Sunday, October 11, 2009

Happy 14th Month Birthday, Jordy!

Jordy at 14 months, in his ubiquitous aircon singlet

Dear Jordy

It's time once again for my monthly missive to your royal jordiness.

It's been a month of real highs (much walking and general adventuring, new signs, increased understanding, lots of laughter) and lows (falling sick with your first bad cold which turned into a cough and neccesitated a visit to the doctor, then I caught the cold from you, blagh), and boy am I feeling the slings and arrows of time flying by.

We started off the day with a morning trip to the park, and the cafe (ahem, a McCafe no less) ensconced within. Dad and I decided that, what the heck, you are now all of 14 months old and positive grown up and soon will be buying yourself aftershave and leather briefcases and other grown up things, so a McDonald's happy meal wouldn't kill you. Yes, you heard right. This mother, who had thus far, been rather responsible in her stewardship of what-goes-into-you, decided to let you, for one blissful morning tea, CROSS OVER TO THE DARK SIDE.

And you just loved it. Alas, how could you not?!

You had hotcakes (but we stopped short at giving you any syrup or suspicious looking "whipped margarine"), practically finishing up one on your own. And sipping about half of the fresh milk that came with it. You even played with the Happy Meal toy! God forbid! An odd-looking Green Lantern plastic toy containing trading cards. You liked the cards better than the plastic toy though. Phew.

Hotcake heaven

After said journey to the dark side, we emerged into the light of the park, and you walked up and down and all around, crossing over mini hills and vales, in search of your favourite swings at the Ang Mo Kio park only to find them UTTERLY GONE. What was once a regular sandpit with swings, was now just a lousy old sandpit! No signs explaining sudden dissapearance. I asked a lady who was there with her children if she knew what happened, and in typical Singaporean fashion, she wouldn't look me in the eye and mumbled some half-response like "No more" or something similar. Honestly, is the art of conversation dead to my countrymen? Why are people completely unaware of how to trade pleasantries in a social context? I'm digressing, but it's like my neighbours across the way from me, everytime I wish them good morning, they look down and DO NOT RESPOND! Their children too! I don't understand...

Anyway, missing swings aside, we had a nice time and you walked around in your onesie. Which brings me to this - I suspect today will be the last time you will go out in public in a onesie. I mean, just look at that thigh exposure! Your modesty is at stake here!

Stepping out in style

After our morning jaunt, we headed to mama and gong gong's, who were eager to babysit you while Dad and I went to IKEA to shop for a new couch. You ate some of the lunch that mama so lovingly prepared for you (she went so far as to make you a back-up dish in case you didn't like choice number one, you lucky thing! And sure enough, you made faces when we tried to give you the bee chai mak with fishball soup, so had to go for option two, which was brown rice with soup, which you thankfully ate, hmph!) then we settled you down for a nap before scooting off.

When Dad and I returned a few hours later, having had a successful couch-procuring mission, plus prata at Jalan Kayu, we found you still asleep, but in mama's arms!!! You lucky thing (again!)... Apparently you woke up after an hour or so, then mama gave you milk, then carried on holding you and you just slept and slept. When you woke up, you were extremely cheerful and got into many shenanigans, like so:

Jordy attempting the downward dog asana

You listened rapt, while gong gong played the ukelele, but wriggled like a caterpillar when I tried to take a photo of you and him. Still, we managed to get a few cute shots, like this one:

We are the linesmen for the counteeee

At 14 months, you are adjusting to a new routine, moving from two naps a day, to only one (Aside from me: HELP! How to occupy active child for the whole day?!). This is day five of your new one-nap-a-day routine and you're still prone to feeling tired and cranky some of the time. Like yesterday, when we met up with Mano and Carrie and cutey Baz at Bukit Batok Nature Reserve. Poor you just felt a little out of sorts, but you tried to make the best of thing in any case! Boy has Baz grown though! And I was reminded of you when you were his age, three months, and how you used to love the jumperoo too, and all the folds of flesh that suddenly appeared as if overnight.

Babes in the park

Well, it's almost 8.30pm now and you are still not settling to sleep. I can you hear you in your room with your poor Dad! I wonder whether it's the adjustment to this one nap a day business that is mucking up your body clock. Or it could just be the sweltering night. Oh well, I better go check in on your Dad and see if you're both ok. If you have a sleep now, you'll have a much better day tomorrow, trust me. Guess you can look forward to more sagely words of wisdom in the years to come. Apologies in advance, heh!

Love you lots,

Your Mum

Saturday, October 03, 2009

The Road, by Cormac McCarthy

Let me preface this review by saying that I usually hate it when critics label a book as "important". Important? To whom? Can you let me be the judge of what is important in my world please? Things get compounded when when another VIP says the book is the "most important environmental book" you'll ever read.

So it was with a little scepticism that I turned to the first page of The Road.

And was proven wrong almost immediately.

The Road is important. It is essential. It is the most original, hit-you-in-vital-organs-you-never-knew-you-had powerful piece of anything I have read this year. Or any year for that matter.

Defying categorisation, The Road tells of a journey taken by a father and a son. They are nameless, and the landscape they travel through is cauterised, bleak and dead. There are no lengthy explanations of what happened to cause such complete and final destruction to Earth, just tantalising hints. The man and boy are travelling south, to what they hope is warmer weather, and life.

Cormac McCarthy paints the despair and hopelessness of their situation in language at once spare, and heartbreaking. Here is a storyteller with a true gift of poetry; he creates a lexicon for this post-apocalyptic world that, as one reviewer so rightly put it, is Biblical in scope. In an ironic juxtaposition, McCarthy unleashes his potent vocabulary in his descriptions of a world slowly bleeding away its nouns, adjectives, verbs, and interestingly, punctuation, as it becomes more grey and moribund by the season.

The reader is assailed by wave after wave of unavoidable imagery: the greyness "like the onset of some cold glaucoma dimming away the world"; where "(t)he ashes of the late world carried on the bleak and temporal winds to and fro in the void." The countless dead they pass along their journey are conjured up in their full horror: "The flesh cloven along the bones, the ligaments dried to tug and taut as wires. Shriveled and drawn like latterday bogfolk."

The whole situation may seem hopeless to the reader, but really, what can the father and son do? They are "each the other's world entire", and McCarthy reveals the man's thoughts: "He knew only that the child was his warrant. He said: If he is not the word of God God never spoke." So with those words, their journey becomes a quest, the Fisher King roaming the waste land to make it fecund again. (Aside: Sorry, this is the literature student who studied one too many T.S. Eliot poems talking. But I did feel a strong connection between this book and Eliot's The Waste Land.)

To me, reading The Road was like being in a dream, where I'm attending a wake (yes, bring on The Sandman allusions here too). But this is no ordinary wake, I'm sitting there listening to a disembodied voice read out the eulogy for the Earth.

Academic Richard Katula says "that a classic eulogy contains two parts: praise for the dead and advice for the living". In that case, The Road is a post-modern, post-recycling, post-sustainability eulogy then. The dead are not praised. They are forgotten; mummified in their moment of terror and regret. But it is in the living - and I shan't give away any spoilers here - that McCarthy eventually concentrates his message on. I finished the book in a half-daze. knowing that I would tell as many people as I could to read it.

For me, I came away so thankful for what I have, and ashamed at what could be: "Borrowed time and borrowed world and borrowed eyes with which to sorrow it."