Saturday, November 14, 2009

It's the end of the world

I haven't written anything here in over a month. Instead I have focused on fiction, and have written quite a bit, to my surprise.

So I have decided to close the shutters on the window into The Shows in My Mind. For now at least. Why keep a blog if I never write here? I may open it back up at some point, I may not. Time will tell.

Thanks to those who have read and commented, though there weren't that many of either kind.

Things change. Some things disappear, others appear.

Not only am I closing the blog, but my writing group may be disintegrating as well. For three years now there has been a core of people around which others have come and gone. Could Be King, the only published fiction writer among us, has changed jobs and won't have time to focus on much else besides writing his next novel. Finally Has A Kid finally has a kid, and will be spending most of her time being a mom.

We will try to keep meeting after the last scheduled huddle in December, and I dearly hope we can keep going. The writing class as well as the online community that followed it has fallen apart, so the huddle and my cronies are the only group I have to fuel my inspiration in the way that only fellow writers. Plus its a nice feeling to go there and feel inadequate too...

So. Bye for now. I will still be watching the shows in my minds, and I hope you will be watching the ones in your mind.

I don't have a TV now, but that's okay. The shows in my mind are almost always better.
- The Maxx, episode 1

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Home sweet home

I arrived back in Sweden last Saturday. The jetlag wasn't too bad, I was back on track in two days. Went back to work on Wednesday, where several people told me I looked really calm. One colleague wanted to rub up against me twice a day to absorb some of it. Sort of like rubbing the belly of a Buddha for luck.

My hope is that this zen-like trance will last at least a week. On Wednesday it felt like I was a spectator, watching from outside as others ran around like headless chickens in the office. A smile on my face all day long.

Something which didn't put a smile on my face was my grandfather passing away on October 1st. Olov Larsson, the rock of my family, was finally eroded by the river of life to a point where he fell apart. Everything points to him going quietly, just going to sleep, which is a relief. He was 98 years old, had spent the last few months in a care facility and refused to eat for the past few weeks, so no one is surprised he passed. Still, I'll probably cry like a baby at the funeral. 'tis what I do. I'm thinking about buying a pipe to leave instead of flowers. I think he would have liked that.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Stop eating fruits, stop eating vegetables, it's doing something bad to you. Fruits and vegetables will seduce you, like a woman

Some final impressions of Kuala Lumpur. My cab for the airport leaves in a few hours, and I've spent the day doing some last minute shopping and now just hanging out at a café with the laptop and a lemon ice tea, watching people walk by. I'm actually sitting outside, on a roofed patio, so no AC but plenty of fans around.

Began my day with the usual killer breakfast. Perfectly scrambled eggs, beef bacon, a waffle and heaps and heaps of fresh fruit.

The remains of the fruit table at breakfast after my meal

I did another walk through Sungei Wang. Now, there are a lot of shopping malls in downtown Kuala Lumpur. Not be missed are Plaza Low Yat for electronics, Suria KLCC at Petronas Towers for just about any kind of shopping (but especially for the huge bookstore on the top level) and Pavilion if you want designer brands and those Japanese pastries. I haven't even checked out a few, like the even more upscale Starhill Gallery.

The best one though was Sungei Wang. It's a warren of stores and small restaurants, that gets more interesting the higher you get. On the top floor you can get a tshirt or a top for 10 ringit, about 20 kronor, as long as you don't try it on. There was a big arcade hall, with rows of old school fighting games, most of them completely incomprehensible. Young men hunched over the games or standing around, smoking, their hairdos like something out of manga. This is where they go to kill digital things when they don't find that graphics card they were hunting for at Low Yat.

The best store by far, for me at least, was street wear store Echo Park, which was also in a couple of other malls that I've been to. I now have a membership card there for some obscure reason that I really wasn't able to figure out from what the guy working there told me.

Lunch today consisted of fried dumplings, one serving with veggies and one with mystery meat. When I ordered the ten dumplings the waitress looked at me, confused, and said "Is all?". I nodded yes, is all. She made a face and walked away.

This reminded me of the Mexican place where my brother, my parents and I ate somewhere in the middle of nowhere in the US back in 2005, where the staff seemed to mock us in Spanish when we only ordered one dish each. Around us, 300 pound Mexicans that had tables full of food. So I looked around at this place too, and noticed tiny Malaysians with three or even four dishes each, with rice on the side, and here I had only ordered two. The dumplings arrived, with a side of chili sauce you could strip paint off boats with. There was also a small dish of thin yellow slices that smelled slightly lemony. Turned out it was pickled ginger that made the chili sauce taste like water by comparison. I had to eat an ice cream afterwards, and my tongue is still sore. I ate the stuff four hours ago.

Evil in food form in the middle above the plate

Then I took yet another walk to Low Yat, where I picked up some more electronics plus a killer action figure to soothe my inner not tech-geek.

Bob wasn't sure the makeover had gone all that well

As I walked out a guy passed me on a moped wearing a Darth Vader helmet. Literally. A shiny black Darth Vader helmet. He was too fast so I didn't have time to get the camera. Then the bizarreness continued as I walked past a sign advertising STD Calls. Is that the really bad version of a booty call? I tried to take a pic but the store manager came storming out, shouting at me, so I walked away. Last thing I needed was to be wrestled to the ground by someone advertising STDs...

And then I got to confuse three young Muslim men. Over the past few days quite a lot of Muslims have nodded at me or said hello. 'tis the beard. Now three twenty something men walked by, looked at me, and then one turned around and said "I'm sorry, you are Muslim?"

"No", I replied, to which he said "So sorry for bothering you." I smiled, said "No problem", and then "As-Salamu Alaykum". They all stared at me and then walked away. Win.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

One night in KL and the world's your oyster

Last night in Kuala Lumpur. Tomorrow I go back home, flying out at 2355 to Amsterdam where I transfer to Stockholm. Why the transfer you ask? Mister Control Freak here booked in March, shouldn't he have been able to book a direct flight?

See, I did. I booked a direct flight from Kuala Lumpur to Stockholm. However, those Malaysian Airlines flights have only been half-full, so over the summer Malaysian decided to stop the Stockholm flights from October 1st. Tomorrow is October 2nd. Hence the transfer in Amsterdam. Bastards.

Just finished packing everything, except my carry-on which will hold laptop, some other fragile electronics and stuff I need to get throught the flight without going postal. I will also carry a paper bag with some toys. Yes, toys. I may have passed my sweet sixteen twice over, but I'm still a kid at heart. Or that geek at heart? Either fits. So yeah, toys. One or two for me, one for a friend who doesn't know what he's getting. Eh, Steelwheels?

I was worried I would go over 20 kilos for my two bags, plus five for the carry-on. However, unless the scale in my room is lying (which might be a possibility) I am still a couple of kilos short. Which is a good thing, since excess weight costs 450 kronor. Per kilo.

Earlier today I almost perished in the heat. In two different ways. First I walked from the Suria KLCC mall to Ampang Park, to meet the tailor that did two pairs of pants for Mah Girl, and then back. In 37 degrees, the air like lead weights on my head. Horrible. Smoothies in two places, one pineapple, one pineapple/star fruit helped.

I really can't get enough of those buildings. Or the beard

The second death, narrowly avoided, came when I was walking down the street gawking at skyscrapers and almost fell into a hole in the ground. Now there would have been a spectacularly bad way of ending a trip.

Hans Moleman was having an open house

Since the flight leaves at 2355 tomorrow, I have a lot of time to kill, and since I can't hang out at the hotel room after 12, I will probably try and find some air conditioned place to read and write. Oh yeah, and go out to buy a toy and a portable hard drive.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The facts about food and cooking can be learned and understood by anyone with good sense

As with most of my vacations, food has been a big part of this trip. I've done my best to avoid Western cuisine, since a friend who lived in Malaysia informed me that they can't really cook that here. He was right.

What has been good, other than the stuff already documented here, has been local food. Or rather, Asian food of various sorts. Fresh, lots of taste, cheap. Good combination.

The breakfast buffet at the hotel is also good. Cooks in hats and aprons so white it hurts your teeth that make your eggs just the way you want them. And pancakes and waffles, for that matter. Excellent service at the table, almost too frequent, and a fantastic table of fresh fruits.

However, I have been longing for a more authentic Malaysia. Jalan Bukit Bintang, the street my hotel and several of the shopping malls are on, could be the Strip in Vegas, if you threw some dilapitated buildings in the mix and had a bunch of mopeds and piece of shit taxis driving down the street. I've wanted dirty back streets with hole in the wall restaurants, and admittedly I haven't really looked for it.

Today when I walked out of Plaza Low Yat I ended up on just such a street. Throngs of locals and tourists drinking beer or eating noodles, while a band played Smokie's "Living Next Door to Alice", standing on the sidewalk, amps and all. It was like something out of an Asian Twin Peaks, including the midget who was wearing red but didn't talk backwards. That I heard.

I'm going back there tomorrow night, to take pictures, eat and socialize with the locals.

Shopping bugs me, for metaphorical reasons I'm sure, because in life as in shopping, you go in looking for one thing

I'm all shopped out. I didn't think that was possible, but I am. My head is all numb, my feet are throbbing, my shoulders hurt after lugging a backpack full of electronics and writing material around all day.

Seated now at the Hub Café, nestled within the insanity that is Plaza Low Yat, six floors of geek nirvana with dozens if not hundreds of places selling laptops, video games, printers, anything with a USB plug, servers, etc. And so many geeks. They're everywhere, young Asian men with that empty look in their eyes indicating that they won't be happy until they found that specific graphics card that haunts them in their dreams.

This is how heaven appears to geeks

There are 19 wireless access points at this particular spot, 18 of which are encrypted. Geeks, you say? The last one belongs to the café.

In the center of all this gadget madness is a big place that sells action figures and nothing but action figures. Surprising, eh? If I have any room left in my bags once they're packed I'm so going back there to shop.

My plan now is to spiral down to the bottom of Low Yat, hunting for a meaningsless gizmo for a friend, and then hitting the hotel room for some well deserved R & R. Tomorrow, I will go back to the Kinokuniya bookstore at Suria to pick up some Daredevil graphic novels, and then pick up pants for Mah Girl. Other than that I intend to do as little as possible. Sleep in. Finish my book. Maybe, just maybe ride the monorail to see what all the fuss is about.

On Friday, I leave KL for the flight back to Stockholm via Amsterdam. The flight doesn't take off until midnight, so I'll have another day to kill. No more shopping. Maybe some sightseeing. Maybe a movie. Basically enjoying the last day of vacation. Though that's technically not true. I still have three and a half days off from work when I get back, to set the jetlag straight and just kick back.

Maybe it was because you were too busy eating twice your bodyweight in chocolate

Last night I walked a bit further from the hotel, in a sort of loop out and over towards Petronas Towers. Insane traffic was braved (how come there are so few crosswalks here?), pictures of skyscrapers snapped, Swedish hardcore (as in hardcore punk, not porn) discussed.

I had two beers and a sandwich in Rum Jungle, where sharks swam in a tank above the bar, the staff practised their Cocktail bottle flipping skills and what sounded like a 45 rpm recording of a DJ talking being played at 78 rpm (yes, children, that is a vinyl record reference) over various 60s and 70s hits. Hell, the guy even sang along to most of it, through the mic. So weird. Also, the staff were wearing six pieces of flair each. They just weren't expressing themselves enough.

Kept walking and passed a karaoke place. Nothing to get you smiling like drunk sarari men belting out a truly horrific version of The Beach Boys' "Good Vibrations". The security guard at the door stopped me from taking pictures, pointing to a no photos sign. Oh well.

By the way. The Wikipedia entry for sarari man links, amongst other things (ege. Your word is amongst. Amongst), to here. Sad and interesting at the same time. Did you know that Japanese rail companies will charge the families of those who commit suicide in front of a train a fee depending on the severity of disrupted traffic?

Right now I'm in MOF, a Japanese café. I ordered a milkshake and a small pastry. My order unleashed a flurry of activity behind the counter. One guy did the shake, with the kind of meticulous attention to detail that characterizes most things Japanese. The result was not so much a milkshake as the idea of what a milkshake should look like. In the 50s, in an American Diner. Say, Jack Rabbit Slims.

The work that went into the shake was nothing compared to the pastry, though. When I ordered it I thought they only had the one, since there was only one in the glass top counter. I should have noticed that there was only one of every single pastry. So two guys in crisp white uniforms made my pastry. From scratch. It was sort of a waffle thingie, with chocolate filling. Mmm...filling...

The café is in Pavilion, a fairly upscale shopping mall. I managed to score a couple of sneakers for 200 kronor and some gifts for various people. I walked around and gawked in a very touristy fashion at ridiculously expensive art and furniture and home decor. You know, in the kind of store where the staff ignore you unless you walk in wearing a Saville Row suit, waving a big wad of cash around.

Interestingly enough, one of the most swanky art stores was playing Richard Cheese over their speakers. I wonder if it was ironic or if they really didn't have a clue.