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Archive for December, 2009

Thai monkey food (aka, Habiba)

As I write this I’m pretty exhausted, having spent most of the day on a longtail boat (a small boat powered by an outboard motor with the propeller at the end of a very long drive shaft, hence the name). Habiba and I and a few other holidaymakers (four other couples) were taken around the Thai island of Ko Phi Phi Don and its small neighbours, Phi Phi Leh and Bamboo Island.

We were provided with flippers, goggles and snorkels and taken to a few choice place to swim and snorkel, or other places where we could just hang out on the beach. I think it was on Bamboo Island where we saw some monkeys – macaques, I think. They live on the tiny, rugged, jungle-cloaked rock. The monkeys have clearly got very used to tourists coming along and feeding them. A couple of young simians wanted a bottle of water I had, one of them jumping on me to get it. They also accosted Habiba, and she gave a little scream – which caused an adult to bite her.

She now has a ring of monkey toothmarks on her arms. Mostly, the bite didn’t pierce the skin, but there is one superficial and tiny graze. I’m a bit worried about it, Habiba less so.

It was a long, tiring trip. It also included the setting of The Beach; the last stop was in between islands to watch the sun go down. By this point, most people weren’t that interested. I took a fair few snaps, though. (Don’t have the technology with me to upload any at the moment.)

Tomorrow is New Year’s Eve, and we’re planning on taking it easy during the day. As great as the holiday has been so far, a day doing more or less nothing will be more than welcome to both of us.

The following morning, we have to get a 9 am ferry to Phuket, where we’ll fly back to Bangkok at 4.30 pm. Then we have one more night in Thailand before leaving.

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Metal for Christmas

So Rage Against the Machine won the Christmas number one contest. Good for them. Good for Jon and Tracy Morter, who concevied the campaign. Good for music. I should look into getting hold of some of Zack de la Rocha and Tom Morello’s respective new projects’ work. I had a listen to some One Day as a Lion and Street Sweeper Social Club stuff on Myspace, and I liked what I heard.

I’m in a strange lull at work. I finished the first draft of my third workbook, for Jake Drake, Teacher’s Pet last week, and am waiting to get it back for my turn at proofreading it; after that, I’ll get it back to re-write it. I asked last week if there was somethign else for me to be working on, but was told that the list of future workbooks hadn’t been finalised. I could ask again, but I don’t want to. It’s nice to have a bit of downtime at work.

My criminal background check came through a while ago, so, after farting around for a while trying to find the best way to do it, I sent my sister some money to cover costs and she’s taken it to Colin Rowe, the notary I went to last year. It should be notarised and apostilled this week and on its way over to Korea. I should be sent to Japan next month to get my visa.

I’ve been doing a pile of shopping lately – gifts for family and a few people in Korea. I’m quite happy with what I’ve got. And it was really nice to do much of it with Habiba. In fact, the only stuff I didn’t buy with Habiba was the stuff for Habiba. Which makes sense. I wonder what she’s got me.

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A lot of what I said in my review of Titus Groan applies also to this book, the second in the trilogy.

I found Gormenghast to be a noticeably more engaging read. Where Titus Groan is about the rise of the psychopathic Steerpike, this volume is about the journey into manhood of Titus, the seventy-seventh Earl of Gormenghast and growing enmity towards the institutions of Gormenghast and especially Steerpike.

While this book had more forward momentum than its predecessor, it still had a curious fast-slow-fast effect. Some chapters were active and moved the story forward, others were largely descriptive and didn’t really go anywhere.

The writing was as it was in the first book – sombre, poetic, dense and rather wonderful. The characters came to life a bit more than in the first book, I think; they came across more sympathetically, even though they were all still basically self-absorbed grotesques.

I’m currently reading the last in the series, Titus Alone.

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In a few hours we’ll know if the noble campaign to displace Simon Cowell’s evil X-Factor hegemony in the Christmas number one spot has been successful. I hate Christmas, so anything to introduce a bit attitude into the brain-melting, tinsel-covered, asinine, commercial, feel-good fascism is fine by me. I bought a copy of Rage Against the Machine’s ‘Killing in the Name’.

I heard part of an interview with Simon Cowell where he accused the campaign of cynicism because it was apparently working to diminish the chances of the hard-working X-Factor finalist. He doesn’t seem to realise that a contest like this could ony be good for whoever it is that won the programme.

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In the bleak midwinter

Or, at least, in the mildly promising mid-December.

I’m still working, still in love, still alive, although my recent blog productivity would indicate a lack of living.

By this stage, Habiba and I know each other pretty well, but I think we’re still learning about each other. A case in point is last weekend. My friend and colleague (and erstwhile language exchange partner), Ji-hyeon, had a gig, a kind of battle of the bands thing last Saturday. Her first, I believe. Habiba and I, and Botond went along to see her.

However, earlier in the day, I left Habiba at home talking to her sister over Skype. From her response when I said goodbye, I could tell she was a bit miffed by the abruptness of my leaving, and that she probably wanted to hang out at home. For my part, being up and awake and having various things I could usefully work on and with Habiba busy doing something else I wanted to head out to my office (aka Starbucks). And Habiba knew that that was what I was going to do.

I tried not think about it. I did some work on the roleplaying game I’m designing. When I met Habiba later with Bo, she didn’t talk to me much, so I just left her alone. Once Ji-hyeon had played, her band being fourth out of six, I told her we were leaving. We said bye to Bo and went home and then Habiba and I talked about the problem (she doesn’t like the word ‘problem’, but it’s my blog, I choose the words).

She said she wanted me to address it earlier, more directly, and in the end she wasn’t too upset with me.

Tonight – now, in fact – we went out to see a production involving a friend of hers’ boyfriend. It was a daft, Korean-style comedy, with lots of audience participation; very un-play-like, in fact. More like a night out at a bar with some actors in the crowd. I wasn’t into it and when I told Habiba I wanted to leave she got a bit huffy. So I turned her round to face me and told her not to be upset and that it just wasn’t my thing.

This cheered her up immensely and we kissed and said icky things to each other with which I won’t embarrass you. And I came to do my own thing.

In a week we’ll be in Thailand for a week. I have a feeling I’ll have more opportunities to practise my relationship-based assertiveness. But I think there won’t be too many of those.

On Saturday 26 th, we’re going to Bangkok (via China) for a few days, then Ko Phi Phi by bus (probably) for New Year’s then back up to Bangkok by plane from Phuket. Our stop in China on the way back to Korea is ridiculously long. We’re back in Korea on Sunday 3rd.

We left a lot of the planning too late, really. We have places to stay in Bangkok and Phi Phi Island, although the latter looks decidedly dodgy in terms of quality of stay. We found various comments about it being terribly noisy – after we made the booking. There weren’t many alternatives available to us, so we’re aware that we’ve made our bed and must now lie in it.

I don’t want to be negative, but I think there are going to be lots of stesses ahead of us in Thailand. Hopefully, by being mentally prepared for the worst, the worst won’t seem too bad.

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A rock guitarist plays three chords to thousands of people, and a jazz guitarist plays thousands of chords to three people.

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