Chasing Gordy

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A while ago, I analysed Alex Garland’s smashing debut novel, The Beach (1996). Titled ‘Chasing Daffy’, the post evaluated, in part, the bizarro Daffy Duck, whose ramblings entrances protagonist Richard in finding the elusive beach paradise. The book of the … Continue reading

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iPhone 8 Plus reviewed

Diverting from the usual, this time I’m going to do a product review. About three weeks ago, I bought a new gold iPhone 8 Plus outright. Many would argue that going on a contract is more practical, given you pay it off over time. But having been burned by bad mobile internet coverage in the past, I chose to go with the road less travelled. While the iPhone 8 Plus is still in demand 3 months after its release, it lags behind the iPhone X, which is what everyone wants. Despite being smaller, the latter has a bigger screen size and of course, facial recognition technology. Before buying my phone, the Apple representative told me that while fingerprint technology is one in fifty thousand, the chances of having the same face is one in a million.

Torn

During the visit, I considered four iPhone models: the 7 Plus, and the iPhones 8, 8 Plus, and X. Getting the 7 Plus would set you behind a year already, and I wasn’t satisfied with the 8’s screen size. It was thus a toss up between the 8 Plus and X. After some back and forth with the knowledgeable rep from Apple, I decided that the 8 Plus was a smarter investment. I was upgrading and going for the X was riskier. I initially wanted the silver colour, just like my other Apple devices, but they didn’t have it in stock. I opted for the gold one instead. Looking at the people around me, I’d say this is a popular colour of choice. I also managed to find a pretty sweet case from another store. Not only was it at a good price, it was handmade leather, with three card slots and two compartments for papers and receipts. Now I don’t even have to get my Opal card out; I just tap my case on the reader, and voila! Too easy.

‘Houston, we have a problem’

Like other iPhones, the battery is the problem. I heard it has a smaller Li-ion battery than its precursor, the 7 Plus. It could last a full day’s use, and you’d have to charge it every night. Even when just checking email, or using mundane apps, the battery remains your enemy. I like how they have two rear cameras, in itself not an improvement over the last. In many respects, the phone is just iPhone 7 Plus 2.0, same size, similar specs, with a higher price tag and more storage capacity. I’ve learned that 32 gigs is not enough. The difference between the 128 GB 7 Plus and 64 GB 8 Plus was marginal, hence my inclination towards the latter. One rap against all iPhones is the lack of Swype keyboard. When you’re sending texts and punching in every key, you’ll really feel the difference.

The new order

Some of the pluses of my iPhone over previous mobiles: the fingerprint technology, Apple wallet, and a better camera performance. It would be great if most apps would have fingerprint technology, just for the added security. Meanwhile, Apple wallet is so convenient for movie tickets, loyalty cards, and gift cards. It does a lot of good to the environment, bypassing the need for printing vouchers. You could also avoid that awkward moment at the counter where staff can’t read your printout. Add the vouchers to wallet, troop to the shop, get your barcodes scanned, and go paperless. Goodbye, awkies!

An apps story

The iPhone came with some included apps already. On the home screen, there’s the Mail app, Calendar, Photos app, the camera, Maps, Weather, App Store, Settings and Wallet to name a few. I’ve downloaded about half of the rest, including Afterpay, Facebook, MYER, NBA, Flybuys, YouTube, and Qantas Cash. At the moment four of my downloaded apps use Touch ID: Afterpay, my bank app, Qantas Cash, and Flybuys. The latter is the weakest of the four; they have Touch ID, but it’s practically useless. I still scratch my head at how their current version rated four stars on the App Store. In the end I’m very happy with my purchase; it has made things easier. They say ‘You can’t buy happiness’, but with the iPhone I’d like to see us try.

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Long year’s journo…

The title has been paraphrased from a famous play by the late Eugene O’Neill. Regardless, there are good years, and not so good years. Sometimes, we just want to turn over a new page, walk over the past and start a new chapter. When we look back years later, we’d be happy to chalk it under one of those years, and appreciate our good fortune. Twenty seventeen: I’m glad *it’s over*. Insert Vinsanity post-dunk contest Vine here.

It’s bloggin’ time

This year started with so much promise, in all phases of my life. I’m not gonna give a shopping list of what appeared well, but the beginning had the look of something more. I picked off from where I left in twenty sixteen, quite an eventful year per se. Since August 2016, I have become a prolific blogger. This year, I was there to document for all twelve months. From Donald Trump to Jose Rizal, snowy Jindabyne to lost friends, I was present and chronicling. From the cold war in summer to ‘some winter chronicles’, I battled the heat and chill in bringing you my thoughts. Aside from that, I’ve been writing fiction. Five stories altogether, four of them published. Later on, I thought of compiling my body of work thus far. Hello, first ever book!

An imperfect world

Of course, there’s more, but I’d like to leave them out, since it’s still a work in progress. Meanwhile, the book and blogging alone would seem more than enough for some. While I would like to offer that I write for my pleasure, we all know it doesn’t work out that way. We need others; as they say, ‘It takes two to tango.’ Of course, in a perfect world, we would have it all: commercial success, critical acclaim, mainstream popularity. I guess what I can say is: be lucky with what you’ve got. This year, I’ve seen people suffer. Whether it was man v man or man v nature, there is no shortage of broken bones and shattered lives. A swim in the water could cause you to lose a limb, courtesy of a shark. Carollers might convince you to donate hundreds to Vision Australia, and help vision impaired kids. A drunken rage may even cost a life, and poor judgment could see you placed behind bars for decades. In the end, this cynic is thankful that he can face another year. I may not fully embrace the heavy challenges ahead, but I’m glad that I have the opportunity to do so.

Twenty eighteen: welcome to the world of the brave!

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The wrong Christmas party

To paraphrase Eminem, ‘If you had one moment, one opportunity, to be everything you never were, would you capture it, or let it slip?’ Christmas is a time of giving, of reconnecting with loved ones; I’d like to share my own experience of a library sponsored Christmas party. I felt so out of place in said party. Everybody else was at least 50 years old. The lib was in downtown sydney. I wouldn’t name it in spite of my experience, as it is best to avoid name dropping.


Restricted access
From the start, there were signs that this repository was a bit off. I remember how I had to sign up and pay a membership fee, with an older friend having recommended the place for the quiet and conducive ambience. Later, I went in with another friend before the staff told us not long after, to get lost since my other pal wasn’t a library member. Another time while studying in the lib, the same grumpy witch told a lady who was sitting head down, ‘No sleeping in the library!’ 

Going back to the partay, I felt really out of place. I struck a conversation with this guy, who couldn’t yap enough about his being an atheist. He gave me a good rant about the Jesus myth and how Hitler happened to be Catholic. He said he enjoys Christmas, a pagan tradition arrogated by Catholics. The food wasn’t bad; there were nachos and a few other finger food. They even had peach juice and wine. Soon I was talking with this bald guy about paintings. When we were studying this nude artwork, I asked him what he thought. ‘Something’s missing,’ he said. ‘How old do you think I am?’ ‘60?’ ‘I’m 73’, he retorted.


Jamming with Sue
Then I met these two ladies, Sue and company. It was a long time ago, so I can’t remember the latter’s name. We had a good talk; I told them I was just finishing my Honours degree. I distinctly recall Sue saying that she cooked some dinner for her teenage kids, so they won’t starve. I complemented her, saying that she’s a good mum. I also told them that I yearned to travel the world someday. I’m sure you will, they said in unison. While shaking hands with the oldies, I met the main man, Douglas. I heard he ran the show. He told me that I was their youngest member. Gauging from the crowd gathered that day, I’d say he was spot on. 

The prize draw
Before the night was done, there was a raffle. Numbers were called, with each guest provided a ticket upon entering. Sue’s friend was just one number away from winning the cruise to Fiji. Neither of the people I approached won anything. The atheist left before the draw was over. So much for the Christmas spirit. This Yuletide season, let’s mull this one over: Giving something you don’t need is easy, but to share something you hold dearly is divine. On a personal note, buying things is a cakewalk, but how about buying others things? I hope you, like me, would learn each Christmas that it’s not the gifts that matter, but how willing you are to share the love, no matter which party you join. 

From Mot Juste on the eve of the big day: a happy and safe holiday season to all

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Titanic (1997) revisited

17.12.97

On this day 20 years ago, James Cameron’s blockbuster of blockbusters premiered in Sydney. A tribute to the most famous sunken ship ever, the picture went on to be the highest grossing film of all time, holding the title until Avatar surpassed it in 2009. While it is equal parts drama and disaster movie, Titanic is at its core a love story. The production explored themes of forbidden love, of class struggles, and of course, hope in the face of chaos. 

Making ripples 

I remember mentioning the movie to my former seat mate in high school. Once I brought up Titanic, she immediately thought of the ‘hand scene’. I laughed, more because it was far from my mind. The movie left us with a few iconic moments, including the scene where jack holds Rose, arms outstretched, on the bow of the ship. Years later, it seems surreal to remember the players from twenty years back. To have Leo and Kate together when they were young, working with James Cameron…it’s hard for the sheer star power not to overwhelm us. Where were you twenty years ago? We would all struggle to remember, but we won’t overlook Titanic and it’s ripples, wherever you were. 

‘Simplicity is beauty’

Personally, what I liked about Titanic was the simplicity. Unadorned dialogue, little riddles, if any; straightforward themes, and an easy to follow plot. Add to that the stellar portrayals of the central characters, and you’ve got a winning formula. While neither Kate nor Leo would win Oscars in their roles, it put them on the map. The two would later have about a dozen more nominations between them, before both received shining moments under the sun. With Kate’s win in The Reader, and Leo’s victory in The Revenant, the actors’ early work in Titanic certainly paved the way for them. 

Cameron for President 

Some viewers would pout at the movie’s running time, which clocks in at about 3 hours. However, when you’re watching something as captivating, the hours pass by quicker than you’d think. Set in April 1912, the ill fated liner sunk upon colliding with an iceberg on its maiden journey. Crashing in the middle of the sea, hundreds perished, including the aforementioned Jack. It takes a unique mind to create a world out of the lost, and Cameron delivers. It is only fitting that Cameron himself would supplant Cameron, with Avatar likewise being his brainchild. While some period movies are dull, Titanic moves with the elegance and grace that only the best do. So influential was Titanic that, during its run, my classmates could talk of nothing other than Jack and Rose. 

Much more

On its twentieth anniversary, the film’s imprint remains strong. Leo and Kate are still big stars, and James’s legacy endures through newer releases such as Avatar. We can learn a lot from Titanic, whether friendship or agency, belongingness or transparency. Some of us go to the movies for entertainment. Having watched this film at various points of my life, I can tell you that it offers much more than that.

****(out of four stars)

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Cellular life

Just today: I’ve finally finished Dan Brown’s latest, which probes the relevance of religion in a science-overran world. The atheist tech magnet tries to stun the world, offering answers to two of life’s biggest questions: Where do we come from? Where are we going? Edward is spot on in his prediction that the kingdom of technology would take over the world. Having bought a new phone last month, I couldn’t disagree.

‘Hello Moto’

I’ve been using smartphones for years, going from LG on a contract to two outright Motorola’s. After sticking with my 4G Moto phone for two years, I had the urge to upgrade. Given, the latter did a good job and everything was in working order. The battery life was excellent, and I’d charge it every other day on full use. It had a camera that you could activate by simply twisting your wrist; you can’t say that for most other phones. However, in the two years since I’ve purchased the device, the specs have become low-end. Though I used my phone primarily for texting and calls, I wanted the newer phones’ convenience and Swiss Army knife function. While I already have a tablet, there are some instances which are fit only for a mobile. In those times, you’ll have to bypass the bigger tablet in favour of the smaller device.

NFC

While 4G capable smartphones serve many functions, it could be a way to get more organised. I would admit that my tablet does this commendably, but what about on the go? When you’re queueing in line at stores, the NFC (Near Field Communication) function of my mobile foregoes fishing bank cards in my wallet. This neat technology, using Android Pay, is much the same as the tap and go or PayPass, but all you have to do this time is to put your phone to the reader, get the tick mark, and bring your item/s with you. While we’re talking queues, you could also opt to include your loyalty cards on your phone. That way, you would employ a digital wallet, instead of dissecting your physical one. This is handy too if you’d like to clear space from your bifold. In like manner, you could store your gift cards on your phone, which clears space, spares the hassle, and is more environmentally friendly.

Lagger boy

There are other things I could do on my new phone, which my prior one lacked. My new HTC phone has twice the RAM, meaning more tasks and less lag. Downloading apps is a breeze compared to Moto. The cam specs are better, it has a later Android OS, it’s got a bigger screen size, and faster mobile data browsing. The two phones are both dual sim, but the former was micro sim. Unlike before, I’m enjoying the Internet on my cell. There is also HTC’s News Republic feed, which could be both annoying and catchy. Meanwhile, on my lock screen, you get an up to the minute look at the local weather. One of the few issues is that mobile data (AND NFC) consumes a lot of power. Since the Moto has a bigger battery AND smaller screen size, my current one is much less energy efficient. I’d have to switch off the NFC at times.

When I heard Edward lecturing on how technology has transformed our lives, I could only concur. In Brown’s novel, he even went as far as saying that technology would overstep humanity as the dominant ‘species’ in a few short decades. With implants, stem cell developments, transplants, nanotechnology and others, he already sees this happening. The fusion of man and machine is an inevitable outcome, and our time is a science century. Many theologians would laugh Edmond out of the lab, as the existence of a supernatural motivates billions to get out of bed, and pushes them to do good. Whether mystery or asterisk, conjecture or dogma, we would all be reduced to the Stone Age without ‘science and faith’.

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Peligrosong pamumuhay

Here at Mot Juste, I care about the sustained relevance of creatures big and small. We need to better manage other flora and fauna for the sake of posterity. I remember in our high school yearbook, my mentor included a shocking pic of cutdown trees, remarking ‘We are indeed good stewards of God’s creation!’ The rap sheet of human recklessness against nature is substantial. Allow me to canvas a few areas where we must up our game.

1. The panda. There is no clearer and more painful evidence of human crimes against nature than the endangered panda. A top organisation had even adopted the panda as their logo. The scary overpopulation of China has seen urban growth unlike anything in human history. The unchecked urbanisation has depleted the panda’s habitat. Very few pandas exist in the wild, and the species has been endangered for decades. With the diminishing numbers, the black and white furry thing has been utilised as a political instrument. As early as the seventies, the panda has been front and centre as the regime’s bridge builder. The tsunami of panda bad luck is so unfortunate; the animal’s best attributes are also its downfall.

2. The dodo. You may have heard of the phrase, ‘Dead as a dodo’. This refers to something that is completely gone. The phrase gets its origin from a large flightless bird native to Mauritius. The Dutch explorers who navigated the territory, as well as the locals, hunted the bird to extinction. The dodo’s large figure made it a popular barbecue roast. Since it couldn’t fly and was a slow mover, this made it even easier to hunt. After some time, the dodo went from endangered to utter history. Now the Dodo telco commercials remind us of the creature that used to thrive prior to human habitation. We may not be able to undo our imprudence but we could learn from our mistakes.

3. The pangolin. This little creature has been pounced on with impunity, especially in Africa. We’ve seen on telly how its distinctive skin is being used for various purposes, with a lucrative black market trade. There is no doubt that the mammal is the most hunted animal on the planet. With its keratin scales and smallish size, the pangolin has become the perfect brute to traffic. While having existed for eighty million years, it took a few decades of human caprice to have naturists alarmed.

4. The Ganges River. In the 1600’s this waterway was so fresh that the Taj Mahal was built along its banks. People bathed in its pure streams. They did their laundry and swam like madmen. While the beginnings of the Ganges in western Nepal is still relatively clean, one look at the Taj Mahal would convince you that it’s beyond saving. The river’s colour is black, and there are yellow submarines lurking about. I doubt anyone would be coerced into bathing there these days. It’s hard to believe but destitute residents still do their washing on its banks. The Ganges is considered sacred to the Hindus, and every year legions of worshippers would plunge for an annual ceremony. The Ganges has a long, prized history for all Indians; big cities line its banks. It’s a real shame that this has occurred, but it is a reminder to all of us to better care for our environment.

5. The Gulf of Mexico. I wanted to include Mount Everest on this list. I really did. I would presume though that more people are informed on the Everest garbage disaster than the BP oil spill. Know though that the Gulf disaster is bigger than others would imagine. The BP owned Deep water horizon exploded and unleashed tons of gasoline into the Gulf. Far from being an unsightly scene off the US coast, thousands of lives and organisms were impacted. Residents’ health were affected, and the thriving fauna was gutted. The seafood industry was no more. Hordes of residents filed class action law suits against the oil giant. It even inspired John Grisham’s fun novel, The Litigators, and at least two feature length films. In the end, BP was slugged with billions in damages and was forced to cough up more on cleanup costs. If one would need a trademark example on big company disaster and human infamy against nature, look no further.

Human carelessness has many faces, but few are as emphatic as those against nature. With rising birth rates and unrestrained urbanisation, I agree with my mentor. We are indeed good stewards of His creation.

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