Grumpy Old Man

Patience is overrated.

As a father, I’m expected to be patient and nurturing to my son. Well, that was the plan. I have been patient and nurturing from the day my son was born as far as I remember. But days go by, the years pile on and some things don’t go as planned. That’s not to say that I am no longer patient nor nurturing to my son. It’s just more difficult to be patient nowadays than a few years ago.

Parents should know what it’s like. One minute you are talking leisurely with your kid and the next you are wrangling each other by the neck. Okay, we have not gone that extreme yet. But I think we’re close. What I don’t get is why we have to go through the same menial argument over and over again. Seriously, how many times do you have to ask someone to clean their mess up or to finish their dinner?

Grumpy Old Man
Grumpy Old Man

I know I would sound like I’m ranting (and maybe I am), but just imagine the following situations:

You prepare warm oatmeal in the morning and tidy up the kitchen before calling your kid in to eat his breakfast. And he first thing he does is scoop powdered milk to spread on top of his oatmeal only the milk spreads on the table top instead.

You wake your son up early in the morning to take a bath (and get ready for school). He asks for five minutes at every interval that you try and wake him up from and ends up going out late for school. And he blames you for being late.

You ask your son if he has any homework from school and he says no. So you fool around with him and stay up late. The next morning, he panics saying that he actually has homework. And it’s mathematics.

Your son asks you to buy this really cool (but relatively expensive) new toy that you are actually also interested in. So you buy it telling him to promise to take good care of it (so that you can play with it when he’s not looking). The next day, the toy is missing a leg, or a wheel or whatever important part that he “accidentally” lost.

You give your son that new book that he has been asking for since the last time you went to a bookstore. He happily reads the book throughout the night. The next morning, you find that precious book neglected in the bathroom face down on a page that he wanted to bookmark.

Bang!
Bang!

We all love our children and deep inside we know that our children love us as well. We would probably think to ourselves that children are just being children. Heck, we might even have a recollection or two of how we were back when we were their age. But in my ageing years, patience has taken a back seat and I grow tired really quickly. It’s difficult to see where “kids are being kids” and “kids being downright obnoxiously irritating” is at times. I really admire parents who have more patience than me because I know how difficult it can be. Maybe they have a better coping mechanism than I do, or maybe they have better skills in teaching their kids how to follow them or maybe they just have less hyper kids than my son. Whatever it is, I salute you.

I may end up becoming a grumpy old man by the time I have grandkids. But that doesn’t mean the memories that I have of my son isn’t anything less to treasure. Every day is a day to cherish. Good days give us happy memories, bad days give us lessons to learn. Let us not let a day go by without taking something away from it and being thankful.

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Yayoi Kusama in Singapore

It was packed and you need to queue up in order to see some (actually, most) of the exhibition. Seriously, this is not how you are supposed to appreciate the art of Yayoi Kusama.

Tulip Obliterated
Tulip Obliterated

Apart from the annoying bit that everybody just seems to want to take a selfie (or wefie), there is a lot to appreciate in the Life is the Heart of a Rainbow exhibit recently concluded at the National Gallery Singapore.

For the longest time since I have read about it, I wanted to go and see this exhibition. However, due to commitments both at work and at school (for Matthew), we found it difficult to set a date that was not a weekend. And so we braved the National Gallery one Saturday afternoon to visit the Yayoi Kusama exhibition.

—–

But who is Yayoi Kusama?

If you were one of the few who came to the exhibition to actually experience the art and not just to take your Instagram feed to the next level, then you would have taken a bit of time to actually read up on her. It would have been told then that Yayoi’s childhood experiences had been the primary force in her art. Having lived through WWII despite the hallucinations she had been having in her head, it was easy to understand why her art is, well, classified as avant-garde. She would describe her hallucinations as “flashes of light, auras and dense field of dots”. At some point in my personal life, I’ve had those visions. I have not thought of them as hallucinations but rather, I thought it was normal happenings in my head since I wanted to be alone most of the time. She even managed to give it a name, “infinity nets” and “self-obliteration”. Big and apt words (and quite frankly, I wish I had thought of them).

She also had hallucinations of flowers that spoke to her and patterns that came to life. I didn’t have flowers speaking to me, although my dog often did. And I often spoke to my dog. Again, I thought that was normal. But Yayoi did something amazing with her hallucinations. She conquered them and used them as a means to an end. As such, you have these various art mediums that can only be described as distinctly Yayoi Kusama. I may never understand some lumps of it, but of those that I did, it made me see dots in my head again.

—–

Stay behind the line.
Stay behind the line.

 

We squeezed our way through the crowd and queued up however which way to get into the galleries. Each of which were suffocating due to the number of people. Whether or not they were there for the art or for whatever personal reason, it made the whole experience somewhat less personal. Admittedly, I tried getting photos of my family and myself to have a reminder that I had been to the exhibition. The rest of the photos were to remind me of the art that I enjoyed and had good conversations with my son while we were there. Surely, Yayoi Kusama would have flinched at the discussion my wife and I were having with our son regarding her work. Sure, it’s been viewed and appreciated by legends and critiques the world over, but I don’t think she’s ever been critiqued by an eleven-year old boy who saw tadpoles in her art.

"Tadpoles on purple water" - Matthew
“Tadpoles on purple water” – Matthew

 

"Circular Zebra" - Matthew
“Circular Zebra” – Matthew

 

We would love to see her work again, but not like it was in the National Gallery. Perhaps a trip to her own museum in Japan would be a better way (and more complete) to live and appreciate the art of Yayoi Kusama.

"How many parking lot mirrors did she steal for this?" - Matthew
“How many parking lot mirrors did she steal for this?” – Matthew

Interestingly, I read piece in the Straits Times with whom I share the same sentiment with. The link to the article is here, and as of this writing, is still a live link.

http://www.straitstimes.com/opinion/yayoi-kusama-in-the-age-of-selfies-and-instagram

Monster Jam Party

When I was a kid, I remember having a small pick-up truck with humongous wheels. The wheels were so big that it was taller than the truck’s body. It was called a “monster truck”. These trucks would scale mountains, jump over cars and then crush them. It was mayhem watching them on the telly. I scaled a mountain of earth with that toy monster truck and it never emerged from the rubble after that (that was a sad day for me). A few years on and I am now in my first Monster Jam event in Singapore with my family in tow (my wife has always wanted a monster truck).

This was the first Monster Jam outing that was held in Singapore. Hopefully, it would not be the last as it was loud, fast and furious. Twelve feet tall monster trucks were ripping through the Singapore Indoor Stadium jumping crests, crushing cars, doing wheelies and toppling over. Who wouldn’t want to see that again?

"I don't like it here"
“I don’t like it here”

I actually booked the tickets about two months before the actual event. I got an Email about a promotion for a certain provider’s pre-selling special price and I took it. Matthew only saw the advertisement for Monster Jam a month later and he was so excited in telling me all about it. I asked him if he wanted to go and see it and his answer was a big “duh, yes!”. But I never told him that I had already bought tickets. I just said that I would see what I could do. He would remind me about it every time he had heard or had seen the ad and I still never told him about the tickets. It was difficult to hide it from him, but it was fun doing it.

So when we got to the venue and he realised the date, he was all smiles. He was still in his moody don’t-want-to-take-a-photo mode all throughout the time we were in the pit area and queueing up for signatures (and photos and souvenirs). We managed a few shots here and there, but I didn’t bring my DSLR because it was in the guidelines for entry to the Stadium. The joke was on me as there were a lot of people with DSLRs. It’s a lesson learned for the next time we hit the Stadium then. And because Matthew couldn’t decide which Monster Jam truck he really wanted, he wasn’t able to get the toy (obviously the most famous trucks were scooped out first). He started asking for Grave Digger and Max D but both were already out of stock. On the other hand, I already have El Toro Loco and just needed to queue up for signing and a photo op with the driver, Marc McDonald. After the Pit Party, we made our way to our seats with snacks in tow. And then we waited.

El Toro Loco driver Marc McDonald
El Toro Loco driver Marc McDonald

The trucks were loud. But not overly loud and we were glad that we didn’t buy earplugs (as you get to feel the atmosphere more without them). Younger folks would have benefitted from them though. The night was divided into race, two wheels skills challenge and freestyle. It was basically a knock out challenge based on a point system that was going to be judged by the audience via an online voting website. The sound of the trucks revving and the smell of exhaust fumes only served to elevate the excitement of the crowd.

The race was about to start. You can hear the trucks rumbling in idle at their respective staring lines. Matthew was ready to start filming with his trusty Olympus as he smiled toward me. And then the air was ripped open with the sound of the throaty exhausts from the monster trucks. Matthew jumped from his seat (it was funny seeing the look on his face). And just as the lap was about to conclude, Megalodon crashes. For some insane reason, the crowd goes wild. Yeah, we love crashes but we were praying that the driver was safe. Truth be told, I’m pretty sure that these monster machines are actually safer than your regular sedan. What was funnier though, was when the support cranes and forklifts came out from the pits like an orchestrated band which was more comical than anything else. Megalodon was upright in no time (although it had to limp back to the pits straight after the race). Ten monster trucks driven by talented men and women tore through the track each winning my mere seconds from each other.

Next up was the two wheels skills challenge where the trucks and their drivers were given two runs to show off their two wheel skills (yeah, that was kind of redundant). Front wheelies, rear wheelies, stop-stand and other neat tricks filled the stadium (as long as two wheels reach for the sky). One thing we particularly loved was when El Toro Loco finished his run and snorted nitrous through the bull’s nostrils. It was befitting the raging bull’s winning run. A break was then introduced as the drivers and their crew prepared the trucks for the finale. It was going to be all-out war in freestyle.

Monster Mutt Dalmatian
Monster Mutt Dalmatian

Finally, it was time for Monster Jam Freestyle. This was where the kid gloves come off. Freestyle is where each driver wrings the throttle of their trucks to bring out only the best stunts and tricks within the time limit. Of course, performing tricks is just part of it. Getting to finish the trick without wiping out is the second part. Since it is a judged competition, they really had to put on a show to impress the Singapore crowd. And impress they did. There were notable attempts from the competitors and it was sad to see some of them retire in the middle of the competition (Blue Thunder, we’ll miss you). But I guess that’s what makes Monster Jam great, there is no clear winner as long as there are trucks are still standing. We were personally rooting for El Toro Loco and Earthshaker, but that run by Megalodon was something for the books. He was the only one to do a three sixty somersault and live to tell about it. A big feat considering the damage Megalodon took early on (he was also the first to crash in the race). In the end though, the judges have spoken and the truck to win the freestyle event was Monster Energy driven by LeDuc.

The scores were tallied at the end of the night and jamming together the points from race, two wheels and freestlye, it was clear that Monster Energy was taking home the trophy, followed closely by crowd favourite Grave Digger and then Earthshaker in third place. It was a pity that El Toro Loco only came in fifth, but we have another new favourite in Earthshaker right there. It was great fun and it would be great to see these guys back in Singapore again.

Saturday. At the STGCC.

This year’s STGCC is Matthew’s first proper “convention”.

So, what is the STGCC? It stands for the Singapore Toy Game and Comic Convention and 2017 is their tenth year running. So obviously, we were expecting toys, games and comics to be at the convention. And they pretty much were. Now, the world is filled with all sorts of toys, games and comics and it can be quite a daunting task figuring out what it is that you want to see. The variety at the STGCC was quite big, and although it tried to cater to pretty much everyone, there was still quite a big hole to fill. As for being Matthew’s first convention, it did its job.

First up, the toys. Toys R Us being what most kids have come to picture what a toy store look like, this convention will throw that notion out the window. We are not going to be looking at Barbie and G.I. Joes here (not the mass market versions anyway). We are looking at Tamashii Nation, Hot Toys, Robot Spirit, S.H.Figuarts, Nendoroids and the occasional Funko Pops. Hobby shops like Action City, Simply Toys, Mighty Jaxx and The Falcon’s Hangar were there selling STGCC exclusives. I was never really into buying expensive stuff but I was familiar with them and so was Matthew. Seeing them in their actual sculpted glory was something entirely different though. Even though they caught our attention, we never really dug deep into our pockets for every eye candy that we saw. Yes, we liked the Pacific Rim action figures and the Star Wars light sabers but they weren’t really our kinds of toys (yet). So we dug deep enough to satisfy our current hobbies. Gunpla and X-Wings miniatures.

They actually already belonged to another section of the convention which was the space for games. In this case, games meant collectible card games like Magic: The Gathering, Vanguard, Yu-Gi-Oh and the like. It was also the space for table-top games like X-Wing Miniatures and Warhammer to name a few. In fact, a tournament was happening during the convention. It was when we were walking around that we were asked to sit down for a demo of The Walking Dead: All Out War. It was a game literally straight out of the TV show and comic books with the characters and scenarios that you can play out. The rules though, were a bit too complicated for novices such as Matthew and myself. When we moved on to the next table however, the Tanks game was pretty much spot on. It played similarly to the X-Wings Miniatures game and so we were able to get the hang of it pretty quickly. Not to mention the guys at Blitz and Peaces were very accommodating. We even had a German officer (in full military drab) building his tank with us at the booth. The conversation, to say the least, was lively and very informative. I wouldn’t have thought of getting a WW II history lesson while helping Matthew build a plastic tank!

The E-sports section was just nearby but we didn’t pay much attention to it. It is still not in the range of what interests Matthew at the moment. And thankfully so, as building a gaming rig (fun as it was during the time that I was into it) can be quite an expensive hobby. And that was just the rig without the games. I’m already obsessed with gaming keyboards and mice, not because I’m a gamer, but because I like the feel of these gaming peripherals. We did catch glimpses of some of the games, but they really didn’t pique Matthew’s curiosity at that moment.

I thought that the Akiba Zone was where we would actually see more anime related stuff, but it was for people that are more of an otaku than we were. Sadly, Matthew and I are just hobbyists in the anime world and not full blown geeks (yet). That may change depending on how the anime and manga industry grows around Matthew. And perhaps that will depend on his friends as well, but that remains to be seen.

Backtracking to the Star Wars world, we get reminded of this year’s STGCC theme. There were lots of Star Wars stuff. Including Rey’s speeder and the deck of the Millenium Falcon built to scale. Matthew being Matthew though, we didn’t have the heart to queue up for any souvenir photos for that Instagram post. Those duel-ready light sabres were very interesting though. As much as we would have liked to whack each other with those sabres though, we opted to forego them as well.

We walked around the convention hall a bit more to look at the weird and wonderful stuff that were on sale. Products that we have never heard of were there, Indie artists selling their ware, and weird things that you would never find in retail shops (ball sack pistols anyone?). There were handmade sculptures, handmade posters, handmade toys and comic books by independent artists. The place was nearly free-for-all and we had a good time.

By the end of the day, we had to pick something up to make the trip even more worth it than the experience we already had. So we picked out some toys to put in our toy box and we left the place happy. We didn’t get to make new friends yet, but the acquaintances that we managed to experience was a good step forward in the right direction. Maybe in the next convention, we wouldn’t be too shy.

That Question About Getting A Phone (Redux)

I warned myself before I decided on getting a mobile phone for Matthew two or so years ago (link to the previous post here: That Question… ). It wasn’t so much as not allowing him to have one or giving him strict restrictions on the use of such a device. It was more about him being responsible with his own things. Something that he has been taking a lot of time to master.

The main purpose of letting Matthew have a phone on his person was so that he always had a way to contact us. It was meant to be both ways but since the phone was always on silent mode when he was in school, he almost always never answers our calls or replies to our messages. I never really understood his reasoning on why he doesn’t go through the messages that had notifications flashing on his phone. He just doesn’t reply to them and if he did, it would normally make little sense.

Matthew and his Nokia
Matthew and his Nokia

The first phone that he really recognized as his own phone was the blue Nokia 105 that he had picked out from the local neighbourhood shop. He picked it because he wanted it and probably because of nostalgia. The nostalgia would have been from us talking to him about the mobile phones that we (me and mum) had when we were younger, and both of us had a few Nokias when they were all the rage.

In recent times (calendar check, the year is 2017), children younger than 11 can be seen toting their own mobile devices. Some of them even as new and as expensive as the latest Apple iPhones and Samsung Galaxies. I was relieved that Matthew did not have such an attraction to those kind of things and preferred a basic (and nostalgic) device such as the Nokia 105 instead. Alas, my fears about his being responsible with his things (or lack thereof) came into view a few weeks after he got the phone. He lost it. At a bus stop. After that incident we handed him our old Blackberry but it was not as child friendly and he soon asked for a replacement Nokia. By chance, we managed to get another Nokia 110 (in the exact same colour) which made him the happiest kid on Earth. I don’t even remember where he lost the second Nokia. It took a long time before he asked for a phone since then. And we never offered until he needed to stay back for after-school work.

Mum and I decided on finally getting him a smartphone this time around. Well, we were really running out of options since the local telco announced that 2G connectivity would soon cease and the old Nokias that Matthew wanted wouldn’t work anymore. Luckily, I was up for a mobile re-contract at the time so there was a chance for getting a good deal on a new mobile phone. Asking him about his choice of smartphone probably wasn’t such a good idea since he decided to end up with a huge 6-inch phone (or in modern tech-speak, a phablet). But it worked out fine. He would give it up once he got home and we would hand it back to him in the morning to bring to school. (Of course, he would sneak it away every now and then when he gets the chance to snatch it in the house)

An Xperia XA Ultra
An Xperia XA Ultra

But that’s not going to be the end of it. Now, we are in the situation where security would become an issue. We have been very open with discussing things about social media, Internet use and cyber security with Matthew. But then, Matthew is still a bit too careless and carefree to really worry about the reality of the dangers of living in this digital age. So it’s up to us to manage it as best as we can as parents. Luckily, parental control apps are now widely available for both Android and iOS. And while majority of these are paid apps, some of them are actually worth the subscription costs. We are currently reviewing our options here, and with some free trials here and there, I think it is safe to assume that we would be arriving at a sound decision soon.

I would like to hear from those of you who have or are also considering getting a parental control app for your kid’s devices. I have narrowed down my options to the following parental control apps: Norton Family, SecureTeen and Kaspersky. They all have their pros and cons and I would be happy to share my choice when I have decided on it, but in the meantime, please feel free to share yours.

Making a fuss out of a mess

I consider myself a neat and organized person. My note pads are color coordinated. My closet is stacked up and color coordinated as well. My CDs and DVDs are arranged by genre. Even the folders on my desktop are named in such a way that anyone who looks at it will know how my music is segregated from my movies from my anime series. My wife thinks I have OCD. I just want to see symmetry and order. But that’s just me.

My wife and my son on the other hand, are busy bodies. My wife is disorganzed but she doesn’t make too much of a mess. I find her things on her dressing table (which we used to share) and on the computer desk (which used to be mine). She loses her phone from time to time and she needs to call them (both her mobile and our landline) to find them. But she finds them nonetheless. Yes, she occupies half of everything and I keep on moving out of my space every now and then. My boxes of toys don’t know where to stay put anymore.

Pikachu and his messy desk
Pikachu and his messy desk

My son on the other hand, is a walking mess. He leaves his books everywhere. I find his books in the toilet, on the dining table, on the floor (anywhere in the whole house), on his bed, on my bed, and everywhere else that he walks into. I find his toys in the same places but includes even in the shower and in the refrigerator and sometimes in my underwear drawer. He leaves all the doors that he opens, open and all the drawers that he pulled, pulled. Anything that he drops stays there and he will never pick them up on his own. When you ask him to pick it up, he will only pick up that one thing even though there are others just beside it. I once asked him to pick up his toy cars and put them back in his toy box. He did. But the toy cars were beside a toy plane which should have gone in the box as well. So I had to ask him to pick up the toy plane too. It’s the same for his books and his underwear and his shirt and his phone and the coins that he scatters around the house.

Some people just don’t know what it’s like to constantly be on the edge of wanting to clean every scrap of mess around the house. But I can’t. I can’t because as organized as I want myself to believe, I’m just as forgetful as a goldfish. So if I clean up someone else’s mess apart from my own, I would never remember where I had put them away. And this becomes a problem when that somebody starts looking for something. Technically, it already is a problem in the first place because it was piled up in a mess. But because that person knew where that mess was, they at least had an idea where to look.

Of course, this could just be a mild case of over thinking. Then again, what isn’t a case of over thinking nowadays?

Breaking the Year (Part 1)

School break happens in June for us with kids going to school in Singapore (and some other countries as well). And while it should be a normal break where the kids are taken out on road trips and swimming and horse back riding, this year is different. PSLE.

Of course that shouldn’t really stop us from having a proper holiday. It is a shadow of what is to come in a few months and one has to accept it before one can move on. We did our best to squeeze in extra head banging in the first few weeks of the break. We’re not really sure how much it helped, but it is time to put that behind us for a short while. It is time for a break.

 The Crew

Matthew had always been about family. And the closest that we have are his cousins living on the island next door. We packed our bags and took the ferry to Batam and then a speedboat to Bintan. We drop our bags in our rooms at Nirwana Gardens and put our feet up to chill. It probably won’t be enough to cover the stress coming for us until the end of the year, but some is better than none.

The kids had a game of giant chess before we were up in our rooms. Then we hit the pool with the kids in the middle of a downpour. In the end, we couldn’t decide if we got wet in the rain or in the pool. Luckily it was just rain or else lightning would have put a stop to the fun. Everybody seems to be doing their own thing but everybody was having fun so that wasn’t really an issue. We realised that we weren’t the only crazy people there as there were a handful of us enjoying the rain (It’s not something you see much in Singapore, believe me). When the rain stopped, we stepped out of the pool and back into our rooms. We spent the rest of the night on a game of bowling. Let’s just not talk about who won and how. It was a friendly game after all (and those last two gutter balls were intentional). The boys had a go at shooting using airsoft guns. I heard it didn’t go too well.

Check mate
Check mate

Buffet breakfasts were the norm in hotels and resorts and that meant we had an hour or so to fill up before doing any more activities. The younger kids went on to horse back riding while the boys stayed behind to do their own thing. Andrae pretended that he was a sniper and did target shooting with an airsoft rifle while Matthew pretended that he was as good as Hawkeye and did archery on the field right beside rifle shooting. Neither one of them broke any records. After deciding to forego the ATV and buggy riding, the same boys decided to team up and hit the paintball skirmish course. It was father and son versus father and son. After laughing our heads off because of our ridiculous outfits (seriously, flip-flops with full paintball camo and armor don’t go well together). It was the most fun shooting someone else we had. Some of us died more than the others and we finally proved that paintball hurts. We’ve got the bruises to prove it. Nobody did capture the flag so there was no clear winner. What was clear though, was that the dads weren’t as fit as they thought. We were panting halfway through and judging by the way we couldn’t fully take cover on the low barrels shows just how fit our bodies were. There will be round two. Soon.

Paintball took the wind out of us and that was it for Nirwana. We headed back to Batam soon after checking out. Getting to and from the resort was smooth, but it did take close to an hour (one way) and then there was the speedboat (choppy waters, claustrophobic quarters, no seatbelts, yep, that was fun) that took us between Batam and Bintan. Back in Batam, we shopped and we ate. It was so much fun eating that we probably gained more pounds in the shortest span of a two days. Tired but full, we head back to Singapore to lull the last few days before school starts again.

The Art of the Universe

Is there a relationship between art and the universe?

 

History tells us, yes.

Map of the stars
Map of the stars

It would seem that we, humans, have had a fascination with the universe from probably since the time we asked what those lights in the sky are. And some of our ancestors have tried to tell their stories and theories through drawings, scribbles, dabbles, poetry and music. While most people may not have understood what they were trying to say back then, it is amazing to see now that we still ask practically the same questions that our ancestors did. Thoughts about the universe has always been vague. Truth be told, we probably know only a fraction of what the universe is all about in the two centuries that we have been around.

Time space warp!

One thing that we can agree on is that we believe that the universe is mostly made up of space. Lots and lots of space. In fact, in some scenarios, time and space are used interchangeably. There are even arguments that time and space can be bent. And with this bending, unbelievable things can occur. Not that we actually have proof of it, but if the theories and dreams do come true, we may be looking at infinity. Would it have a price? definitely. But we also hope that whatever the shape of the universe turns out to be, they would be beautifully tangible as the art that it has inspired. And art is truly unbelievable as it gives our imaginations shape and form. It may turn out weird or downright bizarre, but in today’s open-minded (well, some anyway) society you may be able to get away with putting together utter garbage -err, recycled materials- and sell it off as art.

Sexy Robot

Now, if time and space are intertwined, are we living in the past or the future? According to our species, the so called human race, we are in the present. And if we look at it the way we are now, then it would make sense. But if we imagine for one minute that we are not in the present, then things would be much more interesting. Looking at how others interpret the future is both interesting and fun at the same time. Surely, at some point we have probably imagined the same thing or was in the same train of thought as the other people that have expressed in their art.

 

And finally, outer space. Our greatest achievement as Terrans. We imagined travelling to outer space, beyond the confines of our Earth. And truly, some of us (myself included) used to imagine flying off into the unknown in our spacecraft (mostly made of cardboard and other junk) and discovering alien worlds. I used to wonder what people out in space were doing while they were out there. I mean, you can’t just go for a run or a swim or even just chill by the pool. Some were doing scientific stuff and others were doodling. And thus we have the art that was inspired by the void of space.

Man on the moon

Where imagination soars, there is always a thought behind it. A thought that would want to change the imagination from a thought to reality. And it becomes a cycle of art becoming science and becoming art again. Obviously, not all art and not all science become successful relatives. But those that have are in front of us now and it is continually shaping tomorrow for us mere mortals.

 

The Universe and Art exhibition in the ArtScience Museum takes us to that journey. A journey centuries in the making. From the minds of artists and scientists is a plethora of thoughts brought to life by the sheer will of humanity.

We are Human

How fictional is Science Fiction in this day and age?

I see you
I see you

HG Wells, Jules Verne, Neil Gaiman. There are numerous influences that have fed our minds with stories and theories of what the future will be like. In the past few decades, we have already seen some of these come true. Maybe not what we expected or imagined, but you have to admit that it is pretty darn close (self-lacing Nikes? Hoverboards? Jetpacks?). Where have we come in terms of human evolution?

 

It is not that difficult to see that the future is now. We are living in a world with cyborgs and artificial intelligence. We live among people with mechanical limbs or otherwise augmented body parts. We are now being driven by driverless cars. Robots now assist in various medical sciences and are doing a pretty good job it. The possibility that we may be replaced with machines are as real as it gets. But let us not jump to conclusions just yet. As I mentioned earlier, it was science fiction that fed our imaginations and drove us to develop the things that we are seeing today. That means that we have the power to choose how the future will be.

Go faster
Go faster

We should already be aware of people with prosthetics that have augmented body functions such as Amy Mullins’ Cheetah legs. And then there is the antennae implanted on Neil Harbisson’s skull which allows him to perceive colors as sound waves. I couldn’t understand how and why he did it, but I respect him and his work. Being recognized as a proper cyborg by the British government has to count for something. The first section of the exhibition is dedicated to all of these things. And seeing how the history of prosthetics go far into our past, it could only mean that the gap between now and tomorrow is getting shorter and shorter.

 

The exhibition also teaches us how the technology we have now are changing the way we interact with one another. We sometimes take things for granted, but the way the things we use have evolved have all been because of our desire to communicate, to respond, to say something. We saw optics embedded in robotic eyes that follow a persons movement. A robot arm that responds to a baby’s voice and rocks the cradle. We saw devices that allow us to interact in such a way that a machine mimics what a real person would have felt. Beyond this, even the simple use of Skype or Messenger that allows me to connect with my family is already a big change from what we had when I was Matthew’s age.

When green runs out
When green runs out

And then there is the correlation between us, the environment and the technology of our time. Some technological advancements give us the jump in productivity and efficiency immediately when it is implemented. But what happens in the next few years? Or in the next decade? Is the technology that was introduced ten years ago still relevant today? Or is it sustainable and helpful to ourselves and our environment? Our survival pretty much depends on our relationship with the Earth. And we need to be smart enough and co-exist with the world around us to live on through the next generation.

 

If the future is now, is there still tomorrow? Well, duh!

I am

A new future awaits the next generation. And the future is weird and wonderful and scary. Imagine being able to choose a better future for your children free from a hereditary disease, free from a physical deformation, free from a life threatening condition? Life should not be toyed with, but there is a future where correcting “mistakes” and “malfunctions” become a ready solution for those who would choose to have it. Surgically modifying an infant to avoid a potential future problem. Engineering genes to make people smarter, stronger or faster. With all the Gundam movies that we’ve seen, this future will be flawed because of human greed. But who knows, the future is yet to arrive. And we have our free will to choose how it affects our lives. How far we live into our own future also becomes a subject of people’s imagination and with a rather comical presentation, it becomes light-hearted. And while it would be nice to be together for longer, it does have challenges of its own.

Nadine

We bid farewell to science and fiction with Nadine. An android construct that was made in Singapore. She was built to be a realistic humanoid social robot. She will listen to you and answer your questions as much as she can. And while her actions are still limited, it is amazing to see how she interacts. Think of Siri, in a humanoid body and you have Nadine.

 

In the end, the future is still ours to choose. Some of us are too old now to even be bothered, but our children and our children’s children all have the chance to be part of shaping that future. How much they influence that future will be a good legacy. And I do wish from the bottom of my heart that I will be alive to see that in my son, Matthew.