Blood in the Sawdust

Whether it gives you a thrilling burst of adrenaline or makes you shudder in lily-livered disgust, there is no denying that conflict is a fact of life. According to Darwin’s theory of Survival of the Fittest, we are caught in a cosmic struggle for dominance, contestants in a kind of genetic game show where the prizes are not iPods, holidays or cuddly toys, but survival, reproduction, even life itself. It’s a brutal doctrine, amounting to a nihilistic denial of the spiritual aspect of humanity, equating us with sleepwalking automata, our only ultimate meaning a tautological process of self-replication. We live so that our children may live, who in turn live so that their children may live, and so on and so on until the Earth burns in the final bloated swelling of our star as it becomes a red dwarf, seething monstrously in space, charring the planet like a discarded piece of burned toast in the kitchen bin, and leaving no remnant, no memory of the barely sentient beings who once hubristically paraded on its fragile crust.
What must be our response to this bleak vision of the cosmos? Is life truly only about struggle? Is the struggle really meaningless, taking place in a lonely void? Or are our struggles watched by the gods for their amusement, like a cockfight on a sunday afternoon? Do they place bets? How much? One thousand pesos on Inilog or Biya? When we pitiful mortals are finally reduced to a pile of tattered feathers, bleeding into the sawdust, do they pick us up, pluck us and throw us in the cooking pot for a loser’s feast?
Who knows? Not me, that’s for sure. But next time your genetic legacy prompts you to fluff out your neck-feathers and peck someone to death, remember that discretion is the better part of valour, and he who fights and runs away lives to run away again next week. And many mickles make a muckle. Or, as Confucius said after his famous hangbag-fight with Lao Tzu, “If you want to sit in the cat’s bowl, make sure you can hop quickly.”

City of Contradictions

Air thick with traffic fumes, dancing around the outstretched arms of the beggars in Malate, the surreal, magical evening light of Roxas Boulevard, heading across town to the “little Singapore” which is Makati – all Starbucks and shiny shopping malls, taking tours of derelict buildings in the old city centre where the walls crumble and water drips and graffiti is written in Baybayin, seeing layer upon layer thrown down on top each other any old way, dodging jeepneys, feeling the desperation, learning the euphemism “Guest Relations Officer”, meeting pool sharks, transvestites, peanut vendors, hearing the ubiquitous ice cream tune, feeling the humour of the people here, the irony, the way they give directions by pointing and saying “over there” even when they have no idea, following Rizal’s footprints to death, trying to get your head round a city which cannot be summarised, cannot be imagined. This is Manila.

Connor or Oliver? Vote Now!

As Sir Elton John, the famous bespectacled arse-bandit, sang in the soundtrack to that inspirational film The Lion King, Life proceeds in an endless cycle of growth, birth and death. Such processes are held in a timeless equilibrium, symbolised in the Hindu religion by the figures of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.
But enough of such mystical bull*! The issue of the day is this: what name shall we call this latest addition to the miracle we call Life? Mother (Helen) and father (Simon) cannot agree, so I have unilaterally decided to put it to a vote on my blog. Their favoured alternatives are Connor and Oliver, but I have a few ideas of my own too. So here is the shortlist:

Oliver – named after half of the comedy duo Laurel and Hardy, or possibly the historical hero of the Irish, Oliver Cromwell, the name Oliver has the advantage of more syllables, and the syncopation of the name “Oliver Hyett” takes on the rhythm of the Picarro Shuffle, somehow appropriate to the son of a drummer.

Connor – another Celtic name, this one characterized by friend and IT manager to the birth Peter Korsuize as being “more manly” than the first option. Imagine a kind of Australian Braveheart, fiery red hair and unbridled machismo – this is what is in store for the Hyetts if they go for the Connor option.

Kermit – already vetoed by Helen, but if enough votes come in I’m sure we can revive the green muppett’s moniker as a contender.

Gurmit – born in Singapore, why not name him after the famous comedian?

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi – the spiritual option. And he may attract a cult following. Imagine the nubile young acolytes, and the scores of grandchildren.

Singapore Grand – with a surname like Hyett, it is difficult to resist this pun.

VOTE NOW! And get a free … er… well just vote

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