanda ruining Xi Min's master plan because he didn't plan for the fact that she was a new player and wouldn't know about his multiple layers of reverse psychology. I also managed to try out a variant of Would I Lie to You, which was pretty fun, but would be better as an ice-breaker game. Oh and during a round of Guesstures, I had to act out Catholic Afternoon Carwash, which was fantastically hilarious.

Even at the end on the last day, when we were just sitting at Evangeline's void deck and munching on pizzas; that was a brilliant way to end a great trip with friends.

I'm on a horse,
The Edna Man

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

My Most Precious Treasure

きみとがよかった ほかの誰でもない

hitori demo yuku yo tatoe tsurakute mo
kimi to mita yume wa kanarazu motteku yo
kimi to ga yokatta hoka no dare demo nai
demo mezameta asa kimi wa inai nda ne

Even if I'm alone, I'll go, even if it's difficult.
I'll definitely bring the dream I had with you.
I'm glad it was with you, and nobody else.
But when I woke up in the morning, you weren't there.


me o tojitemireba dareka no waraigoe
nazeka sore ga ima ichiban no takaramono

If I try and close my eyes, I can hear someone's laughing voice
For some reason, now, that is My Most Precious Treasure.

Never forget,
The Edna Man

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Mysterious Ways

"God moves in extremely mysterious, not to say, circuitous ways. God does not play dice with the universe; He plays an ineffable game of His own devising, which might be compared, from the perspective of any of the other players, to being involved in an obscure and complex version of poker in a pitch-dark room, with blank cards, for infinite stakes, with a Dealer who won't tell you the rules, and who smiles all the time."

-- Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, Good Omens

It has been a very, very strange six hours.

Life has a way of creeping up behind you, and while sometimes it might clobber you with a baseball bat, or cackle maniacally while wearing a voodoo mask,; tonight it poured jelly down the back of my shirt.

And tomorrow, I'm probably going to something hilarious and crazy and will affect the rest of my life forever.

But you still have to play.
The Edna Man

Monday, November 18, 2013


So easy, so easy to fall. To fall back to the old habits, the old habits of the mind, the old ways of thinking and jealously and anger and hate. So easy, too easy.

"I am a tiny, insignificant, ignorant lump of carbon.
I have one life, and it is short
And unimportant…"

So push it aside, throw it away, tie it up, lock it down; the beast cannot be free to roam to snarl and bite and scratch. It's not your fault, nor anyone else's; it was just a victimizing circumstance and there can't have been any malicious intent, even though studies have shown that ignorance can be more harmful that outright malice, it's not going to affect you because you are stronger than that. You are better than that. You're supposed to be better than that.

I have just been reading about people who have had their brains sliced in two with a sharp, shiny, surgical scalpel but instead of splitting the left from the right, I thought, they should be splitting the wrong from the right and cut out every misdirected, maligned, malodorous bit of resentment and bitterness and frustration that like a tumour eats away at the mind and forms a disgusting black lump in your thoughts.

I have been told that evil exists because good is all that better when it resists badness. I have been told that while ignorance may be bliss you'd never want to go back to being naive and unaware because that way madness lies.

But maybe, sometimes, madness tells the truth.
The Edna Man

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Any Other World

How can you want to be alone yet not want to be alone.

Dammit, brain, make up your mind.
The Edna Man

Friday, November 15, 2013


So I just had the most mindblowing moment in my philosophy class.

"Where is there hide to cover the whole world? The wide world can be covered with hide enough for a pair of shoes alone."
-- Santideva, The Bodhicaryavatara, chapter 5 verse 13.

The world is full of terrible terrain. But instead of wallpapering the world with leather so that it would be safe to walk on, wrap the leather around your feet as shoes instead.

You cannot fix the world. You can only fix yourself.

The Edna Man

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Decisions, Decisions

I have a problem with choice.

I consider myself to be very pro-choice. I encourage people, situations, policies, to make sure that people have a choice, and are not pigeonholed into a false dichotomy or into "no other choice" situations. There's is always a choice. There is always a way out.

But then there comes the dilemma where the choices are equal and intrinsically not worth more than the other. And then it gets quantum. Because in making a choice, all other choices will not be made. Sure, that's okay the fifty percent of the time the cat comes out alive. But what if you made a choice, and eleven other universes never would have existed.

It's a scary thought, when each choice you make destroys worlds that might have been but now never will be.

Because you took the path less traveled by, the other one was never really there.
The Edna Man

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Beast

Down the deepest, darkest depths, therein lies the beast.
It gnashes and wails, thrashes and rails, within its twisted cage.
The tamer keeps it locked up tight, and never lets it feast;
Its hunger is enormous; and its anger, all the rage.
He hides it in the shadows, forced far to the back,
Lest the vicious monster takes its cruel shape.
And what the audience sees is just the tamer's act:
A joke clowning around, masking the fear of escape.
The beast, prowling, plotting, with murderous intent,
Brooding, biding, waiting, with a sin-gleminded purpose:
Revenge upon its jailor, eternal pain and torment;
And become the ringmaster of this mad and crazy circus.
The tamer keeps on mocking, waiting for a saviour,
But the beast, it came a-knocking, and caused his disguise to waver.

Analyse this.
The Edna Man

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Let's End This

There is an area in Terry Pratchett's Ankh-Morpork called Cockbill Street. Its inhabitants are the kind of poor people who have Standards, the kind of people who would rather buy soap to scrub their dining tables spotless than buying food to put on it. Pratchett writes that they are "cursed with both poverty and pride".

I thought that line was phrased very nicely. It summed perfectly encapsulated the idea that you were stuck with certain value or world views that made it very difficult to exist in the world.

Fortunately, I am neither cursed with poverty nor pride. (Yet.) Nevertheless, someone picked a number of "Extra Challenge" options for me during character creation.

One of these, which I realized today, is that my world view is finely attuned to the conventional narrative structure. I see stories. I need to see stories. Where one thing leads to another with some kind of ulterior purpose. Cause and effect. Beginning and ending. Start to finish. Logic. Structure. Sense.


I am slowly becoming aware of how much I need my life and my experiences to fit a narrative. How my interactions with other people require a kind of causal logic. How I feel the urge to create memories around arbitrarily significant dates, instead of having the memories making that date significant.

I am squeezing my life into a narrative. Lying to myself to give my life meaning. Like that guy from Memento. Or as Terry Pratchett puts it in Hogfather:

“All right," said Susan. "I'm not stupid. You're saying humans need... fantasies to make life bearable."


"Tooth fairies? Hogfathers? Little—"


"So we can believe the big ones?"


"They're not the same at all!"


"Yes, but people have got to believe that, or what's the point—"


It's slightly unnerving, but as of now I don't know how, or if I even want to, rewrite my story.

Game Start,
The Edna Man

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


So I tried wearing my eyepatch today for the "wacky tacky" dress code event thing today. I am very surprised by the results.

After only one and a half hours of not using my left eye (which has historically been my better eye), I cannot see clearly with it,, even with my glasses. My right eye works fine. I think when I use both, my brain compensates with the view from my right eye to let me resolve words. With my left eye everything is a blur.

It's scary that it takes such little time for your brain to let go of something. I can't imagine what it would be like if I left the eye-patch on the whole day. Or if I blindfolded myself for a whole day. What would sight be like after I took off the blindfold,I wonder.

I am now going to take a short nap to see if that cures the problem. Maybe it will, maybe it won't. Let's see how it goes.

Can't tell if I'm winking or blinking,
The Edna Man

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Welcome to our Show!

Reality is pretty awesome sometimes.

Earlier today, I was one of the MCs of a school talent showcase called Snapshots. Here I was, on stage in front of the whole school and their families, doing something so amazingly incredible, yet something I haven't done since I was twelve. Heck, I might have done it some time in secondary school, but I don't think I've ever had the liberty of coming up with my own script.

The best thing, the very best thing, was that I managed to do a big Opening Number, like Neil Patrick Harris does for the Tony Awards. I've always wanted to do that, even back in Yale for Shenanigans, but I was doing improv then, and with so much crazy stuff going on I didn't think I could do both. Well, this time I was going to DO IT: I took a whole day finding the right song, and another whole day to write in the words.

Everything was so totally worth it.

Volunteering for this was one of the best, most awesomest decisions I've ever made, I think. One thing though: it would have been great if I had had more time to prepare. Last minute work might be fine for assignments (here's looking at you, professors), but for a show like this, you want the time to do the absolute best that you can do. Never mind the rehearsals; just having more time to choose a song and write the lyrics would have been fine by me.

I had so much fun being MC. Michelle, my co-host, was great too; I'm just worried that she might not have had as many punchlines as I did. I think that's one of the reasons why I don't like writing MC scripts for a double-act: I believe you have to write your own jokes, jokes that you are comfortable with performing.

Knowing that you have the confidence to rip off that perfect one-liner is just the start, though. Nervousness was another crazy thing I had to deal with. I've always had pre-performance jitters before I do any show; I think it helps me focus and perform better (ironically). Hardly anything else matters - not the stage, not the audience, not the fear of failing - when you've got adrenaline pumping through your veins, fueling your comedy, pumping up your passion, telling you that the whole point is that they're SUPPOSED to be laughing at you!

Too bad it's over. I miss it already, but I really really hope there will be a next time.

Taking it from the top,
The Edna Man

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Outward Bound

I had my first ever Outward Bound School (OBS) experience yesterday.

It was kinda fun. I tried a lot of things I've never done before, like kayaking, only it was a tri-yak with three people on it (instead of three yaks, which would undoubtedly have been a whole lot more interesting).

But the thing I most want to remember is climbing the stupidly tall tower. Just because I'm a tall person doesn't mean I'm not scared of heights. (I'm more scared of grounds. It's the grounds that kill you.) And I assume that it's a pretty primal fear for most people, but a lot of people get over it, which is great for them. But even with a rope securely leashed to my crotch, I still am very aware of my own mortality and how one tiny mistake could mean that I won't be able to be aware of my mortality any longer.

So the side of the tower I was climbing up had a rope net a third of the way, then a totem pole with those rock-climbing handholds screwed onto it, then five logs in a zig-zag pattern the rest of the way up. The whole thing was probably four to five stories tall.

I got up the rope ladder okay, but transitioning to the totem pole was tough. It was the first time I looked down (I had to, to climb on top of the log that the net was attached to) and the height already terrified me. It took me some time to work my way onto the totem, and even then it was stupidly terrifying, because some of the handholds unscrewed themselves when I grabbed on to them.

The thing is, once I conquered the totem pole (with a lot of encouragement from my friends), I wasn't very scared anymore. And contrary to what you all are thinking now, it wasn't because of the support and teamwork, or because I had faced my fears and conquered them and mastered them or whatever romantic reason. The way I saw it, was that I was already so high up that if I really fell I'd die anyway, regardless of whether I was four stories up or five. So I had nothing to lose anymore.

And I want to remember this for two reasons. One, is that I've never climbed up anything so high before, so that was a really cool experience for me. Two, is that life is crap at telling stories. There's no profound morals or feel-good happy endings. There's just what it is, decent plot or not.

And nobody but me is going to change my story.
The Edna Man

Tuesday, July 30, 2013


You can read a book. You can read the stars. How do you read a person?

There is so much more than just reading a face or a palm or an expression. I believe that every soul is a story; a living, breathing narrative of existence, a walking autobiography. They are the things that are said and the things that are unsaid, the meaning of the dialogue and the paragraph of their body language punctuated by gestures and gesticulations or the silent pulse of inaction and stationery. But people are not open books; they are complex, interwoven papyri of human experience, laced with symbolism and laden with subtext. They are so much more and if and only if you care to read between the lines you'll find the most realistic characterization that can ever be written; that in the legend of their life you might find forgotten mysteries and subtle subplots, dramatic tragedy and divine comedy. Maybe this sheet was intentionally left blank; maybe a death was not a word but a sentence; maybe it was just a phrase they were going through; maybe every catastrophe was just an apostrophe in the latest chapter of their life; maybe they had their appendix removed; maybe they like referring to themselves in third person; maybe they rode a railroad plot until it flew off a cliffhanger; maybe you'll find out what titles send shivers down their spines; maybe they have a couple of tricks up their jacket sleeves; and maybe you'll discover what is hidden and what is not behind the flaps. And like all books, there will be those which you just want to Fahrenheit 451; there will be those which come and go, browsing on borrowed time, passed around and never yours; but there will be the one which you find in a secondhand bookstore and fall in love with and want nothing more than to share a quiet evening together curled up in front of a fireplace forever and ever until your pages are dog-eared and tattered and yellowed around the edges.

And when the story ends, do you believe in an epilogue?
The Edna Man

Monday, July 22, 2013

New York, New York

I can't eat small apples anymore.

I just spent two glorious days in the city so nice, they named it twice. I have kind of fallen in love with the city, from its wide spacious sidewalks to the insane variety of random people you see on the streets, in the subways, and everywhere else. There's always so many things to see and so many things to do, it'd take a lifetime to know the city and its people.

Times Square is so much more than I expected it to be. It's filled with all the bright billboards and overwhelming lights and crass commercialism that is so famous, but when I was walking around at night I realised that it's not as loud as I imagined it to be. It's overwhelming if you don't like the lights and the advertisements, but it's actually a pretty quiet city. There weren't cacophonies of car horns or stampeding horses, and the buzz of a million people actually disperses up into the acoustics of the skyscrapers, so I never felt claustrophobic sound-wise.

I can happily cross another thing off my bucket list: Watch a musical on Broadway. Thanks to some extraordinary luck on the part of the Yale-NUS Random Number Generator, I scored free tickets to the showing of Wicked: A New Musical on. Freaking. BROADWAY. AND IT WAS AMAZING. I HAVE NO WORDS AS TO HOW AWESOME IT WAS. EXCEPT THESE WORDS RIGHT HERE. I've heard the songs before, but without the story, so I've had to piece together that plot and who exactly was singing what. So seeing it on stage, with the actors and the singers and costumes and the amazing props, backdrops and scenery, was FANTABULASTIC. I totally get all the songs now, and I loved listening to my favourites being played live. I had shivers at the climax of For Good, the part where both of them harmonized a high note in the third chorus. If I had anything to complain about, I'd say I walked out of the theatre with my mind blown. I was sitting next to Aleithia, who had not watched a musical before, and she was quite stunned as she walked out as well.

I got to talk a lot with Molly, one of the Dean's Fellows, as we roamed the streets of New Haven before going to the musical. She's a lot older and more mature than she first appears. I think living by yourself for four years grows you up a lot. She's really nice, and I like her. (Hi Nessa, if you're reading this, don't worry, I like you too!)

Dinner was organized by food expert Austin Shiner, and Austin Shiner never disappoints when it comes to food. We trained out to Harlem to try authentic African-American soul food, which was a whole set of delicious good food for the soul. Fried chicken and barbeque ribs and spiced rice, oh my. And delicious banana pudding with ice cream as well. I loved the food, and being surrounded by international students swearing in Hokkien as an excuse to learn Singlish really added to the atmosphere.

After dinner, we went to this awesome improv comedy show found by Chris Tee. It's at the National Comedy Theatre on 36th Street, between 8th and 9th Avenue. I have never watched improv performed live before, and I was completely floored by how incredibly brilliant the performers were. I was laughing my head off almost every minute, at almost every line that they said. I can't imagine how far I still have to go to even get near that level. It was also really nice to see female performers, because there are so many stereotypes about women in comedy and how it's like their driving. But our host, Jen I think her name was, was really energetic and a really good host, and I would like to see her actually perform instead. We tried to chat with them a bit after the show, but I think they were more keen to clean up and clear out, so we didn't get the chance.

Wandering around Wall Street and the Financial District was not as interesting, but we got to see much of the city and the architecture that you wouldn't normally see, I guess. We saw the huge bull, and I was very amused how anatomically-correct they cast it. Also, the subway system is way too complex and convoluted for my liking, but at least you can read the station names, unlike in Japan.

I also visited the Museum of Natural History, and though it was big I didn't get a chance to explore it all. But I do urge anyone who is visiting to PAY FOR THE PLANETARIUM AND GO IN, DAMMIT. You see things on television and movies, but nothing throws you into the vast nothingness of space than a huge dome with special visual effects that make you feel like you can just reach up and pluck a planet from the sky. The show hurtles you through the wonderful beauty of space, and just amazes you with its astonishing majesty, through starfields and sun flares, past satellites and solar systems, all simply spectacular. I think I spent the whole thirty minutes watching it with my jaw open. Literally.

And that was my trip to New York. I'll be back next week, and hopefully it'll top this week, but I don't expect it to.

Empire Building State of Mind,
The Edna Man

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Lecture Hall

It's after breakfast. Here I sit, in a comfortable seat, with my jacket pulled tight around me. It's cold. I was a delicious breakfast.

A flash of lighting. The janitor comes in to turn on the lamps.

People stream in, sit down. The rumble of conversation grows louder, rolling over the tables and chairs like a wandering percussion band. Laptops pop open like umbrellas, each student sheltering under its wide screen canopy and huddled in the warmth from its heat ports.

The slides flash. There is a downpour of typing, a rainfall of fingers on keyboards like droplets onto the ground. The slides flash. A storm of frantic hammering and the pursuit to catch the information in cupped hands before it all drains away.

The sound washes over me. It's too comfortable. It was a big breakfast. The professor is a radio, her music becoming ambient background in the cafe I find myself in, eyes slowly drooping, with the patter of raindrops and the atmosphere of almost calm serenity, I realise with a jolt that there's no hot chocolate on my table.

I jerk awake.

Things come back into focus. There's a graphic on the slide now, and the rain has slowed to a drizzle. I can't fall asleep here. I can't. But who needs hot chocolate anyway...

The shower surges again as I drift back into the cafe.

Maybe I'm the chance of rain,
The Edna Man

Thursday, July 11, 2013


Wow, I haven't written anything for a long time.

I'm sitting here in my room in Berkeley College in Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. It's pretty surreal, since I've been anticipating this day for slightly more than a year now. Maybe I'm too tired to fully appreciate the fact that I'm here, in the United States, with 150 of my classmates, all of whom are about to embark on a grand adventure to the frontiers of the unknown, that it hasn't hit me yet.

Anyway, I'm pretty excited about the last ten days, moving into my residential college and meeting and reuniting with a whole bunch of people. And I guess that's what I wanted to write about today.

Unlike how it was in my last educational institution, I know a lot of people here at Yale-NUS. Like, a lot. I can name probably everyone of my classmates in my First Class,  all the Dean's Fellows and practically all the members of the faculty. I'm like a walking Pokedex.

But here's the thing: I know a lot of people, but I don't know them. I don't know what their favourite colour is; I don't know what might make them cry on a bright summer's day; I don't know what they are interested in, or how they would go about making a quiche, or anything about their hopes and dreams and faults and fears. I can identify people, but I don't know them.

And that's the big problem: it seems like everyone knows me, but I know nothing of them. It doesn't help that my conversation skills still leave a lot to be desired, and it has become very apparent in these past few days. I suppose I can blame the fact that my brain is exhausted from lack of sleep, but it's also obvious that's not the only reason. I'm running out time; once people settle into their cliques it'll be very difficult to do talk to anyone. It'll be the "belong everywhere, and thus belong nowhere" thing again. Why do I keep walking into these things?

It also seems like I've got so many different personalities to interact with different people, and I don't know who I am anymore. I'm also very scared, scared of interacting with the people I like the most, the people I'm most interested in, for fear of driving them away. I hate myself for it, but I can't bring myself to the alternative.

Why do I want to be liked by everyone?
The Edna Man

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

The Rise and Fall of the Geek Era

I am very impressed with the direction of the Marvel Cinematic Universe lately. It's doing something new and edgy: having a story arc across multiple movies and not have it be a trilogy. That's exciting, because it's more similar to how comic books actually operate and I guess will give people more insight to the world of graphic novels.

However, that's before I read this article on Cracked.com, and it seems that in the near, foreseeable future, we're going to run out of awesome movies. And that's going to be a crying shame.

Because there's more than one kind of villain in this world,
The Edna Man

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Only Human

Am I a bad person?

Heaven knows I try,
But the seven sins fly by
Sticking needles and pins
Into the skins of my conscience
And as the world spins, I cry,
"I'm not a bad guy!"
But I lie.
I don't know why,
But I've heard the song that goes on and on,
And the words are blurred as they sing along:
Different is wrong!
And you won't belong,
Because you are not strong to be one of the herd or the throng.
Does that make me a bad person?

Perhaps I am different, make no mistake,
It might be a given, but I can't take
It when some slimy, suffocating, self-centred snake
Slithers in and sprays his toxic ego across the room,
As he says with blasé in all of his ways,
"I don't give a damn,"
Because nothing else matters.
And he runs this scam without a gram of respect,
As life hands him platter after silver platter,
Surrounds him with chatter and alcoholic drinks
Until he sinks into a pink fog of stink,
And to myself I think, I hate this guy.
Does that make me a bad person?

Does that make me a bad person,
If I am quick to judge
People who are happily willing to fudge
Details to spend money that isn't theirs,
Or vanish unawares while others need you upstairs.
I'm putting on airs, I should not begrudge;
But my ethics don't budge; they rarely bend
And in the end, should I even take cares
In the affairs
Of the people I call my friends,
If their goodness is all pretend
And their conscience is aloof;
Do I at least have proof
That their morality is not so black and white,
But scattered between fifty shades of play,
Because, to them, this might be just a game.
One that's still tame, but all the same,
No one's ever around to claim the blame.
If that ignites an angry flame,
Does that make me a bad person?

Perhaps it doesn't make me a bad person.
Perhaps it only makes me human.

Perhaps there is no difference.
The Edna Man

Monday, March 11, 2013

Worldbuilding Prototype Alpha

So. Worldbuilding.

Xi Min and I wanted to attempt on a scale unprecedented. We wanted to bring worldbuilding to Yale-NUS. We thought that, with some of the world’s best and brightest, we could really do something with this idea.

And did we ever. We got eight people (actually more than that, but Google Hangouts only fits ten) and built a world from scratch. We’ve got half a hollowed-out doughnut tumbling through space, with icy areas and tropical areas, and a simulacrum of seasons. We’ve got about ten different civilizations in a huge land grab on our map, with amazing premises like a race of green genetic accidents which can photosynthesize independently; a civilization of dolphin riders who also make excellent cookies; a race of creatures who can see in multiple electromagnetic spectra; and a cat-owl-elephant caste society who have nine lives and get reborn in a blaze of fire, like phoenixes.

What I liked best is that everyone was interested. To varying degrees, of course, but everyone was contributing and tossing ideas about like a lettuce leaf in a salad. It was pure cognitive bliss, for be. The discussion about the shape of the world was best. Nobody had preconceptions, not many had expertise knowledge, but we all came together to hammer out the doughnut-shaped planet that we know of today. It was astounding.

And so we will bravely move forward, not just charting unknown territory, but bringing it into existence as well. Not just pushing the envelope, but cutting its stencil out of a sheet of paper and gluing the flaps down in the right places. We will continue creating, bit by bit, continent by continent; and we don’t rest on the seventh day, either. We will play Sid Meyer’s Civilizations like the game it was meant to be played.

And we will look at it, and say that it was good.
The Edna Man

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Meeting People

I had a really happy day today. I met and talked with so many people.

First off, I went for a university fair at Nanyang Junior College with Jasmine and Naz. I'd been walking past it for years on my way to Boey's house and I had absolutely no idea that it was NYJC, until today. Life is weird sometimes.

Anyway. I had a lot of fun talking to people about my school, and then rambling on about my experiences with the occasional joke or funny anecdote. I got the chance to entertain a reasonably-large audience and also a couple of questions, which I thought was really nice.

I had lunch with Jasmine, who again refused to let me pay. There is an important life lesson here, Future Me; I can't write it out, but it would do you good to remember, so I'm writing about it without actually writing it. If you need help remembering, Future Me, it's not about not paying, but that other thing. Stare out the window for a while, it'll come to you. I hope.

I got back to the office just in time to bring some people out on tour, and all my well-placed jokes went off, so that was nice. My small group disintegrated along the way, so I attached myself to Xi Min's group and got to talk with this girl from IB as well, and evangelised about worldbuilding to her, and also assured her about her interview and stuff.

Then it was off to Newton Food Centre to meet with a bunch of students from Hokkaido University, who were here on overseas exchange. It was a blast talking to all of them, and sprinkling my little bit of Japanese, and learning more about Japan and their lives. There was this moment I was talking to one of them who said he watched some anime before, and I was trying to tell him about 5 centimetres per second, and I knew he wouldn't get the English name, so I was trying to remember the Japanese title, and one of the other guys knew it, and when the name was mentioned there was a great revelation, and we connected, just like that. I find it miraculous, that we two from different parts of the world can come together and connect over this animated film from his country. It's amazing.

There was supposed to be something here about life and communication and sociability, but it's way too late and I somehow don't feel about talking about it anymore. You've got a whole bunch of remembering to do, Future Me.

EDIT 24/02/2013: Hi, Even-Further-Into-the-Future Me, Future Me here. Except that now I'm Present Me, and you're the new Future Me. Anyway. You've got one less thing to remember, because I'm doing your job and writing down what the previous Present Me (who has been demoted to Past Me) was supposed to write (or have written; it's getting way too tense in here).

So. That thing about life and communication and sociability. I realised that I like talking to people, but I don't like starting a conversation with people, especially new people who I have not met before. There's always that fear, that worrying anxious fear of the unknown; and what is more unknown than a friend that you haven't met? He (or she) could turn out to be an enemy, for all you know. So I guess that's why I'm awkward, or at the least perceive myself as being awkward, because that's riding at the forefront of my consciousness all the time. If you would liken conversation to a fire, then I'm not the tinderbox which would get it going. Compared to a great many people, I'm no match.

But once it gets going, I'm probably a good quantity of dry, flammable wood. I'm interested in people, I think. People are a puzzle, and I like puzzles. I like seeing how things work, how things fall into place to create intricate systems that go. I like to see how people's lives, their experiences, their behaviour and philosphy, all come together to make the person that's sitting across from me today.

And that's where I make the mistake of so many psychologists, social scientists and census statisticians. Listen up, Future Me, because you're going to need to remember this bit. A lot of people are telling you ("me") that I "judge" other people a lot, and this is not necessarily untrue. That is not to say that everyone doesn't do just that, every day, at one point or another, or to varying extents. The human mind evolved to work that way; it's just that before it was categorizing things into "I can eat this" and "Run away, this can eat me", but society has changed a lot since then. And so you go around thinking you're very smart in putting all the pieces of peoples lives into a kind of timeline of cause-and-effect, filled with lots of holes here and there because you don't have the whole story, but you think you have enough paragraphs to confidently write a blurb about his or her life. Listen up, Future Me, because you're going to be wrong. Life is way more complicated and complex than you can confidently account for. And humanity is exactly the same thing. They're both a labyrinth of confusion where effect doesn't always follow cause and logic is merely a suggestion. Remember this, Future Me. I can't always be writing to you.

Nice to meet you,
The Edna Man

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Airport Romance

So here I am, sitting in the airport, waiting for a flight to come in. I actually realize that I’ve never been alone in the airport for a long period of time without any near-future objectives. I’ve always had to be there to take a flight out, or send someone off, but I’ve never had so much time to myself at the airport before.

I love the airport. I love hanging around, watching the people as they come and go. I like thinking about their stories; the stories of their lives. Who they are, where they come from, what they do, where they go. I like trying to guess their nationality or ethnicity, based on their appearance and clothing and language, if I manage to catch a snippet of it. I like seeing people coming in from the arrival hall, and then see their daughter or mother or cousin or friend, and then break out into a smile of relief and honesty, and they’ll often embrace and chat and stuff, and it gives me hope that the world isn’t as crappy as I think it is.

It’s also liberating, in a way. If you wanted to go anywhere else in the world, this is the place to do it. And the idea that from this place you could travel to some exotic country, where you can sit down in a metal tube with wings and get slingshot around the world, where when you open your eyes again you see something completely different, that is just such an empowering feeling.

And there’s also the mystery. You could take a plane to anywhere and wind up in a different country, with a different people living in a different culture and speaking a different language to order different food. And it might be anywhere. You wouldn’t know until you get in under the clouds again and see where you wind up.

And as you see the huge numbers of people walking around, living their lives; you get this sense of the vastness and the intricacy of our human civilization. Like, there’s no way so many billions of people crawling over the surface of this tiny rocky planet could have come up with this kind of system that works like clockwork. It’s amazing, really.

It also lends hope to the idea that somewhere out there, there’s the one for me.
The Edna Man