The Firm Fragility of A Life Well Lived

In the end when all is said and done, life is fragile, isn’t it?

As our eyesight fades and our memory meanders into meaninglessness, do you sometimes wonder what is the point in it all?

Why do we toil and fight and rise and fall day after day after day?

Why do we resist entropy? Why do we resist death?

Perhaps it is no surprise that the thought of death rises so swiftly to the forefront of our minds as of late. After all, we are nearing the second Christmas of a global pandemic, a post-apocalyptic optimistic new normal that should go down nicely in our history books, just like the Spanish Flu did. Wait, did they teach that in our history books?

I thought not. Like many random and meaningless events, it too will be lost in our global memory, swept under the floorboards like a bad dream that left a sour taste in the mouth. Or a lack of taste, I should say.

However, in spite of this constant threat of death, these thoughts of doom and gloom were not Covid inspired. To be fair, when is there not a constant looming threat of death?

In an eerie series of events in the past weeks, the reaper has reared its rickety head and presented itself at my neighbours’ doors on many occasions, until I cannot but heed its steady rapping and tapping.

It began with a mysterious disappearance. My significant other’s relative decided he would take a drive out to the salty coast of Negeri Sembilan to get some sea breeze, and ended up abandoning his car in the dunes of Port Dickson, never to be heard or seen. Despite a somewhat unstable past (don’t worry, no horses were hurt), it seemed a bit out of character to be a disappearing act for this boy. I like to imagine he was inspired by the film Into The Wild, where the protagonist valiantly and somewhat recklessly abandons his life and cuts off all contact with his past to experience the natural world to its fullest, to return to nature on his own terms.

Spoilers aside, it did not end well for a number of characters in the surrounding subplots recently. Our cat was found cold and curled up in an old shirt; several colleagues lost their loved ones; my significant other lost her grandmother. And there I was binge watching Sean Lock standup videos.

Spoiler: RIP to the legendary Sean Lock, said every single top comment of every single video.

I watched Dune (the latest one), and despite the stunning visuals, poignant acting and compelling plot (I’ve read the novel and have always loved it, and they did it more justice than I could ever put down in words), I couldn’t help but be saddened by the immense loss of life, albeit highly dramatised fictional loss.

Spoiler: some characters may not be returning for Part Two.

Extra spoiler: yes there is at least one sequel.

To avoid more spoilers, just go read the darn book. It’s a bit of a slow start, but once you get used to all the gibberish words (Mr. Herbert enjoyed crafting his own vernacular) it’s quite the ride!

It amazes me that it took decades and decades of special effects and computer graphics and visual bumfuckery to finally be able to achieve what this mastermind of imagination concocted back in the 60’s. It took the glorious mind of Mr. Villeneuve (I had to Google how to spell that) and Hans Zimmer and a ridiculous boatload of A-list actors to craft an epic science fiction masterpiece that could live up to the opus dei that is Frank Herbert’s Dune.

I was rather miffed that they gave away the sandworm riding so early on, because that was a major mindblowing moment for me in the novel, and in the film they almost casually toss it in, like some dude just randomly surfing the sand seas.

Wait until you find out where melange comes from.

Now that I think about it, they never once use the term melange in the movie…

Also the tone of the film is a little different from the novel, with the focus being drawn heavily to the local indigenous population of the battle-scarred planet of Arrakis. The novel focuses primarily on Paul of the house Atreides and his compatriots, while this film almost hijacks it by portraying a lot of it through Chani and sparkly dream sequences.

Anyway, this has somehow become a movie review. My point was that the film portrays loss and death very viscerally and directly and it does not shy away from the rather unsightly nature of the whole affair. Although not as graphic as Game of Thrones and its modern fantasy ilk, Dune is certainly a violent writhing mass of slaughter and…game of thrones, with great houses and factions vying for control of the known universe through the control of resources that come from this parched planet of pulverised spice.

So yes, you could say that death is at the forefront of my mind.

However, while it is something I contemplate greatly at times, it is not something I would consider myself partaking of, at least not prematurely.

I doubt I will go by my own hand.

Is that something I should be contemplating?

I see death somewhat romantically, cheesy even.

I see death as a celebration, as a brief flicker of a bright flame on a stodgy little birthday candle. Out, out brief candle as a lord once exclaimed.

For there to be death, there must first have been life. And so death is a celebration that there once was life, that there once was some degree of activity and vibrancy, a spark of joy and lust and growth and sadness.

All our lives we battle against the forces of nature and physics, defy gravity and entropy and the elements. We rise slowly and quickly and raise our fists to the sky and each other. And at the end we lay back down to rest, yielding to gravity and decay and the laws of the world, giving back what we have taken, gifting life to others.

Spoiler: in the end, it gets us all.

So the question is: what are you going to do about it?

For starters, go check out Dune if you haven’t already.

Life is so very fragile, isn’t it?

A Review of an Ageless Boy Named Adrian Mole

Up until recently I had not heard of this sullen, dry-witted boy named Adrian Mole. He’s not as charismatic or action-packed as other protagonists his age, but Adrian certainly makes up for it in wryness.

It seems like every book is a number one bestseller at some point in time.

So it seems like every book is a number one bestseller at some point in time. And apparently this sequel is no stranger to the spotlight.

Alas, I had not heard of Mr. Mole until his four installment was plonked into my hands by a local admirer of his. Can’t say I feel like I’m missing out on all that much, really. That said, Mr. Mole’s inner thoughts and secret desires are an entertaining read all the same.

This is a teenage book like no other – no sweeping romance or arduous adventure of discovery and life and death. Now that I think about it, does Adrian even make any progress in terms of self-discovery?

Adrian is a boy, a typical coming-of-age boy on the cusp of manhood (or whatever the limbo phase is called after the horrible things called puberty and college take place). A boy finding his way in a bizarre changing world, changing on so many levels, from his relationships to his relatives’ relationships to his countrymen and whirlwind of events that encapsulates them all.

And through it all, Adrian’s stalwart spirit of apathy remains.

Adrian is nothing if not relatable – his story of perceived lower class hardship and mundane working class upbringing is a tune many will sing, albeit with slightly less exciting and embarrassing antics. I mean Adrian’s, not yours.

Surprisingly one should not expect major twists and turns in the book, no wildly embarrassing moments or cathartic revelations.

Adrian Mole: The Wilderness Years is a story of a boy wandering through life, trying to find his calling, his dream, and surviving in the meantime. His mind is set on becoming an author, and while his efforts are valiant, they are overpowered by his overwhelming sense of self-delusion.

Is he wrong for trying? Should he be mocked and embarrassed for pursuing what he deems to be his passion in life?

Sure, his methods may be highly humourous and misguided, but I for one applaud his actions and efforts, a creator after my own heart.

I found myself drawing parallels with Adrian’s experiences, strangely coincidental with events in my own life. Perhaps that is the power and the appeal of Mr. Mole – instead of otherworldly occurrences and supernatural savoir-faire, Adrian’s struggles are so very human.

No matter your age and stage in life, you’ve likely gone through or are experiencing something similar to Adrian. Crushing on the opposite gender, secretly judging and making fun of more successful folk, being disillusioned at a world that doesn’t care about one’s existence.

Or maybe it’s just me.

Anyway, since you totally did not ask for it, here is a timeline of all the Adrian Mole books!

And voila! Here is the book cover devoid of vandalism.

Right, now on to another book that doesn’t revolve around the annoying inner musings of a dry-witted young man.

Tenet Review: The Spy Who Screwed with Time

It’s spy time! Don’t worry, no spoilers here.

Pacing is light speed, as is the dialogue, so subtitles don’t hurt but you do run the risk of missing all those delicious hidden Nolan nuggets interspersed throughout the film.

That and losing the plot amidst all the mad spy-fi action.

Yes, spy-fi is a genre now.

My advice for those watching it the first time is to take the advice given by the chick in the lab coat at the start of the film: “don’t think too much about it.”

At least not about the pseudo-science part. Do try to follow the characters and the flow of events throughout the film. If you can do that, then you should have a reasonably satisfactory experience. I suppose that applies to…most movies.

I must say Mr. Nolan has a knack for blending and balancing human emotion, sweet cinematography, fast paced action and wacky science and effects into his works. If you thought Inception and Interstellar were out there…then, well, Tenet isn’t that far off.

Set in what appears to be present times (or maybe not too long ago), Tenet is the name of a secret organisation that is tasked with preventing global catastrophe. Of course it would be typical of a spy film to have “save-the-world” stakes. Because of course it only takes one man or a team to save the world. Human power! Or hubris. But I digress.

And we are thrown right into the fray, from the second you step into the theatre to the credit roll, things just keep flying. Like you know that saying about having fun?

So yes, as you may already be aware, Tenet is all about time, and the wacky things you can do with a solid grasp of good time management. Also, there’s the Sator Square.

The Sator Square is an intriguing reference – if you’ve seen the film but never heard of the Sator Square, this might set off some light bulbs. Here it is below, for those of you who haven’t seen it yet:

S A T O R
A R E P O
T E N E T
O P E R A
R O T A S

Apart from the obvious name references in the film, the Sator Square is also a multi-directional palindrome, meaning it reads the same backwards and forwards and up and down. And at the centre of the square is tenet. You can see where Nolan got his inspiration from.

The Sator Square is an interesting bit of culture itself – it is a recurring motif in ancient history, from Pompeii to Italy to Syria. The meaning behind it is still something of a mystery, although it appears to have religious links.

That said, the Sator Square isn’t really that central to the film – it’s just a cool reference and the namesake, and perhaps an indicator that there will be some backwards and forwards business going on. But that’s about it. So…you’re welcome?

I must say Mr. Pattinson’s performance is truly top notch, as is Mr. Branagh’s. Of course we mustn’t forget the protagonist – an all round solid performance.

The protagonist does feel a little one-dimensional though, as his motives are never entirely elucidated. Is he just doing his job? Saving the world from an unseen and unknown threat? Does he actually like the lady? Or maybe he’s addicted to time travel?

So many questions, but not nearly as many as you’ll have when they start firing names, places, acronyms, code words, quips left right and centre. The characters are all clearly cleverer (that words somehow doesn’t sound right in my head) than all of us because they all seem to be able to keep up with the crazy shenanigans that go on in all the timelines and subplots of the film. But of course they do, they’re in the film!

No, that’s not what I mean. I mean if you were in their position in the movie, I imagine you’d have a tough time trying to figure out who is what and what to say to who when where. But then again, I imagine that’s what being in a real life spy campaign is like.

Also, long distance radio connection from an underground facility that is quite possibly still heavily radioactive? Hellooooo? I guess the film is actually set in the distant future when they can actually get a semi-stable halfway-decent internet connection.

The soundtrack is a little otherworldly, and I wonder what it would sound like played backwards. Might scream for Sator or Arepo or some deity’s name. I heard complaints about it being a little loud and overpowering the dialogue, but I felt the volume levels were reasonably well tuned. If anything the visuals in the action scenes were harder to follow, what with things happening in strange sequences and lots of little details thrown around.

Overall a clever film that makes you think (forces, I daresay) with enough action and drama to keep you on the edge of your seat even if you forget about all the sciencey physics defying stunts they pull.

But if you like to think things through and make sense of it all, then this film is definitely for you. I daresay they could turn it into a series, like Dark. And no, I’m not saying that because the main character is of a certain ethnicity.

And at the end of it all, I realised I don’t even know the bloody fool’s name. They forgot to name their protagonist.

Sam Marks Books – If Cats Disappeared From The World Review

Sam Marks Books (but not with an actual pen)

Then I realized what I needed to do in the time left to me. I needed to write you a letter. I needed to write about all the things I’d never told you these past years.

Another quaint little book, another book with a picture of a cat on the cover.

Perhaps this is a trend of mine, although I fear I may run out of relevant material all too soon, short of reading children’s books and lolcats albums.

That makes me think of another trend – the growing pet trend, at least in many parts of Asia. Especially exotic pets.

Is an increase in pet ownership a sign that a community is maturing or growing in wealth? Or quite the opposite? Pets present a lot less complications than human offspring, and maybe cost a little less (even if just from a shelf life comparison). Also pets appear to be less problematic, less anxiety and stress inducing, a modern solution to a modern problem – companionship and loneliness in the 21st century.

As Homer put simply: “The sooner kids talk, the sooner they talk back.”

Therein lies part of the beauty of pets, I suppose. As much as we draw comics and write books and make movies about talking animals, I’m fairly certain if they could it would ruin it for a lot of us. Unless all they did was baby talk all day long. That would definitely ruin it for some of us.

If Cats Disappeared From The World is an intriguing book, to say the least. It is actually not all about cats disappearing from existence, not a methodical what-if breakdown of the break down of ecosystems and world orders should the feline family one day fly off the face of the earth.

This quaint little novel is about relationships – not just relations between humans and animals, but also between humans and everyday objects and the meaning we derive from abstract concepts and our own mortality.

The book follows a young male protagonist who works as a postman, with no great aspirations and no major achievements and no latent superpowers stashed away in his bloodline that only activates when the moon is full. He lives alone and owns a cat. Keeps to himself for the most part. As common a person as can be. Highly relatable, I’m sure.

And the protagonist finds out he only has an extremely short time left to live.

Don’t worry, that isn’t a spoiler – it’s in the introduction.

If you were in the protagonist’s shoes, what would you do?

Write up a bucket list? Make amends with all those you felt you’ve wronged? Party like there is literally no tomorrow?

Well, what if there was a way you could extend your life?

But of course, there is a cost.

What would you sacrifice in order to extend your own life?

In a humourous and mostly light-hearted journey of discovery and enlightenment, the protagonist (it’s not that I don’t remember your name, bruh, but you were narrating in the first person the whole time) rekindles old passions and explores old places and memories from his rather limited sphere of influence and truncated lifespan.

And I mean limited. Let’s go through the cast, shall we?

  1. His imaginary friend, Aloha
  2. His cat, Cabbage
    Oh boy, we’re off to a superb start!
  3. His ex-girlfriend
  4. His somewhat less imaginary friend, Tsutaya
  5. His parents

This is also in order of interaction levels. And his parents only appear in flashbacks, so technically zero interaction there.

Yes, that’s right – the protagonist is a postman with a powerful pseudo-pal and a pet and not much else. He’s pretty much Nobita with a more useless version of Doraemon, in other words an actual cat with no pockets. It would be easy to pity him.

Nobita and Hiron : Welcome to the Cat Kingdom by ...
Yes…let’s not talk, shall we?

He is Walter Mitty but without any rad skateboarding skills or a remotely interesting vocation (you have to admit Mr. Mitty actually had a really unique job). Mind you, I’m not saying being a postman is dull or useless, but this character shows no passion for anything he does. It’s more than mildly frustrating.

And yet somehow the thoughts and memories that his brief journey manages to evoke hit close to home. As unrelatable of a character as he is, his awakening and his experiences upon learning he has little time to live draw out a rich tapestry of emotions and primal yearning that you can’t help but feel that tug, that little tug inside.

He unearths old hobbies and old flames (well, I use plural but they’re all singular) – he visits an old friend and his ex. Yes, he voluntarily goes to meet her in person. That’s always a roller coaster ride. Brave move though.

Brave as it may be, his interactions with fellow human beings end up being rather awkward and ungainly. He talks more naturally with his vanishing friend Aloha and of course his trusty pet cat, Cabbage. An amazing pet name, I might add. Their previous cat was named Lettuce.

And despite that, by the end of it all, you end up feeling a sense of camaraderie and admiration for the protagonist for the courageous decisions and choices he has made in the face of his frailty and impending demise.

If a book can provoke deep, meaningful thoughts, then I’d say it’s a profound book. If a book can make you feel real feelings, then I’d say it’s a well written book. If it can do both, then I’d say it’s a pretty darn decent book.

If Cats Disappeared From The World does both those things, and a little more. Although it may be somewhat soppy or a little preachy at times, there doesn’t appear to be too much lost in translation. My hat goes off to whoever translated this little chronicle – the wry humour still shines through.

It’s not a romance novel, but it’s a love story.

A story of love between a boy and the diminutive one-dimensional world that he lives in. A story of time squandered, communication breakdowns, and of love lost. Love for things both big and small, but mostly small. Still, love strong enough to sacrifice for.

So I guess in the end, it doesn’t matter how far or wide or deeply you loved. It doesn’t matter if you loved and lost, or got lost in love, or if your life is full of regrets. As long as you know that you loved and were loved in return, you have something special – a connection with another living being.

Knowing that you have experienced love and are capable of loving – that makes it worth all the while. And if you still have time left, while you still have breath, keep on loving.

As you go on with your life, always remember the things that are good in you. They’re your gifts. As long as you have these things, you’ll find happiness, and you’ll make the people around you happy…I hope you always keep hold of these things that are so beautiful about you.

Sam Marks Books is a book review and merely expresses the opinions of the author. It does not lay claim to any intellectual property of If Cats Disappeared From The World. All rights of the novel belong to the author.

Ok thanks bye.

If Cats Disappeared From The World

Then I realized what I needed to do in the time left to me. I needed to write you a letter. I needed to write about all the things I’d never told you these past years.

Another quaint little book, another book with a picture of a cat on the cover.

If Cats Disappeared From The World – Review – Bright Star ...

Perhaps this is a trend of mine, although I fear I may run out of relevant material all too soon, short of reading children’s books and lolcats albums.

That makes me think of another trend – the growing pet trend, at least in many parts of Asia. Especially exotic pets.

Is an increase in pet ownership a sign that a community is maturing or growing in wealth? Or quite the opposite? Pets present a lot less complications than human offspring, and maybe cost a little less (even if just from a shelf life comparison). Also pets appear to be less problematic, less anxiety and stress inducing, a modern solution to a modern problem – companionship and loneliness in the 21st century.

As Homer put simply: “The sooner kids talk, the sooner they talk back.”

Therein lies part of the beauty of pets, I suppose. As much as we draw comics and write books and make movies about talking animals, I’m fairly certain if they could it would ruin it for a lot of us. Unless all they did was baby talk all day long. That would definitely ruin it for some of us.

If Cats Disappeared From The World is an intriguing book, to say the least. It is actually not all about cats disappearing from existence, not a methodical what-if breakdown of the break down of ecosystems and world orders should the feline family one day fly off the face of the earth.

This quaint little novel is about relationships – not just relations between humans and animals, but also between humans and everyday objects and the meaning we derive from abstract concepts and our own mortality.

The book follows a young male protagonist who works as a postman, with no great aspirations and no major achievements and no latent superpowers stashed away in his bloodline that only activates when the moon is full. He lives alone and owns a cat. Keeps to himself for the most part. As common a person as can be. Highly relatable, I’m sure.

And the protagonist finds out he only has an extremely short time left to live.

Don’t worry, that isn’t a spoiler – it’s in the introduction.

If you were in the protagonist’s shoes, what would you do?

Write up a bucket list? Make amends with all those you felt you’ve wronged? Party like there is literally no tomorrow?

Well, what if there was a way you could extend your life?

But of course, there is a cost.

What would you sacrifice in order to extend your own life?

In a humourous and mostly light-hearted journey of discovery and enlightenment, the protagonist (it’s not that I don’t remember your name, bruh, but you were narrating in the first person the whole time) rekindles old passions and explores old places and memories from his rather limited sphere of influence and truncated lifespan.

And I mean limited. Let’s go through the cast, shall we?

  1. His imaginary friend, Aloha
  2. His cat, Cabbage
    Oh boy, we’re off to a superb start!
  3. His ex-girlfriend
  4. His somewhat less imaginary friend, Tsutaya
  5. His parents

This is also in order of interaction levels. And his parents only appear in flashbacks, so technically zero interaction there.

Yes, that’s right – the protagonist is a postman with a powerful pseudo-pal and a pet and not much else. He’s pretty much Nobita with a more useless version of Doraemon, in other words an actual cat with no pockets. It would be easy to pity him.

Nobita and Hiron : Welcome to the Cat Kingdom by ...
Yes…let’s not talk, shall we?

He is Walter Mitty but without any rad skateboarding skills or a remotely interesting vocation (you have to admit Mr. Mitty actually had a really unique job). Mind you, I’m not saying being a postman is dull or useless, but this character shows no passion for anything he does. It’s more than mildly frustrating.

And yet somehow the thoughts and memories that his brief journey manages to evoke hit close to home. As unrelatable of a character as he is, his awakening and his experiences upon learning he has little time to live draw out a rich tapestry of emotions and primal yearning that you can’t help but feel that tug, that little tug inside.

He unearths old hobbies and old flames (well, I use plural but they’re all singular) – he visits an old friend and his ex. Yes, he voluntarily goes to meet her in person. That’s always a roller coaster ride. Brave move though.

Brave as it may be, his interactions with fellow human beings end up being rather awkward and ungainly. He talks more naturally with his vanishing friend Aloha and of course his trusty pet cat, Cabbage. An amazing pet name, I might add. Their previous cat was named Lettuce.

And despite that, by the end of it all, you end up feeling a sense of camaraderie and admiration for the protagonist for the courageous decisions and choices he has made in the face of his frailty and impending demise.

If a book can provoke deep, meaningful thoughts, then I’d say it’s a profound book. If a book can make you feel real feelings, then I’d say it’s a well written book. If it can do both, then I’d say it’s a pretty darn decent book.

If Cats Disappeared From The World does both those things, and a little more. Although it may be somewhat soppy or a little preachy at times, there doesn’t appear to be too much lost in translation. My hat goes off to whoever translated this little chronicle – the wry humour still shines through.

It’s not a romance novel, but it’s a love story.

A story of love between a boy and the diminutive one-dimensional world that he lives in. A story of time squandered, communication breakdowns, and of love lost. Love for things both big and small, but mostly small. Still, love strong enough to sacrifice for.

So I guess in the end, it doesn’t matter how far or wide or deeply you loved. It doesn’t matter if you loved and lost, or got lost in love, or if your life is full of regrets. As long as you know that you loved and were loved in return, you have something special – a connection with another living being.

Knowing that you have experienced love and are capable of loving – that makes it worth all the while. And if you still have time left, while you still have breath, keep on loving.

As you go on with your life, always remember the things that are good in you. They’re your gifts. As long as you have these things, you’ll find happiness, and you’ll make the people around you happy…I hope you always keep hold of these things that are so beautiful about you.

All This Because of a Cat: A Book Review

The Travelling Cat Chronicles | Shopee Malaysia

It’s been a while since I read a book from cover to cover, and I have to admit this one kept me hooked to the pages, always wanting more, even at the very end.

Considering that it is but a simple tale of an equanimous and plucky puss with his master, you would scoff at how riveted I was to this story. I must confess everything about this book resonated deeply with me, being a cat lover myself. Yes, I said it – I’m an ailurophile.

It’s not that I dislike dogs and other popular pet animals; it’s just that cats and me, we just tend to be on the same wavelength. Oh, and cats are simply super adorable, so that helps.

But back to the book at hand.

When I use the word simple, I mean it in the purest and most literal sense – the translated writing is an unassuming, uncomplicated prose that draws the reader in and takes us on a road trip through a magical land.

Except there is no magic involved, at least not the high fantasy, otherworldly and vividly colourful type magic. But the story definitely binds you with a spell.

In gentle words and soft treads belonging to a cat lover, Ms. Arikawa navigates the idyllic cities and countrysides of Japan through the eyes of the protagonist – a stray cat named Nana.

Yes, you read that correctly. The cat is a male. Named Nana. Yes, like what you would call your granny. Maybe you should go call her now, it’s been a while.

The Travelling Cat Chronicles starts off like any other romance novel – cat meets boy, boy likes cat, love ensues, and they lived happily ever after, dancing away into the sunset. Don’t worry, no spoiler alert necessary, I’m being a little facetious here in case you didn’t notice. But I’m not pulling your leg when I say this is a love story. A simple love story between a cat and a man, and their travels around the world.

The calm pace of the story, the tranquil descriptions of the world they occupy, the interaction of humans and pets and nature – and there is hint of something more. Surely there must be something underneath it all?

I must say though, Nana’s owner, Mr. Satoru, is clearly one of those guys that only exist in fiction, those too-good-to-be-true, heart-of-pure-gold type characters. Calm and conscientious, providing pure, unadulterated love and care for his one and only cat. Sure, he does show hint of a tiny flaw here and there, but really the truly relatable character is the cat.

And I must say, the author really pinned a cat’s thoughts and behaviour down to a hair! Everything Nana says (or at least thinks or expresses in cat language) and does is precisely something an actual cat would do, with motives not altogether far-fetched from an actual feisty feline.

Nana is the entertainer, the comic relief, the one who says what he thinks and does what he wants. The snake, the charmer, the genie – all in one. His wish is his command.

Now although I use words like ‘simple’ and ‘tranquil’ and ‘discombobulate’, this story is by no means without heart and emotion. All the characters are grounded and face real-world problems with believable backstories. All have suffered in some way, such that it would be impossible for readers not to relate to the characters on some level. And when you think everything is hunky-dory, the peaceful plot bats you off the ledge with a left hook you thought you saw coming but it’s too late you’re sobbing through your black eye and now you realise you want a cat so bad.

I’m kidding – it’s certainly not a heavy book, no War and Peace, no Grapes of Wrath, and definitely no crying involved. At least not by the reader.

All this because of a cat.

To say I was deeply touched by this book would be like saying Disney made some nice cartoons. I went into it thinking it would be a mildly droll tale, and then bam! Curiosity killed the cat. Not literally, of course. No animals, fictional or otherwise, were harmed in the making of this review. And the original story. I think. Oh wait, there was that accident.

This book didn’t just make me reminisce my cat or dream about travelling to Japan, it made me marvel at how our sweetest little companions can bring people together, can make worlds collide or come crashing down, and how sad it would be for someone to have never known the pure, unconditional love that an animal can give.

I daresay this love story could rival any of those top romance dramas out there, as the love a human has for their pet can rival and outshine the love one feels for another human being.

Perhaps I’m being melodramatic, or perhaps you simply haven’t known the true extent and depth with which a human can love and bond and care for his or her soul animal, loyal companion and unwavering friend, and how said animal can return that love.

But animals cannot possibly fathom the depth or intricacies of love that we humans experience, you might say.

I know not what deep or profound love it is you speak of, except that of two souls travelling together through life in harmony, caring for each other despite their differences. A simple bond, a simple love. What more do you want? What more do you need?

Cats recite the poetry of nature, dogs sing the songs of the earth and sky, and do I sound like furry now or what?

You know, I’ve never been certain what this whole furry movement is about, but I damn sure ain’t talking about that kind of animal love, mmkay?

All this because of a cat.

Anyway, kudos if you got this far. My review has almost turned into a bit of tale itself. If you like pets and animals, go read the book. If you don’t, then…go read the book and you might find you’re missing out on something.

Those eyes.

BM Charity Ride IV Event Review

BM Charity Ride Penang Howei Cycling

In the stalwart stadium of MPSP in Bukit Mertajam, hundreds of riders gathered to take on the BM Charity Ride version 4.0 at the crack of dawn. BM Charity Ride Penang Howei Cycling BM Charity Ride Penang Howei Cycling BM Charity Ride Penang Howei Cycling BM Charity Ride Penang Howei Cycling

The stadium is always a popular spot for events in Bukit Mertajam. It’s a popular venue with the regular runners in the area, and there’s an Olympic sized swimming pool around the back. There’s also plenty of parking in the vicinity!

BM Charity Ride Penang Howei Cycling

Uh…no, this isn’t the swimming pool.

BM Charity Ride Penang Howei Cycling

The actual parking lot of the stadium is always converted into an exhibition and staging zone, with canopies, chairs and food trucks lining the boulevards.

BM Charity Ride Penang Howei CyclingBM Charity Ride Penang Howei Cycling

The BM Charity Ride is one of the only cycling events in Malaysia that I know that gives long sleeved bike jerseys with a zippered pocket on the back.

But I digress. The ride itself was well coordinated – the major junctions were well guarded, although the overall police force was still a little thin.

BM Charity Ride Penang Howei Cycling BM Charity Ride Penang Howei Cycling BM Charity Ride Penang Howei Cycling

The police worked very closely with the traffic marshalls to keep riders in line. There was a lot of whistling. At least I assumed it was from the marshalls.

BM Charity Ride Penang Howei Cycling BM Charity Ride Penang Howei Cycling

There was sufficient signage, pointing out directions for riders as well as a few warning signs of impending doom.

There were a few fun climbs of significant elevation, but fortunately the climbs were short-lived and were mostly rolling hills, providing quick relief to fatigued riders.

BM Charity Ride Penang Howei Cycling BM Charity Ride Penang Howei Cycling

The midway water station was very well manned and stocked, with plenty of bananas and bottled water to go round twice!

BM Charity Ride Penang Howei Cycling BM Charity Ride Penang Howei Cycling BM Charity Ride Penang Howei Cycling BM Charity Ride Penang Howei Cycling

Riders were well taken care of, not just by the volunteers handing out goodies, but by the overwhelming number of media personnel – there were photographers and videographers and drones coming out our ears!

Pretty sure there were at least three DJI drones hovering at the starting point.

BM Charity Ride Penang Howei Cycling

The route was quite pleasant, with a good view of the hills and palm plantations around BM.

BM Charity Ride Penang Howei CyclingBM Charity Ride Penang Howei Cycling

It also took us through the old town of BM, ending up with a nice loop of 48 kilometres.

BM Charity Ride Penang Howei Cycling
Very colour coordinated marshall

BM Charity Ride Penang Howei Cycling

After the ride, there was lots of activities to keep participants occupied. Of course, the ever important food and drink!

BM Charity Ride Penang Howei Cycling BM Charity Ride Penang Howei Cycling

It got hot fast today, so a lot of riders left without much ado. However, the ones that stayed got to try out e-bikes and sample tea and ice cream.

Also, there were lots of goodies for all the school children from the many (over 13) schools in the local region that the BM Charity Ride made contributions to. Always heart warming to see such support for our local schools. Or maybe it was just the heat from the scorching tropical morning sun.

BM Charity Ride Penang Howei Cycling

Overall, a nicely organised ride with emphasis on safety and being family friendly. The speeches were short, the riders were rambunctious, the weather was wonderful. The downside is the pockets on the jerseys weren’t fully attached to the jerseys, resulting in many droopy pouches popping out people’s backs.

Tour de SPS 2018 Event Review

Tour de SPS Cycling Police Ride Penang

The Tour de SPS ride by the Polis Diraja Malaysia (PDRM) concluded this 28th of October 2018, so here’s the event review!

Flag off was at 7:30am, and it was pretty punctual. Riders were funneled around the main police department building (IPD SPS), and the road around the block was a two-lane street, but it felt like a single.

Tour de SPS Cycling Police Ride Penang

Tour de SPS Cycling Police Ride Penang Tour de SPS Cycling Police Ride Penang

Weather was top notch, with hardly any sun and a strong cloud cover. Nice and cool almost the entire ride, with a light breeze to waft our spirits.

Tour de SPS Cycling Police Ride Penang Tour de SPS Cycling Police Ride Penang

The route was largely flat, with brief elevations over bridges. There were a couple of steep climbs towards the end of the ride, but apart from that they stuck very much to their 56km intended route.

Tour de SPS Cycling Police Ride Penang Tour de SPS Cycling Police Ride Penang Tour de SPS Cycling Police Ride Penang

There were two major checkpoints and water stations, with bananas and apples to supplement the water and 100Plus. Bananas depleted quickly at the first water station, but there was still plenty of stuff to go around.

Tour de SPS Cycling Police Ride Penang

Tour de SPS Cycling Police Ride Penang

Traffic control and marshall support was superb, with two officers at every major junction. To be fair, this event was run by the police, so you would expect them to hold nothing back.

Tour de SPS Cycling Police Ride Penang

Tour de SPS Cycling Police Ride Penang Tour de SPS Cycling Police Ride Penang

The ride was open to all ages, and it was encouraging to see a large influx of junior and female riders.

Tour de SPS Cycling Police Ride Penang Tour de SPS Cycling Police Ride Penang Tour de SPS Cycling Police Ride Penang

Insert random artsy bike shot:

Tour de SPS Cycling Police Ride Penang Tour de SPS Cycling Police Ride Penang

Alright, that’s enough bike photos. Back to the Tour de SPS!

Tour de SPS Cycling Police Ride Penang Tour de SPS Cycling Police Ride Penang

The route took us through many nice forested areas and green paddy fields, over quiet mountains and around the Nibong Tebal rural district. A pleasant route with decent road conditions.

Tour de SPS Cycling Police Ride Penang

And for the post-event, there was a medal and solid food:

Tour de SPS Cycling Police Ride Penang

It was a little spicy, but rice and chicken! Usually would just expect some pickled veggies, or bread.

Tour de SPS Cycling Police Ride Penang

There were over a hundred lucky draw prizes, from hampers to bike helmets to a motorbike!

Tour de SPS Cycling Police Ride Penang

Perhaps one thing to do might be to put up some bike parking, as the entire courtyard became a bike dozing zone.

Tour de SPS Cycling Police Ride Penang

There was a Milo truck handing out drinks, as well as ample water and 100Plus. There was a truckload of bananas and bread to boot.

Tour de SPS Cycling Police Ride Penang Tour de SPS Cycling Police Ride Penang Tour de SPS Cycling Police Ride Penang Tour de SPS Cycling Police Ride Penang

The lucky draw went by very quickly (largely due to the overcast skies and threat of rain) and was most efficient! The emcee did a great job keeping everyone entertained, and the general feeling was that was satisfaction.

Overall, a great ride event that kept participants around until the end of the event, which is relatively rare for cycling events these days. Safety and support were of a high standard, and everything worked out smoothly.

Keep up the good work, PDRM! Look forward to the Penang Bridge Night Ride (even though it starts in the middle of the night).

Blade Runner 2049 Wildest Review Ever

blade runner 2049 harrison ford

Blade Runner 2049 Review Time

I hope you enjoyed the movie, because everybody dies!

Oh wait…was I supposed to say spoilers alert first?

I’m just messing with you – they’re Replicants; they never die. They just…retire.

Now it just occurred to me that a large part of the premise of Rockman X (Megaman X, for those reading at home) is very much based on the concepts from the Blade Runner universe.

Let’s run through some similarities (glaring as they may be), shall we?

blade runner maverick hunter
They’re like, totally identical, man!

It’s make-a-list time!

So Blade Runner and Megaman X are similar in that they:

  • Both have lots of guns. Pew pew! (Egads! The violence!)
  • Are set in dystopian futures (and not too distant, mind you)
  • Both involve artificial humanoids or very closely human-like robots – Blade Runner calls their artificial humanoids Replicants, Megaman calls them Reploids. Both are capable of human thought and emotion; both are stronger in most physical regards compared to weak, fragile humans
  • Both have stories centred around those who seek out and destroy rogue Replicants and/or Reploids
  • Both involve lots of flying and jumping around in futuristic craft
    Megaman X Ride Chaser Speeder
  • Both have mad geniuses that engineer countless artificial beings and then sic them on each other
  • Both have amazing futuristic visuals and graphics
    Megaman X City Waste
  • Both have protagonists that have yet to be subjected to a Turing or Voight-Kampff test
  • Both have nerdy fanboy followings (and surprising mainstream ones too)

Well, that list kind of fizzled, but you see my point.

Wait, what point?

The point that I played nerdy computer games! Ya happy?

On To The Review

Now that I got that out of the way, Blade Runner 2049 is a strikingly vivid cinematographic orgasm of moist grim dark.

It’s literally raining all the time, and although I didn’t see any flaming smokestacks this time, it has that same dirty, polluted, overcrowded vibe with gaudy neon banners getting all in your face.

Ryan Gosling plays a sullen, straight-shooting, soft-spoken Blade Runner that suits his style of acting. I mean, for crying out loud – I’m sure the guy has range, so why do you keep giving him these roles!? And why do you keep taking them, Ryan? Why?

It’s like I’m watching Drive all over again.

Long pans of cityscape; cruising in sleek rides all over town; sudden outbursts of action and gratuitous violence (but also quite gratifying).

Hey, let’s make a list to comp-ok fine, let’s not.

Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy watching an expressionless robot speed around with acid rain streaking horizontally across the glass, and get mind raped a few times over. But replicants are supposed to have some proper emotion, man!

The dude didn’t even cry when that really, really sad thing happened!

He just sat there and stared.

It’s like I’m watching Drive all over again.

Whining aside, I honestly did enjoy this installment of the Blade Runner franchise and I agree it did justice to the original.

Some people may have found it rather draggy and slow, but I felt the pacing was in a way homage to the classic style of movies. It also gives good breathing room to the audience in between all that story and action.

And all the settings have such character!

blade-runner-wallace-corp-indoor-setting

Very artfully done locations and picturesque places, albeit intentionally stale and depressing.

blade-runner-wallace-corp-indoor-setting

And the music! Oh, Hans Zimmer I knew thy touch upon each dissonant shred of thine unique brand of high. The music is simply mesmerising and combines so well with many of the quieter moments in the film.

All in all, Blade Runner 2049 is one of those movies where you should not go in expecting to see a whole lot of whiz bang action and nonstop firefights. It’s one of those films where the people that made it want you as the viewer to appreciate this magical, futuristic universe that they’ve concocted; to bask and linger in the strange yet uncannily familiar sights and sounds.

All you need to do and stay awhile and listen.

Does it hold up to the original? Only time will tell.

But it’s definitely worth the watch (but be warned it’s almost 3 hours long).

 

The Best Board Game Shop in Penang

Best Board Game Shop RNG Games Penang SamShee
Welcome to the biggest and best board game shop in Penang – RNG Games! Best Board Game Shop Penang SamShee Best Board Game Shop Penang SamShee

Nestled among classy eateries and health clinics at Vantage, that commercial area out of the front of Straits Quay, RNG Games is a roomy and casual hobby store that caters to a wide variety of gamers and enthusiasts.

There is no admission fee, and you can come in and play for FREE! How cool is that?

RNG Games has an expansive collection of the latest board games, card games and collectibles. There are lots of board games that are open and available for anyone to pick up and play.

Magic: The Gathering is also supported here, and it’s a common sight to see MTG players duking it out on the long tables.

Best Board Game Shop RNG Games Penang SamShee
There’s food and drink in case you get peckish

Best Board Game Shop RNG Games Penang SamShee

Best Board Game Shop RNG Games Penang SamShee
Did I mention they have board games?

Best Board Game Shop RNG Games Penang SamShee
Of course the little ones can join in the fun!

Best Board Game Shop Penang SamShee

Best Board Game Shop RNG Games Penang SamShee
Let your figurines come to life!

And down the back you have a quieter, more well-equipped area for figurine enthusiasts to work on their models and miniatures.

So in short (bit late for that, perhaps), this is one of the most well-equipped and designed board game shops in Penang, with a roomy and relaxing environment and fun for the whole family!

Of course it also helps to be one of the only board game shops left in Penang. Actually, I can’t think of another one off the top of my head, so I guess it really is best!