Sunday, August 26, 2007


shooglenifty 1, originally uploaded by Wahj.

A few days ago I didn't even know who Shooglenifty were. I kept trying to find out what the name of the band was in between songs at WOMAD, but that was hopeless - it was either loud music or loud cheering, so all I heard was "sugarnifty", "sugartweety", "sugalsweety" etc. I had to buy the CD to find out the spelling. When some friends asked us to join them on the top of the hill for Shooglenifty's set, the gist of the description was "Come see them, they're crazy Scotsmen", and that seemed good enough.

Anyway, this shot was taken over the heads of the crowd: that would be Angus Grant, the fiddler, stretching his hands out to the adoring crowd. It really was a good, high energy, performance: I wanted to sit through it but that was impossible since everyone else was on their feet and jumping.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

WOMAD 2007

WOMAD Lion, originally uploaded by Wahj.

Took this photo at WOMAD last night. The styrofoam lion logo was nicely backlit as it stood in the bushes, making a nice shot.

More about WOMAD to follow.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Sushi bar philosophy

Decided to eat at the sushi bar tonight since I thought dinner would be late, and I was in town anyway. Tried a little experiment: I decided I'd pick a random number (as usual, 7) and simply count that number of plates that went by, and eat whatever it was ... just for the heck of it. It could've been worse - I ended up with egg sushi, and something that looked like chopped fish of some vague sort. Guess it's character building - teaches you to live with what life gives you and just take it as it comes.

In other news: finally got the car washed! Whoopee. Looks twice as new as before =) I'm also close to choosing a name for it, but I have to think about it for a while. If anyone wants to suggest a name, it's a greyblue Toyota Vios (I always tell people that the shade of greyblue is similar to French WW1 Horizon Blue camouflage, but only people like the Napnuts get that).

Friday, August 17, 2007

Really large pencils. And a wall

Friday afternoons strain the limited resources of the imagination as far as inventive post titles go. So this one is stubbornly literal.

The Fort Wall

For all my wanderings round Fort Canning Hill, I'd missed this particular monument. Perhaps it is more accurately described as a non-monument. The plaque at the bottom of the picture reads:

The Fort Wall
This fragment is all that remains of the strong wall which once ran completely around the summit of the hill.

I like the fact that the wall has been completely smothered by the plants - not just prosaically "grown over", but utterly obliterated by plant growth.

really large pencils

The other surprise on the Hill was new piece of installation art/sculpture (well, I'm guessing it's installation art ... either that or a really expensive piece of litter ... though I wonder if any odd thing left lying around in public tends to get assumed to be art ... "ooh look, a corpse! must be an art piece" etc). A really large pencil, and really large crayons. I'm not sure what statement this is making. Something profound about our lost childhoods? about the infantilization of contemporary culture? about how we really need a giant piece of paper to go along with that? And why are they all red? There must be a really, really giant teacher lurking round the corner, probably desperately marking scripts to meet a deadline.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Return to Fort Canning

leaf and darkness

One of the nice things about finally getting a car (more about that in another post) is mobility. When I started this current job almost 2 years ago, I found I no longer had the time for my photography that I used to: the working day would simply end too late for me to get any meaningful photography done.

I took the camera out yesterday, and drove off to Fort Canning Hill after work. The car makes it easier to get to locations like Fort Canning, which offer some spectacular infra-red shots, but only in a small window of time around sunset, when the combination of light and angle makes IR photography easier (a higher proportion of the light is IR at sunrise and sunset, due to the low angle of the sun, which also makes it easier to catch sunlight reflected off the leaves into your camera. At noon time you'd be looking up and catching IR light filtered through the leaves' translucency, plus it's really hard to get the exposure right in that situation).

The first shot was taken in bright sunlight, but with the filter blocking out the visible light, and the flash turned on and exposure dialled down, the leave seemed to float out of the darkness.

ghostly banyan

This second shot was looking up into the canopy. More about the Fort Canning excursion in another post.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Recent Reading

Interviewing a job applicant the other day, I saw on the list of modules she had studied in her Literature course "Sci Fi and Fantasy". If only that option had been available when I did my degree in Lit.

I was just thinking how ironic it was that I completely missed out on the rise of William Gibson and cyberpunk. I started reading fiction seriously in 1984, with Asimov: this was when Gibson published Neuromancer, so as I was lapping up the old, hardcore Sci Fi, cyberpunk was being written right there in the background. While I was still in Primary school getting my head around the Three Laws of Robotics, Gibson was prophesying the Internet and Cyberspace. The late eighties took me through Tolkien, then almost every variant of fantasy based on the Tolkien plot (Brooks, Feist, Eddings, you name it ...) while on the Sci Fi front I kept ploughing through the classics like Heinlein and Bradbury. Then, as cyberpunk took off in the nineties, I spent most of that decade studying Literature in university, which meant anything but Sci Fi and fantasy. It took me till last year to finally read through all the cyberpunk "classics" - in fact, I more or less waited till they became classics before I got to read them.

In that respect, I'm quite pleased to be ahead of the curve for once, at least with respect to the last two writers I have been reading. John Scalzi came to me by way of recommendation from Tym, who lent me Old Man's War and The Ghost Brigades. Those two books and The Last Colony, capstone to the trilogy, remind me of Heinlein in more ways than one, especially in his depiction of a simpler world view reminiscent of Starship Troopers. I've just finished reading The Android's Dream, a real gem of a book: "lightweight in the best possible way" is how I'd describe it, and I mean that as a real compliment. It's the kind of book I'd start a fanclub around.

The other writer is Charlie Stross, and where Scalzi looks back to the kind of hardboiled Sci Fi of the fifties and sixties, Stross is ... post cyberpunk ... post humanity ... post post anything really. It's the kind of fiction you worry for the longevity of, because it is so current: each novel is like an editorial about the state of the culture - his latest, The Glasshouse, is like looking at gender, domesticity, the family unit, and suburban life through the wrong end of a telescope from a hypothetical future. I've just finished reading The Atrocity Archives, which is demonstrates his range by being completely different - think H.P. Lovecraft meets hacker novel, and you get an idea of what I'm talking about (and you can, in fact read "The Concrete Jungle" online. For free)

For added fun: listen to an excerpt from Scalzi's Old Man's War in Chaucerian English. Why? Because it's there ...

Monday, August 13, 2007

Object Lessons in Cooking

Number 134: Check your spices

Tonight we bring you another installment of "Object Lessons in Cooking".

This one begins with me deciding to cook up some potatoes and bacon. The plan was simple: laboriously chop - nay, dice - 3 potatoes into a heap of fine cubes, then fry in a pan with the bacon bits. 15 minutes of chopping and dicing later, I have said pile of potatoes ready.

Spices. Yes - seasonings. The eye wanders over the spice rack. Ah ... "Cajun Spices". Think spicy, sour, slightly exotic. Excellent.

Except the spice seems to have settled a bit in the bottle. In fact, the bottle itself looks slightly old. Never mind: nothing that should stop the intrepid chef. A few gentle taps on the side and a generous amount of spice seems to have come loose in the bottle.

I sprinkle the spice over the potatoes. It comes out looking like sesame seeds ... another tap, a bit more spice ... funny: don't remember it looking so ... black ... oval ... a few more dashes here and there ... or having such smooth, large seeds ..... carapace smooth .... chitin smooth ....

I stop and let reality sink in.

So. Object Lesson #134. Check that your "Cajun Spices" aren't actually ... well, a colony of bugs that have been born, bred, and eaten themselves to death in the bottle, an entire generation that lived their entire lives in a spice bottle and died before you even knew it. Check, preferably, before you dump half a bottle of beetle corpse into your potatoes.