Wednesday, February 25, 2009


I love words. Sometimes I just want to wrap myself in cotton wool words like a mummy entombed in a whirlpool of characters and sounds that are constructed with care, or sometimes not, moulded into meaning. I want to be embalmed in an emulsion of phrases and feeling, and submerge myself into the linguistic subconscious. Dip my hand in selfishly and take generous, overflowing double-handfuls of words, bring them to my lips before they escape between my fingers and stuff them in my mouth like an overzealous child. I want to swallow them down, feeding my synaptic receptors with the primordial beginnings of thoughts until they spark to life as meanings and my relativity of them takes hold and I finish them off for myself. I want to taste them and slide them around my mouth, soften them with my tongue and push them against my palate and feel the different textures until they’ve had enough and turn bittersweet or sweet-sour and explode like pop rocks – little detonations of nuance and understanding, lingering for a second, teasing and slowly fading into memory. I feel like the one boy in the Beacon TV Bar advertisement.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

6- word stories

A couple of year ago (has it really been that long?!) I posted about some famous sci-fi and fantasy novelists writing 6-word stories ala Ernest Hemingway’s famous 6-word story. A couple of weeks ago, a Swedish friend Henrik and I decided to try our hand at it again (at four in the morning). Here are some of the results. Once again, I’d love if you were to add some of your own – last time there were some rubies in the dust.

Vacancy: World leader. No qualifications required.

Capitalist seeks happiness. Will sell wife.

Angry axe needed. Heads will roll.

Seeking choir boy. Good voice unnecessary.

Party in jungle. Shrunk my head.

Indian binge. Curry will return…Viciously.

Door would not open. Tried windoooooooow…

He tortured her thoroughly. Good wage.

Shapeshifter seeks mate. Come as yourself.

Son of god seeks gullible partner.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Borneo (Part 2)

The Malaysian province of Sabah, whilst one of the poorest economically, is a veritable wealth of natural beauty. Stretching from the capital Kota Kinabalu in the west, around the Tip of Borneo to the north and along the east coast to Sepilok and Sandakan. Its biodiversity, from virgin rainforests to unexplored mountain valleys is a city slicker's perfect antidote.

Well, you may rightly ask, if we didn’t get up to any of that Indiana Jones nonsense, what did we do in Borneo? We got what we came for and what we came for was off the coast of Semporna. In two words:

Island style.

Does it turn you a darker shade of green? It should and if it doesn't you're a heartless, jaded and cynical person whose time on earth is best spent ruminating in your basement, burning effigies of your boss and throwing darts at a blown-up, vandalised photo of his face.

Waking up to a cup of kopi in a wooden stilt house built out over the Celebes Sea on Pulau Mabul, wondering which tropical island’s world famous coral reef or sand bottom to snorkel or scuba.

Watching colourful and weird fish you’ve only ever seen in aquariums, white-eyed moray eels and giant green turtles, all from the comfort of your balcony or kicking your feet up, with a smuggled 26-peso Filipino Red Horse beer and a game of cards.

Or just throwing your towel on palm tree-clad Pulau Sibuan with a good book and only being disturbed by one of the island’s 20 inhabitants asking if he could fetch you a coconut from 50 feet above your head.

Or being 50 feet under the water off Pulau Sipadan floating in an outer-space-like world with reef sharks and prehistoric turtles the size of little cars, with nothing above but bubbles and below 600 metres of murky, inky wetness.

So, we didn’t get to touch an orangutan. They keep those funny primates a good distance from tourists. We didn’t climb Mount Kinabalu. We didn’t get to white-water raft the renowned rapids of the Padas River. We did, however, get what we came for: a good tan and the kind of holiday which I can recommend to anyone looking to get as far from stinky Saigon as possible.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Borneo (Part 1)

Summiting was hard enough, with limited rations and the last dregs of our water bottles burning in our backpacks, but the descent from 4000 metres was another kind of torment altogether. Kinabalu’s thirty degree slope tore at our calf muscles and our resolve as we made our way down into the unexplored heart of the equatorial jungle. Only seven of the original party of ten had made it back. One had succumbed to a bowel-ripping case of Chagas disease on the way up, another to a sever and debilitating bout of Buruli ulcers and the final victim and mistepped the path leading to up to Lowe’s Peak (which turned out to not be so low after all) plummeting and bouncing spectacularly before he disappeared into the clouds below.

The incessant buzzing of throngs of flies was wreaking havoc with our fevered minds. The flies were competing with an army of inch-long leeches slowly making their way about our numerous cuts and blood-smeared shins. Combined with a ground temperature of 37 degrees and the pure, 100% humidity, it was like being spit-roasted over an open bonfire and tumbling down the mound of coals, having your legs seared with glowing-hot cattle-prods and you nether regions simmering in a stew seasoned with Bushman’s Fire “Dynamite” sauce (the one that makes the thermometer on the side of the bottle burst like an adolescents’ acne) – all at the same time. But no-one said the search for the mythical headhunters of Borneo was going to be easy. The unforgiving territory of Sabah, “The Land under the Wind”, stood in our way. Right now, it felt like “The Land under the Toaster”. The big Toaster. Directly under it…

I wish it was so! Oh how dearly I long for such a grand, colonial Conradesque tale of exploration and adventure, and wild loin-cloth wearing, spear-wielding natives – minus the testes stew part. I’ll own up. We never climbed the mountain. We could have, but didn’t. We didn’t delve head first into the jungle. We wanted to, but couldn’t. The trails were closed – how were we to know February was in the middle of monsoon season which would give rise to already treacherous jungle treks being insurmountable. Well, yes, there are guidebooks readily available which warn of such folly, not even to mention the internet…bah. Needless to say, we didn’t find the infamous headhunters either. Nor any heads. Not even one, shrunken, shriveled cranium, except for those we brought along ourselves.

What we did find, however, was even wetter, but not of the green and sweaty, variety, but of the bluest crystal kind. Something others toil their whole lives for, often selling body parts and in-laws to experience: Island living. Mmmm.

Some pics in Part 2.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009