Thursday, December 29, 2011

Daydreamers rockin' lab-coats

In keeping with the character of this blog, it is once again time for me to pretend to have enough wisdom to dabble in philosophy.

Today we take a swipe at the current crop of leading scientists. Judging by recent newspapers, today's scientists are occupied with various multi-billion-dollar research activities. Everybody associates research with progress, but any right-thinking person would be disheartened at the research being undertaken by these expensively-educated lab-coat wearing geeks.

I hereby apply my liberty of expression to declare their research projects "Vain Imaginations." They all fail to consider our core question for the day: WHAT IS LIFE? Read on and consider my meaning.

Vain Imagination #1: The search in Outer Space for habitable planets

Humans, well, we know ourselves. We have this our planet Earth. Say we discovered another planet out there that was actually habitable (we haven't), and we could somehow relocate masses of humans to inhabit it (we can't). What ludicrous thinking informs us that we will manage Planet New any better than we can manage Planet Earth? Keeping in mind pollution, overpopulation, wars, etc; why would anyone think exporting death is any way to begin life afresh on a new planet? Our convenient consumerist lifestyle does not promote life, not with all its waste and inefficiency. We pillage from nature more than we give back to it, as evidenced in the global decline of forest cover, spread of global warming, ever-sprawling concrete jungle, petroleum fumes choking our cities, capitalism toasting greedily to profit.

What is life? Poisoning another planet will only expose how much we don't know about it.

Vain Imagination #2: The Hadron Collider - trying to recreate 'Big Bang Conditions'
First of all, what Big Bang?

Secondly, the details of this venture raises even more questions. One of the Hadron Collider's chief objectives is to find evidence of one of six basic sub-atomic building blocks which make up the entire universe. The question logically follows: how did they know to name a sub-atomic particle whose existence they had no concrete evidence of? Jumped the gun, did they?

Alright, I admit having no expertise in microscopic things. But if Hadron Collider succeeds in discovering the particle, we've always had it amidst us all along and were no worse in our ignorance; if it backfires, there's probably no market for used Hadron Colliders except for the scrap yard. What a waste.

WHAT IS LIFE? We won't find that out by colliding subatomic particles at light speed. (Is that what scientists attend instead of demolition derby?)

Vain Imagination #3: Attempts to fuse Robotics with Biology

Most notoriously, certain scientists extracted the neurons of rats and arrayed them into a "biological brain" of some sort. As though that weren't nutty enough, they go and connect this so-called brain to a robot via Bluetooth. Now they sit around with their clipboards ready to record what it will do.

At this stage, all sorts of hard questions present themselves in the form of moral and logical pitfalls.

First, is this robot a rat?

Despite appearances to the contrary, robots are dead things - in early primary school we were taught to make distinction between living and non-living things. Rat neurons on the other hand are living cells. What 'communications' would they have with each other VIA BLUETOOTH? Humor me as I propose that a sane living rat, with all it faculties intact, would not know what to do with a robot if it saw one. Robots generally do not feature in rat dwellings.

Consider the little matter of identity. Is there any chance that surgically excised neurons of various rats, combined into some sort of brain, would eventually identify that they constitute a record-breaking first robot with a biological brain? Already they say it is displaying multiple personalities. HA.

And since when did automatons need biological brains of their own?

And isn't it more likely that rat neurons find live rats to be their preferred working conditions?

How does the robot decode and respond to the specialized syntax of rat instincts? Or were the 'instinctual parts of the brain' left out of this one?

And how do the scientists differentiate dead neurons soaking in a nutrient bath with live ones?

Here is an artificially constructed brain, nourished on life support, for purposes of running a robot for tests, otherwise dead. The concept is a rare sort of horrible. (Spare me if I'm confused. I dropped Biology in Form Two.)

WHAT IS LIFE? Whatever it is, one suspects it has no compromise with death.


If I may say so myself, I find these research projects useless. If you ask me, they are headed exactly nowhere. And they burn major holes in our collective human race pockets. The billions of dollars poured into these projects could have been far better used, for far more humane purposes, with far greater impact. I should have added 'Vain Imagination #4: nuclear weapons' to that list above, but hippies, activists and tree-huggers have made noise and cried about nukes since Hiroshima/Nagasaki - and no one who can do anything significant about it has listened.

What is life? Life, which we experience without fully understanding, comes exclusively from the Most High GOD, the Creator of heaven and earth. By His power all things exist, and by His love and mercy are all things sustained. He alone gives life. No amount of human research can ever replicate or overrule His work.

Close the labs and go home. Life is a miracle.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The end of a thing

After half a night of sleep, I went off early in the morning in search of The Ex. I wanted to avoid finding her at her home on her own turf. To this end I chose my foolproof method, a favorite of late - waylaying her by suddenly dropping into view from atop a tree as she passed near it.

It was a long wait. I had a long time to reconsider my intent, and nearly went back to bed. Trees accept no liability for damages sustained by sleepy climbers who begin to doze in branches. But I stayed on the branch, watching birds to pass time.

At last, The Ex walked into view, resplendent in a simple outfit (and leso), setting my heart racing. Eagerly I leaped to the ground. I startled her by so appearing. This, added to the fact that we were not on talking terms, naturally meant that her salutations were frosty.

"Get a job or something!" she spat.

"I've wronged you many times," I gushed, like one reciting a poem he could forget halfway through, "Trust me, I'm very sorry. Please forgive me."

The subsequent look of shock on The Ex indicated that my apology was entirely unforeseen. She thought about it for a while and finally stuttered, "Me too... I'm sorry."

And then her gaze became quizzical as the full meaning of those words sank. The same wonder had struck me dumb when I first began to see how straightforward everything became after an admission of guilt.

There. That was the best way out of our impasse; the end of the thing.

Of course I wanted to believe that the silence and sustained eye-to-eye that followed was more meaningful than a mutual sigh of relief, but I couldn't afford such confusion so early in the morning. I was lucky enough to have my "many wrongs" written off without scrutiny or analysis. Don't push it, said my instinct. So, while this our tactical rapprochement was still freshly baked, I briskly turned homeward to catch the rest of my sleep.

It was all over. Unless perhaps Jennifer would go and betray our secret, and then the outrage thereof might follow me into romantic retirement. But this prospect wasn't too nightmarish in the light of a free clean break from the past, an all-purpose get-out-of-jail-free card for all "bad things," whatever they were, known and unknown. Conversely, I was affording The Ex as much in the spirit of "live and let live" - no questions asked, no mention of Brian, no obligation to make up with me.

The whole fiasco made one thing abundantly clear (dear readers you've all heard this one before): I was too green for a relationship. Hell, I still lived under my mum's roof, while others were moving into their own houses and warming them. Scandalous!

Nevertheless, while that snag remains unresolved, single lifestyle dogma, bachelor-power creed and survivalist literature will have to occupy my time until the outlook improves. In the meantime, soccer and swimming will suffice. Plus a thick skin.

Luckily, new reggae is released every day. It helps make life a celebration, if you hear me correctly.

Moody rock will be the end of us.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Mirror Effect

Anger propels rash reaction. Hot blood deters judgment. Truly, one who lets fury lead him or her is not prudent. And now if only such shining insights would come BEFORE the deed is already done.

"Housewarming" with Jennifer was a dizzying escapade. Its spontaneity was the biggest thrill factor. She's quite attractive besides being one charged-up live wire.

Later, she fell asleep, but I for some reason I couldn't. So I held her and stared into darkness, idly feeling how her heartbeat and mine went in and out of sync. Oddly fascinating.

While Jennifer slept soundly, I had a lot of time to review my situation.

It slowly dawned on me clear as day that my fling with Jennifer was not justified by my anger at The Ex, nor even by how much fun it was. Two wrongs don't make a right. All excitement faded rapidly at that point.

I must have sighed or whispered curses when the truth sank.

"You're awake!" exclaimed Jennifer suddenly. "What's on your mind?"
"Not much. Same old drama."
She calculated it like a mercenary. "Look, she's screwing Bryophyta; you're screwing someone else. Whichever way you argue it we're having more fun than them. Quietly-quietly." Laughter.
"Right." Flatly.

Silence. I began to return to thoughts.

"Okay, I can't see you in darkness, but guilt is not a good look on you."
"Guilt? This is just the face I was born with." I was lying.
"Right." Sarcasm.

She fell asleep again. My unhappy thoughts returned.

Much later, she woke up with "You're still awake! Are you uncomfortable?"
"I'm alright."
"No, something's bothering you."
"Okay, listen. You like rock but I subsist exclusively on reggae, so us can't work."
"Ha! Us is just a secret. Enemies with benefits, remember?" 
Oblique speech gave way to zealous action. It worked a dream. Once satiated, she fell asleep and left me to my contemplations.

I realized in the subsequent silence that as far as The Ex was concerned, I had no right to play victim any more. If she was guilty of anything, now I was guilty of something similar too. Merely that my latest offence was unknown to her didn't make me any better. I had reasoned that because her evil deed was very bad, my lesser evil was better. As if the ranking mattered.

And what about Jennifer? A comparably faulty moral relativity guided her."We're having more fun than them. Quietly-quietly," she had said, perhaps in jest.

Probably the only person who wasn't deluded in all our midst was the much maligned Bryophyta. He was purely in it for the getting it would bring him, simple. There were no complicated justifications for him, no convoluted revenge, nothing on his end to prove. Otherwise, we were all mad, all the rest of us. It was a painful realization.

I left before Jennifer next awoke. It was a tricky business, departing from her arms with the least possible turbulence, but it was doable. Or more likely, she simply let me go.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Late Night Texting

That The Ex was dating my old enemy Bryophyta seemed to already have become old news to everyone but myself. News that I had discovered that The Ex was dating my long time enemy was the part that was bound to cause a stir among our mutual circle of friends.

The rumor mill I'm a relevant part of generally comes alive at night, usually when I'm gazing into darkness from the comfort of my bed, wondering for sleep. But this particular night, when the grapevine's floodgates burst, I was the only guest at the "housewarming party" of Jennifer's newly rented house. She had only recently moved into her own place. There was no party in any conventional sense. My host was in my arms, I in hers.

Along came a text to me, and others. Oldfangled group-text preliminary information prefaced it.
This outburst shed rare light on events of the day. It seemed our friends had been giving The Ex hell over her choice of Bryophyta over me. I was willing enough to respect her wishes and not reply, even though my feelings towards The Ex were still raw, and nasty wisecracks were within easy formulation. But she had directed her rage at others besides myself. The avalanche of irreverent retorts via group-texts did not delay.

David: "Earth to Antony... earth to Antony, do you read..."
Jennifer: "Sm1 deal wd dat plz tony?!"
She was right next to me, so I poked her side. She laughed. The resulting full-scale poke-war-game carried us to and fro across her bed till we fell off it - but I digress.
Sister of The Ex: "Feelings Catchment Control Commission in session tomorrow at 11 at Carol's"
Brother of the Ex: "Dude ain't nothing changed you still owe me a drink."
Myk: "Peace and love in the universe. One love. Hint."
Carol: "FCCC roll call will b took! But Sum1 call Face Police the no. shld b 9-9-anto-9... "
I laughed until it was ridiculous. Jennifer thought I made too much mirth of it, but I needed to laugh. It's some kind of medicine. Then I thought it was time to wrap up the festivities.
Me: "Funny :) Seriously :) To all my FANS xoxo I'm sleeping lol PS get out of her face"
As Jennifer laughed at that, her belly firmed. (I was rubbing it, so I noticed.) My heart warmed at this turn of events. If all was lost with The Ex, it was lost rather nicely, I thought, turning to Jennifer to share the good vibe.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

It came from Outer Space

Jennifer, the best friend of the Ex, did not like me. She never even bothered to hide it. On my part, I had long ago analyzed our curt exchanges and discovered that we both put on poker-faces before we looked at let alone said anything to one another. That was our highest mutual courtesy.

We met at the swimming pool. She was in swimsuit, with a towel around her waist. I pulled on my frozen expression and prepared for a cold and very short conversation.

But she was strangely more socially inclined this day. "Are you crazy? Killing yourself for [The Ex]?"
Apparently, she had seen me swimming with a mindset far beyond fitness. She settled down next to me on the concrete, said "Don't take it too hard, she'll come around."

"She can keep Bryophyta if she wants," I said dismissively. "It's an insult!"

Jennifer listened patiently while I ranted and vented. How attentive she was! Or perhaps I had become quite a sight and steam was pouring out my ears at high pressure as emphatic condemnations exploded from my mouth and my hands wagged gestures all over the poolside. A vein also emerges at one side of my forehead while under duress.

I rarely hit the roof in the presence of perceived enemies. This was new. Perhaps I secretly wanted Jennifer to go and gossip to that best friend of hers about the strength of my feeling towards the new developments.

"Now you know how betrayal feels," said Jennifer when I finished.

The silence that followed was oddly comfortable, considering that this was Jennifer, and our interests hardly ever overlapped.

"You've got to teach me how to do butterfly," said Jennifer, after the mood had mellowed somewhat. "Without the madness."

"Right." Now that I allowed myself to smile at her it didn't seem so bad. "You've got to warm up first."

Jennifer immediately dived into the pool and swam to and fro, a powerful front crawl. I was using the time to recover my strength. And observing her lithe movements. And the way her booty cut the surface. It wouldn't be too hard to teach her butterfly. Might even be fun.

The lesson took almost an hour. Perhaps my teaching style was unconventional, but after a shallow introduction to technique, focus shifted irretrievably to rhythm and glide. "Coordinate! Breathe!" I called out repeatedly. When it became too theoretical I demonstrated practically. Eventually, Jennifer was able to cover two lengths of non-stop butterfly stroke. For a first time student, I thought it was splendid and said so. She congratulated herself by whooping and shaking her clenched fists above her head. Her excitement was infectious.

Time froze. There was a ticklish transitory lull as we stood in the shallow end, our chests rising and falling with heavy hyperventilation. A meaningful anticipation hung in the atmosphere. My vision was filled with shapely, full-bodied Jennifer in a wet swim-suit, breathing heavily.

The idea came from outer space. My hands found her waist. "Can you keep a secret?"

Without removing my hands from their comfortable perch, her hands rose to my shoulders, she leaned forward and said in my ear, "Depends what the secret is."

Hypothesis: our still-racing hearts had already given us a head-start of sorts. (Certain scientists say the same hormone - whatsitsname - is released during exercise that is released during an orgasm.)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Self-Destructive Tendencies

Talking to Sister of the Ex confirmed that The Ex had chosen my enemy Brian over me. The feeling I felt cannot be called an emotion (it is overqualified to fit that lowly designation.) I couldn't decide what particularly dominated in the following spectrum of emotions: angry, beaten, betrayed, cheated, denied, disappointed, entitled, outsmarted, rejected, suspicious, underrated, wasted. In short, very bad.

Usually, when something vexes my spirit, I too vex my body with sustained cardiovascular horse-work. The way that works, I get so tired that I have to suspend fretting in favor of surviving.

Swimming usually does it well enough - if I do it hard enough. After a long hard run to the pool (not exactly easy running distance), finding that it was empty of mindless, screaming, splashing, floater-besieged directionless kids was great.

I lost count of the number of laps I did - aware only of "chasing my heartbeat" - trying to make it explode with too much cardio. Unfortunately, mental flashback images of Brian and The Ex smiling together only worked to enrage said heart. I would probably never have stopped, because I was getting ever more worked up and going harder with each successive lap. After a significant while, my breathing became very strenuous. Yet the stockpile of heavy emotions I was attempting to burn like fuel had hardly diminished; it solidified front and center of my brain.

Suddenly, everything below my pelvis all the way to my soles clenched into a most rigid sequence of concurrent muscle pulls. I screamed bubbles, nearly drowned, made it to the side of the pool, hauled myself out and struggled to reorient myself. I don't know how long I lay on the concrete poolside panting for my life and mentally railing at myself for chickening out before completing the mission - I could still feel the emotional whipping I had been trying to swim out of my system.

I started groaning. Loudly.

Someone came, stood over my spread-eagled form such that her shadow interfered with my basking, and said "Are you CRAZY?"

I opened my eyes to the highly unwelcome sight of Jennifer, aka Best Friend of The Ex, also the ex of my best friend. Somehow, at the sight of her, I grew ten times more tired. She was here to gloat or else she never talked to me. She hated me. I was indifferent towards her.

"Nice to see you too," I lied, indifferently.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Reality Check

Once again I climbed high into a tall leafy tree one sunny midmorning. This time I had mini-books in tow. Nobody even suspected that I was up there, which ensured my peace of mind and total freedom to look unnoticed at others passing by. If that sounds spooky, it happens all the time in the age of CCTV surveillance, so relax.

While I was up there, all kinds of human beings passed by on their way to all kinds of pursuits, and I began to feel like a bit of a relative bum, having climbed a tree on a weekday. Blame it on unemployment. At least I was reading.

And then the most unlikely couple joined the stream of actively engaged breadwinners on their way to more worthwhile pursuits. The Ex was walking besides a dude from our hood named Brian. Now that was odd by itself, but it became macabre in my sight when I factored in Brian's arm possessively girding the waist of The Ex. Obscenity piled upon outrage when I considered that The Ex was my ex and Brian was my enemy and here they were cavorting before my very eyes with flirtatious smiles on their faces.

Granted, they hadn't spotted me.

It took a feat of balance to stay on the tree, and a mighty trick of patience to avoid a melodramatic "gotcha moment", as I watched the couple walk down the lane. Once they were out of my sight, I literally dropped off the tree and ran (yes, ran) to consult the one person who could probably have explained everything. Luckily, Sister of the Ex, my insider in the lair of The Ex, was at their home.

"BRYOPHYTA!? Of all people!" I was breathing fire.
"I've been wondering how to break it to you."
"How long have you been wondering?"
"About a week. I knew you'd take it badly. But at first I thought it was a prank." She was nearly apologetic.
"It's got to be a prank. How could she go for that guy?" I nearly exploded.
"I don't know. People change."
"People?! Him, or her, or both of them?!"
Sister of The Ex shrugged. "Ask her. She only said 'people change'."
"Bollocks! She's only doing it to get at me."

I left their house as suddenly as I came.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

She de tek me for fool

It was late evening. Having decided to be direct and to tackle issues head-on, I called The Ex, who I wanted back. So I said I liked her somewhat strongly and if she liked me back, then we could find a way. (Blame it on my indoctrinating myself in the dogma of bachelor lifestyle.)

She said "I'll get back to you on that one."


Such chase-prolonging tactics happened to be familiar to both of us. We had spent the greater part of our first two years playing them in an alternating "Tag" format. Now you chase, now you evade. If cornered, neither confirm nor deny anything at all. Eventually there was some confusion in turns, and we both chased after each other. Looking back, it had been a big drain on time and energy, besides being a tax on the emotions. Just the thought of another round of cops and robbers, with me starting as the cop, was enough to kill morale.

However, I wasn't going to spend time waiting to be "got back to on that one." I know her well.

Shortly after I'd given up on strategizing battlefield romance formations, and dozed off, Sister of The Ex texted me.

"I shouldn't be telling you this - but those James Bond/Rambo methods of yours will not do it!!! Romeo up."

Privileged information! I replied: "I can't believe you two are gossiping about me :) Outrageous :) So now I sing ballads?"

Sister of The Ex: "Use your imagination! I don't know what she means!!!"

I laughed. Maybe it was my sudden appearance from a tree. Rambo methods indeed.

And now I had a spy too. OR a double agent.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Amnesiac vs Interloper

The Ex, by her mere presence, automatically vetoed any pretensions to single-hood that I may have been entertaining. I couldn't even remember deciding to want her back. It had already happened. Besides my missing her vaguely, her mysterious allure had already swallowed me whole as soon as I spotted her from atop a tree. The fact that the Ex seemed comfortable in my presence was a strong boost. Now for the actual reunion.

"Now what's this about I burnt a book?" asked The Ex, eyes wide.

She had to be feigning amnesia. I couldn't believe she was going to make me go through the whole sad story all again. Fortunately, the evidence was nearby. I left, rummaged through my stuff and returned with a half-burnt, half-colored pencil-drawn comic book and handed it to her. Surely she would 'remember' a thing she colored, burnt in spite and returned to owner.

"You kept it?" A hint of nostalgia had entered her tone. She flipped through its pages.

"Call it a souvenir."

Together we flipped through the half-pages, seeing her coloring of my drawing. It was beautiful - if I may say so myself - right up to the charred edges of the burnt pages.

"You made me burn it, you and Anita" she said, matter-of-factly. "This was your fault."

"Rumors," I deflected, strategically. Names of third parties militated against the peace talks' success. But this was also new information to me; at last I could identify some kind of motive for her retrogressive arson. The day she delivered the burnt book she had been too venomously 'sweet' about it to confess jealousy. Revenge was served cold.

A brief silence passed. Then: "How've you been? They tell me you're having a blast."

I wondered what Angela (who calls The Ex "Our Wife") had been telling her. "A boy manages the best he can," I murmured. "Your sources exaggerate the case."

The Ex laughed. "Clarify."

"It's been a real struggle," I claimed, "It's like, subconsciously, I've been looking for another you all this time." It was out! I sighed with relief once I'd signaled intent.

"You don't get to say that," came the reply. "Three years ago, maybe. But I knew this day would come; I told you you'd look for me."

It took me a min to come back down to earth.

"A gal manages the best she can." The Ex giggled, "Luckily I manage pretty well." The way she said it, there were a million ways to interpret that, and none of them gladdening. Then she very carefully rolled up our half-burnt comic book and walked away with it.

I was strangely ambivalent towards whether or not she wanted to finish what she had started by burning the remaining half of our comic. Maybe my primary strategy for winning back the affections of The Ex shouldn't have been to analyze our break-up inside-out.

I had to rethink the whole reunion strategy. Finding out if she was single would constitute prudent preliminary preparation.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Hit List: Middle East

History repeats itself.

In the days of Cold War, Saddam Hussein (Iraq) used to be an ally of the West in their battle against Iran. The founders of Al Qaeda and Taliban used to be allies of the West as they struggled against communism in Afghanistan. Support from the west to their allies included weapons and training and turning a blind eye to inhumane tactics and dogmatic zeal. The end was supposed to justify the means. They won.

After the Cold War, erstwhile friends of the West were bombed to high noon - for being terrorists.

The War on Terror has become the post Cold War world’s biggest preoccupation. Consider the “Arab Spring,” a series of revolutionary uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa. Its ties to the War on Terror seem indirect, but the two events intertwine somewhere down the line.

Following a NATO-backed revolt, Libya’s Gaddafi is dead, and his son is soon likely to be executed at the hands of the new regime under Islamic Sharia law. The Islamist character of this regime has not hindered the West from making strategic oil deals. But the Islamists best remember that the West knows no permanent allies; only permanent interests.

Elsewhere in Egypt, it’s back to Tahrir Square as the Egyptian masses revolt to remove a military council from power, having successfully harried Hosni out of office. Word is, the long-banned Islamic Brotherhood is poised to make a resurgence, amassing popular support on the ground, unofficially already a political force to be reckoned with.

Libya and Egypt best remember: the West may support “Islamist” administrations today, but it will never forgive them for “terrorism” or associations thereof. Friends today battle to the death tomorrow, winner takes all. Iran knows this, so Iran dispels with pretenses to “friendship,” and refuses to toe empire’s line. It remains to be` seen how far that strategy will take Ahmedinejad.

History repeats itself.