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29th February
written by tom

Books bought (* indicates second hand; + for coursework):

Hans-Georg Gadamer, The Beginning of Philosophy*

John Locke, Two Treatises of Government*

Herbert Marks (ed), The English Bible, King James Version: The Old Testament (Vol. 1)*

Clifford Geertz, Negara: The Theatre State In Nineteenth-Century Bali*

Isaiah Berlin, The Power of Ideas*

Gayle L. Ormiston, The Hermeneutic Tradition: From Ast to Ricoeur*

Books read:

Carl Schmitt, The Concept of the Political


22nd May
written by tom

We’ve just returned home after spending 8 days in Japan.




20th March
written by tom

Bouncing baby

Three months ago, Hannah could hardly move.

11th March
written by tom

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page”

St. Augustine.

I wonder if it is permitted to read that passage in a less flattering light after it appeared in a hotel mailing list?

On a far happier note, Hannah is now on only two drugs!

12th February
written by tom

The sixth day of the month has come to have a significance of its own since August last year. It was another Monday, the start of another week. We were just disembarking from the shuttle to Jakarta when Jen called with unusual, meaningless, nonsensical news and that I should catch the earliest return flight.

Hannah had been diagnosed with “West Syndrome”; she had just turned 5 months. The 4 hours between hearing the news and boarding the return flight was long enough and empty enough to learn enough about the reality of “infantile spasms”, a severe form of epilepsy that occurs in 0.0002% of infants.

Over the following months, Hannah was treated with half a dozen different drugs. She was initially pumped with steroids; she gained so much weight and her face swelled until we could barely see her eyes. Every four weeks, the time it takes for anti-epileptic drugs to “stick”, we would bring Hannah for an EEG, which measures brain wave activity. Two NUH lab technicians would position 30 nodes, at the end of different coloured wires, onto predefined parts of her scalp, transforming our Hannah into a little Medusa.

We grew to have some insight into reading theses brain wave patterns; each electrical pulse, each discharge, meant something. Hannah’s brain-wave activity was so chaotic – an occurrence called hypsarrhythmia – it blocked perception and undercut learning and knowledge retention. External stimuli literally made no sense.

The past six months are difficult to describe. Little else mattered apart from Hannah, and we would be cheered by the occasional smile, and chastened by every seizure. She, or more correctly, the condition, sapped us. Our world shrunk to a size congruent with our energies. Like Hannah, we would awake each day as if the day was really a new day; the difference, of course, was that it was acutely true for her.

The first line of drugs are usually the most effective, with the likelihood of success at 60%; by the time we reach the 6th line drug (which in our case was topiramate), the chances of its effectiveness in counteracting the condition slips to around 10%.

Sometimes though, 10% is enough. Late on 17th December, Hannah started wailing uncontrollably. She cried as if for the first time. We must have appeared perverse, taking such joy from the tears of an infant. The crying meant that Hannah had somehow “snapped” out of her wakeful coma. The following 18 hours were amazing, as Hannah finally, belatedly, came back to our world. It was as if she was able to take cognizance for the first time, with each sound, each smell, each sight a wonder for her.

Since then, it’s all about hard work, as this 11 month old has had to learn for herself, for the first time, the things, movement, sounds, gestures and faces that 11 month olds “naturally” do and know. Jen – with this as with much else – has taken the lead with exercises designed to replicate and hasten the development curve that infants follow.

We don’t know where this will lead. A relapse is but a day away. But in the meantime, we have other, more significant, significant dates and we remind ourselves of this much like the alcoholic who attends AA: It’s been 75 days since Hannah’s last seizure. In the long term, autism remains a possibility, as is the particularly debilitating Lennox–Gastaut syndrome. We don’t know if she will have learning difficulties or behavioural issues, or if she will manage an independent life. We do know, however, how great it is to have her back.

And I tell her that every night.

20th December
written by tom

The silence of the 5 months since the Great Diagnosis was finally broken.

The Great Awakening took place on Monday, 17th December in the late evening; for the first time, Hannah cried long and loud. It was as if she had awakened from deep sleep to experience the world, its aches, colours, sounds, for the first time.

Nothing can ever compare with the sounds of this unfamiliar cry; a kind of halfhearted whimper that magnified uncertainty over its validity.

I hoped, that very moment, that Hannah would never leave us again.

9th November
written by tom

Driving home from the hospital late that night in February, I was amazed that the world appeared to be oblivious to the historical event that had taken place. My daughter – Hannah Rosalia – had just been born, and in that forever moment of wonder it was as if the world would surely come to fully appreciate her arrival.

Of course it didn’t, at least not directly. But it carried its own significance through me, and thereby, as proxy to the good news, the world will change, will be saved in some wonderful way. For one, the proper estimation of a new born child is that it will save the world; this is the only reasonable starting point.

Five and a half months later, as the diagnosis raced to bury me, the shattering news found me unprepared, incoherent, astonished, angry and beaten. Everything, it seems, had changed. Everything now carried the strain of the diagnosis. The pre-diagnosed Hannah was but a memory, fleeting away as quickly as she herself appeared to be. We start to mark our days with reference to August the 6th.

September 6th marked the one month milestone beyond which a cure and an easy recovery, and confidence in the corpus of modern medicine gave way to mounting doubt.

October 6th marked the two month milestone and brought home to complexity of treatment amid the introduction of a third drug and the 5th different combination cocktail.

November 6th and we end the third month under the spell of West’s Syndrome with different drugs, more combination cocktails and the looming realisation that the chances of a full recovery has dropped below 10%.

But it also marked a change, toward a different type of world, one that we wanted to shape for Hannah and for people like her.

9th November
written by tom

other parents.

9th November
written by tom

It is how it used to be.

The music industry’s falling to technological death prempts a more important inquest. What else died along with the turn of the century technological leap toward audio compression and file sharing? This question needs to be asked.

While the decapitation of the industry clearly points to a verdict of suicide, the same cannot be said of music itself. Here, it is no simple matter of record executives being overtaken by the challenges and opportunities of “the internet”. It is primarily the demise of musical substance itself, ushered by the illusory clarion call of its adjudged audience, and made possible by technology’s universe, self-destroying ascent to scale and nihilistic marketing toward ever younger, and ever more select demographic slices. This is Digitalisation – music’s compression to bytes, music coming to be seen and lived as sound waves, instrument pieces plucked and isolated detached from its context.

It is this otherwise fitting, inevitable end to music, and its vicious entwinement with technology, that Ken Stingfellow refuses to countenance. What emerges is KS’s musicality – which is the totality of his personality, intelligence, acerbic wit, talent, family, politics, fetishes, reading habits; it has substance. It roots us.

Begining with the overwhelming volume of Ken-ness that arrives, it is difficult to depart from the premise that here is something that aims to be some-thing.

The vinyl, the 7″, compact disc, t-shirt (!), … Taken together these amount to a tangible work, one that parallels the music that flows from them.

And what of the music? Shall we pontificate on the key and tempo changes, unorthodox arrangements, fullness of intrumentation, melodies that swirl, lyrics that point beyond itself? Nothing of the sort. Danzig in the Moonlight is too beautiful to be written of.

5th October
written by tom

It’s amazing what some thought and the falling of words into place can do.

Our Mission:

Our ultimate goal is to maximise Hannah’s chances for an independent, meaningful life. Hannah, July 2012

Toward this end, we want to make the best medical expertise available for our daughter.

Hannah has been very ably attended to by two paediatric neurologists in Singapore.

We are seeking additional opinions in order to –

  1. confirm the initial diagnosis (of “Infantile Spasms”);
  2. augment (or refine) such a diagnosis;
  3. seek more effective medication to resolve the condition and the underlying hypsarrhythmia;
  4. understand and investigate all possible causes of the condition – genetic, metabolic etc. – and to treat these where possible;
  5. explore alternative, non-traditional forms of treatment, including concurrent ketogenic dietary regimes and accelerated physiotherapy treatments;
  6. consider other, more evasive surgical solutions.


18th May
written by tom
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15th May
written by tom

As my wife pointed out, the two weeks that I was away from home meant I missed out on, well, two weeks of Gillian’s growing up.

She also suggested that the same two weeks amounted to three and a half months of Bacchus’s growing up. Can you imagine? Widgets

13th May
written by tom

I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed, but have you ever seen an over-weight airline pilot?

Thought not.

10th May
written by tom

I was lurking in the Barnes & Noble opposite the New School, somewhere along 18th Street. The careerist book-seller – missing only a pony-tail – was trying to impress a not-too-unpretty French customer. His pick-up line was

I’m a linguist. I speak a couple of languages.

3rd May
written by tom

Head of a Woman

How does she look? At once despairing, at once aghast.

What does she say? Lips pursed, mouth unopened.

What does she see? Eyes blank, starring defiant, eyes downcast, despairing.