Monday, December 31, 2007

"This was a triumph"

I stumbled across this song on YouTube the other day, and was so taken by it's quirky and offbeat humour that I went and bought the game the next day (the video is of the end-credits of Portal). This may be the first time I bought a video game just because of the theme song. Portal is one of the most inventive, original, and genuinely entertaining games to come out recently, not the least because of the attention paid to the characterisation. Most video games are made, but the best ones are written: they're stories with full-fledged and multi-dimensional characters and a real plot. That's why video game makers make such awful games, while video game writers are creating stories - whether epic, comedic, tragic, or elegaic - that add to the narrative backbone of this age.

Of course, one of the dangers of an education in Literature is the tendency to analyse any piece of text before you. I offer this small piece of analysis for those of you interested in such things: an observation that one of the reasons why this song is so compelling (for me anyway) is how phrase "Still Alive", the song title, is used in three very different ways in the same song.

"Still alive" can be hopeful - as in a sentence such as "despite the force of the explosion, they were still alive" as well as a call to action, as in "we have to help those who are still alive".
That would be the sense in which it is used in the second verse: "Think of all the thing's we've learned / for the people who are still alive"

"Still alive" can also carry a defiant note - "they threw everything they had at me, but I'm still alive!". That would be the end of the song: "While you're dying I'll be still alive / and when you're dead I will be still alive"

Finally, "still alive" can be ominous and sinister - as in "they carried out gruesome experiments on the rats while they were still alive" - and that is definitely the sense you get in the third stanza: "I've experiments to run / There is research to be done / on the people who are still alive"

Taken altogether, and sung in the childish sing-song voice of GLaDOS, this makes this song a little more thought provoking than your normal theme song. But most of all, it's fun.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Green spot

The relentless grind of the holiday season has kept me from blogging about the dive trip to Phuket, but here's a little observation from the trip.

2 years ago when I first spotted these green laser pointers for sale online, their prices were in the hundreds.  Two weeks ago, I saw these in Phuket, being used by street hawkers to get the attention of tourists like me - they would fling a green laser spot on the ground, and once they'd got your attention, proceed to try and sell you various trinkets.  They weren't even really selling these, but after bargaining, I got one for 1000 baht - which is less than SGD$50.  I was struck by how fast technology moves from being "cutting-edge" to mainstream - how something can be state of the art one year, and be in the hands of the poorest denizens the next, how rarefied hi-tech becomes a simple tool for daily use so quickly. 

Let's see how fast these new blue laser pointers drop in price then.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Our poor feline friends

I came across these two articles today:

Follow the first link to see a cat that glows red in the dark.  That's RED.  RED.

Why in the name of all that's good and holy anyone would do that is beyond me.

Follow the second link to see how a company is marketing their line (yes: these are products) of hypoallergenic cats.  What struck me was the very first line from the article:

"Millions of people worldwide are allergic to cats. 
One third of these ignore medical advice and keep at least one cat in their home"

There's a reason why one-third of these millions keep a cat despite allergies.  BECAUSE WE LOVE OUR CATS.  It really disturbs me to see a living being rendered a product.