Greetings and Salutations!

Welcome to the longest-running* yet least-read** blog on the internet! Here you'll find me writing about all the things that I write about, which strikes me, just now, as somewhat recursive. In any case, enjoy :)

* not true
** probably true

Monday, May 30, 2005

An Intemperate Climate

Strong silence squats in places gone for good
the wind blows through these rooms and makes no sound
the water rushes by somewhere outside
the grackle winds the motor of the world.
In stillness shallow breathing is preferred.

Rather than commune with you, defer-
no half-measures, no shining beads of glass
nothing to deflect the eye from truth
nothing to coat the dread and cold of loss.
Preferring this to simpleton obtuse.

Preferring open eyes at midnight and beyond
staring through the dark towards the ticking clock
and bedsheet numb and trailer creak to - to anything at all.
At two a.m. the pipes moan fearful polyglot
the wind could swing the heartache if it would, but so will not.

In empty rooms the silence is as varied and as hard
as thoughts at two and three a.m. awake in sleeping world
and severance is bitterer than ever guessed to be;
moonlight wanes out in the pines and also there, in company
the taste of some great poison that leaves its victims live.

(a conversation with God about losing faith)

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Why Dogs Don't Blog


blogdog
Originally uploaded by MercerMachine.
(My dog Angus's post)

wake up dude gotta pee wake up gotta pee wake up wake up gotta pee gotta PEE downstairs now aaaah... i smell CAT! where? where? okay dude coming now back upstairs hungry now hungry hungry hungry NO! NOT DOG FOOD AGAIN! ...zzz... noise? BARK! let's play huh? wanna play? want my tennis ball? want it? want it? CAN'T HAVE IT! mine mine mine GIVE IT BACK! (repeat x3) ...zzz... gotta poop gotta poop gotta poop hey gotta poop now gotta poop go downstairs umph urg aaahhh BIRD! okay coming back upstairs hungry now hungry now hungry hungry NO! NOT DOG FOOD AGAIN! ...zzz... telephone! BARK! let's play huh? wanna play? wanna? want my rope? want it? want it? CAN'T HAVE IT! mine mine mine GIVE IT BACK! (repeat x5) ...zzz...

you get the picture

YOUR BLOG IS YOUR BRAND; or, HOW TO BE KIASU ABOUT SELF EXPRESSION; or, HOW TO SUCK ALL THE JOY OUT OF BEING A BLOGGER WHILE CREATING MORE READERSHIP*

*in 10 easy steps!

As I've mentioned before, I have a keen interest in all things marketing related. So without further ado, I present Tuck School Professor Kevin Lane Keller's BRAND REPORT CARD as it might apply to your blog:

(Rate your blog on a scale of one to ten, one being shitty and ten being fucking-A awesome for each characteristic below. Then create a bar chart that refelects the scores. Then send me chocolate chip cookies--the chewy kind, not the hard crunchy ones)
  1. The blog excels at delivering the benefits readers truly desire. Have you attempted to uncover unmet reader needs and wants? By what methods? Do you focus relentlessly on maximizing your reader's product and service experiences? If you are a female blogger, have you invested in a good digital camera and lingere? If male, have you invested in these things along with a mask and wig? For all bloggers, have you retrofitted your living space to accomodate all the bondage equipment yet?
  2. The blog stays relevant. Have you invested in product improvements that provide better value for your readers? Are you in touch with your readers' tastes? With the current blogging conditions? With new trends as they apply to your blog? Are your blogging decisions based on your knowledge of the above? Have you shamelesly ripped off other bloggers' posts a la Caramon the copycat?
  3. The pricing strategy is based on reader's perception of value. (note: the price a blog's readership pays is time, just as the cost a blogger pays is time) Have you optimized price, cost, and quality to meet or exceed readers' expectations? Have you invested in Photoshop in order to make sure you meet or exceed readers' expectations?
  4. The blog is properly positioned. Have you established necessary and competitive points of parity with competitors? Have you established desirable and deliverable points of difference? Have you made yourself more brown than mrbrown? More finicky than finicky feline? more intrepid than cap'n intrepid? More, uh, james-like than james?
  5. The blog is consistent. Are you sure that your blog is not sending conflicting messages and that it hasn't done so over time? Conversely, are you adjusting your blog to keep current? If you start off as an asshat, do you continue to be one?
  6. The blog portfolio and heirarchy make sense. Can the corporate blog create a seamless umbrella for all the blogs in the portfolio? Do the blogs in that portfolio make sense? Does this question make any sense in the context of blogging? Why is the sky blue, mummy? Are we there yet?
  7. The blog makes use of and coordinates a full repertoire of marketing activities to build equity. Have you chosen or designed your blog name, logo, symbol, slogan, packaging, signage and so forth to maximize blog awareness? Have you said something inflammatory in someone else's blog to attract hits to your own? Have you posted pictures of scantily clad chicks, regardless of whether they have anything to do with anything?
  8. The blog's writer understands what the brand means to readers. Do you know what readers like and don't like about your blog? Are you aware of all the core associations people make with your blog? Do your readers think you are an asshat, and is that necessarily a bad thing?
  9. The blog is given proper support, and that support is sustained over the long run. Are the successes and failures of marketing programs fully understood before they are changed? Is the blog given sufficient R&D support? Have you avoided the temptation to cut back marketing support for the brand in reaction to a downturn in the market or a slump in readership? Have you offered cold hard cash for those who read your blog, or at least threatened to burn down the houses of those who do not? If not, why not?
  10. The blogger monitors sources of blog equity. Have you created a blog charter that defines the meaning and equity of the blog and how it should be treated? If your answer is yes, back away from the computer, slowly, make your way outside, and scream at the top of your lungs 'god, someone please help me!' Do you conduct periodic blog audits to assess the health of your blog and to set strategic direction? If so, see above and add hair pulling and gnashing of teeth.

There you have it. Blogging fame in 10 easy steps!

Friday, May 27, 2005

PUBIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT

If you're looking for a nekkid xiaxue sketch, try here. (Though it's NOT xiaxue, as you will read.) If you're interested in further scantily clad not xiaxue images, please be advised that there is an upcoming not xiaxue swimsuit issue!

Thank you. We return you now to your regularly scheduled blog.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Candlelit Vigil Cancelled: Expat @ Large Found Drinking

Since Expat at Large has been missing for something like a week now, I was contemplating beginning a vigil (candles optional). However, before I could organize the community and send out search parties (okay, that wasn’t going to happen) E @ L surfaced on cap’n intrepid’s comments page:

"E @ L stuck in strange country (Australia) with only his work
laptop and trying to come to terms with wierd local customs involving
consumption of large quantities of alcohol... Help! send more beer... but not VB
please."

Good to know you’re well enough to be particular about your booze, Expat, though I was really looking forward to having a "E @L Watch" section on this blog, complete with a section counting the days you’d been MIA…

Sunday, May 22, 2005

GOD TOLD ME TO SAVE YOUR BREASTS


momogram
Originally uploaded by MercerMachine.

First Kylie, now this.

Apparently the Powers That Be have chosen me, MercerMachine, to wage war on breast cancer. How do I know this? First there was the Kylie debacle, and today this well intentioned but shudder-inducing poster. Signs and portents everywhere.

No mister pretty pink poster whose copywriter obviously skipped the part where you GO THROUGH SOME SORT OF EDITING PROCESS WHERE DOUBLE MEANINGS ARE WEEDED OUT, it just so happens that I do NOT want to give my mom a mammogram, because

a) I'm not trained,

b) gross,

c) I don't have the equipment laying around, oddly enough and

d) so, so very gross.

Okay, listen up people. Let me try to be as plain as I can: Breast cancer is bad. If you or someone you know has breasts, get the bearer of said breasts to have a mammogram done regularly, as breast cancer can kill you dead dead dead. Don't believe me? Read on.

UN-FUN BREAST CANCER FACTS:

Every 13 minutes a woman dies of breast cancer

Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in women between the ages of 15 and 54, and the second cause of cancer death in women 55 to 74.

WHY THE BREASTS NEAREST OR DEAREST TO YOU SHOULD GET A MAMMOGRAM:


The first sign of breast cancer usually shows up on a woman's mammogram before it can be felt or any other symptoms are present.

Ninety-six percent of women who find and treat breast cancer early will be cancer-free after five years.

Okay, God? Can I get back to blatant sensationalism now?

Thursday, May 19, 2005

GET WELL, KYLIE'S BREASTS


AP photo, Straits Times, Thursday May 19 Posted by Hello


Maybe it's just me, but considering the fact that Kylie Minogue is battling breast cancer, you'd think ST could find a photo that reeked less of crude, thoughtless, inconsiderate irony.

On the other hand, The Straits Times, Like SomethingStickyThisWayComes, is all about the sensationalism rather than oh, say, the news.

On page 2 of Life!, yet another picture of Kylie, featuring not her breasts but her tush. The caption on that one? 'Aussies Rally Behind Kylie' (emphasis mine).

Who was the editor that didn't catch all this? I want to hire him/her! Sensational!

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

DINGOS ATE MY BABY!


In a blatant bid for more readership of this blog, I have decided that all future articles will have some sort of sensational headline. I arrived at this decision after observing certain definite trends at Tomorrow.sg:

Photos of young, attractive female bloggers garner hits. Like crazy, man. As I am not a young, attractive female, this option is out for me. I suppose I could go and photograph young attractive females (though they may not be bloggers, but really, who would care?), but this would incur the wrath of MrsMachine. There would be a serious hurtin’ put on me. Alternately, I could take photos of very attractive and definitely female MrsMachine, but she would demand control of the creative process, and I would never end up getting to post any pictures as she is so particular.

Posts by respected, long-time bloggers such as mr. brown and la idler garner hits like crazy. I am not a long-time, respected blogger like mr brown or la idler. In time I may well become so, but let’s face it, that would take, like, time. And energy. And talent. My family motto is ‘Instant Gratification Takes Too Long’.

Posts about bloggers getting sued or bloggers calling groups of bloggers ‘infantile’ garner hits like crazy. I really, really don’t care to be sued. Not because I’m afraid of the lawsuit (MrsMachine is a lawyer, and a damn good one) but because I am afraid of MrsMachine. In actual fact, I wouldn’t have to worry about any lawsuit because she would kill me dead if I got into that kinda trouble. She’d kill me and hide the body and then mumble something about ‘being in the interest of administrative convenience’. As for calling anybody infantile, well, ring-ring, hello pot? This is kettle. You’re infantile.

So, the above avenues to blogging fame being duly explored and discarded, I’ve decided my only option is sensationalism. To give you a sneak peek into the SomethingStickyThisWayComes future, here are a few articles you can expect:
  • THAI BOYS NEED LOVE, TOO
  • THE ANG MO WHOREMASTER OF GENTING LANE
  • THAT SEVERED FINGER IN MY MEE SIAM COST ME EXTRA
  • DEATH PENALTY FOR DRUGS? LET'S TEST THAT THEORY
  • IRENE ANG: OUR FORBIDDEN PASSION
  • CHERYL FOX: SEAN CONNERY'S LOVE CHILD?
  • THE SINGAPOREAN WHO HATED SEAFOOD
  • CHANNEL NEWS ASIA TO REBRAND ITSELF 'ASIAN HISTORY CHANNEL'


Stay tuned, folks.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Why Water is Too Wet In Singapore, or, Retail Hell

I spent a large portion of my life in one retail atmosphere or another, but it wasn’t until I came to Singapore that I realized what retail hell truly is. I thank my lucky stars that I am no longer on the front lines, dealing with customers like this:

To make a long story short, it’s one of those warehouse sales at the exhibition center, and an auntie has bought a pack of four plastic hooks that you stick on your wall with a suction cup, the kind of hook that locks, apparently. Why you need a hook that locks, I don’t know, but that’s not the point. The point is, the pack is four hooks for a dollar, and it seems that when she got home she discovered that one of the hooks was faulty. So she decides to take the MRT back to the warehouse sale and complain. Over 25 cents.

I’m not a mathemagician, but I’m pretty sure you can’t even step on a train for less than, what, 60 cents? And of course she will have to go back home again, so minimum, she is out $1.20 over a 25 cent plastic hook.

And then I heard it, and everything became clear to me. The Phrase:

"How are you going to compensate me for my TIME?"

Listen people, there is no compensation for time. When time is gone, it’s gone. There’s no getting it back. I know. I wrote to George Lucas after Episode I asking for my two hours back and he explained it all to me in that annoying jar jar binks voice. Meesa so sorry. You no getta time back, no, never.

How are you going to compensate me for my time? The phrase is trite, tired and frankly insulting. It translates directly to "I’m a greedy SOB and you need to give me a discount or some other form of compensation or else I’ll be very unpleasant in front of all these nice people who will then think you’re a big jerk and then you’ll get bad word of mouth and your sales will go down."

It’s a form of blackmail. If retailers give in, they get screwed. If they don’t, they get screwed. If Singapore is known for its lacklustre customer service, it’s in direct proportion to how much Singaporeans complain. Sometimes I think Singaporeans will complain that water is too wet. [redacted] does it, and it never ceases to amaze and embarrass me. When she goes off on some poor clueless pre-teen behind the counter in a fashion outlet or whatever, I just cringe and tiptoe away. I mean, it may make her feel better and she often gets some sort of voucher or whatever, but damn it’s rude where I come from. The technical phrase, actually, would be ‘showing your ass’.

Should anyone accept shoddy service or goods? Of course not. But try operating on the assumption that it’s a mistake and not some evil plot by the evil Retail Overlord designed to screw you personally. Your blood pressure will go down. You may live longer (compensate yourself!) And if you speak reasonably and rationally and get the problem resolved on the spot, you won’t have to go all kiasu and screech at people over the phone and wonder how you will be compensated for that time you wasted fuming.

And who knows? Maybe, in time, the poor retail wage slaves will start to care about their jobs instead of enduring them, and fewer problems will arise, and less precious units of our lives will be wasted on bickering about frigging plastic locking hooks.

Just a thought.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Unreserved Disclaimer

I MercerMachine do hereby swear or affirm that I am in no way libelling or slandering anyone anytime unreservedly. Except George W. Bush. And racists. And people who write bad, bad books and make money off them. Unreservedly. So let it be written, so let it be done. Bathe her and bring her to me. Amen.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Books That Should Never Have Been Written, Part I: The Black Throne

I don't know if I can do this. It was painful to read; how much more painful will it be to write about? But my conscience tells me I must, lest someone else accidentally picks up this book under the impression that it might actually readable. Do not, I beg you! Learn from my mistake!

You would think that when Roger Zelazney and Fred Saberhagen get together to write a book it would be worth reading. I mean, these are two of the biggest names in science fiction and fantasy. Zelazney rose to immortality on his Amber series, and Saberhagen's Berserker series is one of the biggest sci-fi franchises on the shelf. Both have been critically acclaimed.

The premise of The Black Throne is... well, I guess that's where the trouble starts. The premise is rather muddled. It has to do with Edgar Allan Poe (a man whose writing I was raised on, which probably explains a lot) and multiple universes and a girl named Annie and her Kingdom by the sea and a fellow who is much like Poe, except his name is Edgar Perry and he's not mad or an alcoholic or much of a writer. He's like Poe's healthier, less exctiting alter ego. He's Poe if Poe was more like Kipling, except not so smart.

Poe, Perry and Annie meet in a kingdom by the sea throughout their childhood, apparently. And then something happens and Annie and Perry are thrown into Poe's world, and Poe is thrown into Perry's (our) world, where things are less magical. While Annie and Perry muddle through various adventures, Poe seems to keep some sort of connection to the two and writes of their adventures in garbled fashion. Thus Murders in the Rue Morgue, Mask of the Red Death, etc are born. It all sounds rather interesting, except it isn't.

Here is an excerpt, and it illustrates both what I mean by the muddled feel of the whole book and also what I mean when I say imitation has its limitations:

"Walking on that gray, warm morn through fogs which entombed his world in near-viscous whiteness, perfect as snow, quietening as cloak or shroud, the boy moved with a certain deliberation, wordless voice within his head, veiled forms swaying about him, avoiding cobble and branch in passage through the wood behind the school, oddity back of a place once known well, occuring mystery somehow situated to hold his soul chrysalis for a vital season, somehow special, personal, and marking a passage distinctive as scar or tattoo upon his life and forever."

Can someone please buy these guys a period? Or trade two for one for a comma? Look, I know what they're trying to do. But Only POE could get away with that sort of crap, because only POE could come up with the sort of macabre, fascinating idea that would make putting up with that sort of crap worth it. We read Poe despite the twisted run-on sentences, not because of them.

I was going to go through all the terrible bits of the book, but I just don't have the strength. Here are the highlights:

1) When Poe's alter ego Perry writes poetry:

These recent days be bloody stuff
and also recent dreams.
I seem to hear a phthisic cough
by life's eternal streams.
Death lurks and laughs his ass off.
At least that's how it seems.

At first I thought this was meant to be a little light humor. Then I realized it wasn't. Then I gagged.

2) The 'Plot' (not to be confused with the premise): Annie is a powerful supernatural woman who has been manipulated by three 'mesmerists' to shift the Edgars around in their worlds so that she can build up some sort of a psychic charge and power an alchemical transformation of lead into gold. Huh? Well, a LOT of lead into a LOT of gold. Oh. Well, at least there's a lot of gold at stake. Perry trails after her and her kidnappers from Richmond through Paris, parts of Spain, the Antarctic and New York. And in the end, she doesn't even need his help to be rescued.

3) The south pole is actually a big drain in which all water drains through the center of the earth and gets spat up through the north pole. Sort of a constant flush. Perry's ship gets sucked in, but 'just by chance' they had rescued a Dutch balloonist sometime before. They ride the baloon to NORTH AMERICA with only one brief stop.

4) Perry digs a trench in the middle of the villain's fortress and hides it with a piece of tarp. Never mind that the room is actually a room, not a dirt-floored hovel, or that one of the many henchmen would have noticed him, or that the writers, who yet again badly damaged our willing suspension of disbelieve then don't even bother to use the offending trench in the plot. Just never mind.

5) The villain of the piece makes Perry the sole beneficiary of his last will and testament. Why? Nobody knows. Well he may have been Perry's father. But that's just speculation. "Perry. I am your father, Perry. Join me on the dark side of the force, where we kidnap young girls and make them turn lead into gold. C'mon, Perry, you know you want to.'

5) There is no black throne in the entirety of The Black Throne. There is however a black chair. A 'shiny black chair'. So that's okay, I guess. As long as it's shiny.

I'm tired now. Let me sleep. Maybe the pain will subside. It's not enough that I suffer from literary poisoning, but you people make me talk about it too? Go read the Black Throne for yourself, then!

No I don't mean it. It's only the pain.

Along Orchard Road Pt 1: Tourists from Hell

So the other day my wife and I were walking down Orchard road close to Forum when we spied a middle aged woman and her two sons (roughly ten and twelve if I had to guess). The mother was wearing a sweater, and her two sons were wearing those kinds of jackets that are quilted inside and rain proof outside. It was probably 33 degrees that day. I pointed and laughed (subtly). My wife shushed me and said they were probably tourists. I said 'tourists from where? Hell?'. My wife hit me. She hits me a lot.

Look, I 'm used to heat. I'm from south Texas, where we like to say there are two seasons; summer and February. The heat can be brutal there, I can't remember when temperatures didn't reach 40, and sometimes they spike to 45. Every year charitable organizations have fan drives, because the elderly who cannot afford air conditioning start dying from the heat around the middle of June, and this continues into October depending on the weather. I have literally fried an egg on my sidewalk.So me and heat, we're acquainted.

But when I saw this trio who felt chilly in Singapore, I began to suspect that heat and I weren't as close as heat had led me to believe. That heat had, in effect, been faking an intimacy with me. Why? Who knows why the elements do what they do.

Who were these people? I wanted badly to know, but Mrs Machine forbade me to go up to them and enquire, on pain of pain. So I can only assume that they were indeed tourists from hell. Or New Orleans, because compared to New Orleans, Singapore's heat is a dry heat. And besides, most people can't tell the difference between hell and New Orleans anyway.