Monday, September 07, 2015

Running From The Boogeyman

Brzzt brzzt brrr-

I had jolted awake even before my phone (my new phone!) completed its 4-cycle buzzing pattern for incoming messages. That's how I knew a message had arrived, you see. Leila had made it clear when she gave me the phone last week, showing me how to turn it to silent mode, how to tell apart a message from a call just from the buzzing pattern.

Have I mentioned? My new phone!

I instinctively squinted the moment the screen flashed on, and fought to keep my eyes open to read the message. In my haste and excitement I keyed in the wrong password twice, but got it right the third time (curse you sleepy fingers!). And then there it was, a glowing envelope, the start of the Game. As it unfolded, its contents spilled across the screen.

"3:00 AM - MESSAGE FROM LEILA - HIDE NOW, THE BOOGEYMAN IS COMING~ =)"

The Game was on! I flung the covers aside, phone gripped hard in my hand, and stealthily crept across my room and opened the door as quietly as I could manage. Just a crack, at first, as Leila told me to, just enough to see if anyone was out there.

But there was no-one. Not yet, anyway. Just pitch darkness, though I could swear I saw a tiny glow wink out from beneath the door to Leila's bedroom. A-ha, I thought, that's the light from your phone when you sent me the message! I patted myself on the back for that bit of deductive reasoning, then continued my journey to the utility closet on the far side of the corridor.

Because I had planned my route and practiced it many times in the afternoon, I was in the closet less than 10 seconds later. I settled down on the wooden flooring, and fumbled around till I found Mr Pickles, from where I had stashed him earlier. I smiled to myself, recalling how Leila had warned me that this Game of hide-and-seek would really test my patience. Puh-leeese, no-one's better than me at planning for things like this!

From downstairs, I heard scuffling against the front door, like boney claws against chalkboards. I recalled being frightened by those sounds, back when they first started a few months back, but Leila, Leila she explained that those were just the Boogeyman saying that the Game was beginning. It's like us saying ready or not here we come, she said. That wasn't so scary anymore, after that.

I gripped Mr Pickles in a bear hug, the excitement building up in my chest. I was suddenly seized by a compelling urge to turn on my phone, and admire this unexpected gift from Leila again. I had to settle for feeling its smooth buttons in the dark, as Leila's warning not to make any sound or even flash any lights from where I was hiding sounded off in my head. The smile came unbidden to my lips when I thought back to the day that Leila finally decided to tell me about the Game.

Listen, Leila had said one day, listen. You know those sounds you hear at night, sometimes? You know how you cried and thought they were from a monster? Well, you're right! But it's a Game, you see. And if you want to play too, you can! You just need to hide, and not let the Boogeyman catch you, and if you do, you'll get to keep this new phone I'm giving you. Yes, keep it! It'll be your very own phone!

Have I mentioned, my own phone! I had thought, briefly, of how Leila could ever afford to buy me a phone, but she was 15 this year and already doing summer jobs, so I guess it was about time she bought something nice for her sister. She's awesome that way.
BANG! The front door slammed, and then I heard the Boogeyman shuffle across the hall, and begin climbing the steps, one heavy footstep after the other, lurching, lurching to the top. If Mr Pickles could breathe, surely he would have been strangled by me by now, the way I was gripping him.

At one point, the Boogeyman missed a step, and I heard him slump against the railings as he uttered a Curse Word. I had to clamp my mouth shut to stifle a giggle - imagine, a Boogeyman tripping over himself!

Louder and louder the footsteps grew, and soon he had reached the top, just steps away from where I was hiding. I heard him claw the door to Leila's room, and then, for the first time, since I was in the corridor instead of in my room, I heard the Boogeyman speak.

"Leila... Leila... I know you're in there... let me in..."

His voice, gravelly and slurred, like he had just awoken from a long nap, chilled me to the bone. So this was what the Boogeyman was really saying, all those times I heard the moaning from my room! I then heard the Boogeyman try the doorknob to Leila's room, but it rattled as the lock held. Silly girl, I thought. If you lock it, he'd surely know you're in there! And if he finds you, I'll win the Game!

"Leila... Leila... if you don't let me in, I'm going to your sister's room... Leila..."

Silence. Then, from the inky darkness, I heard a soft click as the door unlocked.

A pang of guilt shot through my heart. Was this why the Boogeyman had never come to my room all along? Was Leila giving up easily today because it was my first time playing? I seemed to recall it taking a lot longer the last few times for the Boogeyman to find Leila, that he would stay outside and moan for what seemed like hours before he gave up and went away.

I almost jumped when the phone buzzed again in my hand. I looked down and unlocked the phone, trying my best to keep the light away from the crack beneath the closet door. There, the second message from Leila.

"3:15 AM - MESSAGE FROM LEILA - RMBR, DON'T GET CAUGHT NO MATTER WHAT! =)"

I smiled. She was letting me win this time. She really was the best sister ever (and I was going to be able to keep my new phone!).

Leila's door creaked noisily as the Boogeyman opened it and lurched in. With a slam, the door closed, lock clicking like a final postscript. Muffled noises then, words I couldn't make out, some banging on furniture. Oh Leila, you can't run from the Boogeyman once he's in your room! There's nowhere to hide!

The noises continued after that, just like when I was in my own room the past few times, shaking like a leaf in the darkness. I wasn't afraid this time though, after knowing it was just a Game Leila played, a Game I was finally allowed to join.

I must have fallen asleep after, because when the soft knocks came on the other side of my closet door, the pins and needles had fully festered in my legs. I almost let out a yelp - how did the Boogeyman know I was here?

"Hey, it's me, Leila. The Game is over. You've won tonight, you can go back to your room now."

There's no better feeling in the world than hearing confirmation that you've won a competition. I opened the door, and found Leila crouched outside, a weary smile on her face. I noticed her dishelleved hair, the streaks of sweat and tears on her face, and briefly thought it would be pretty fun too to have the Boogeyman chase you as you tried to run away. That was another Game all by itself.

As she ushered me back to my room, I caught a glimpse from within through the door which had been left ajar.

"Leila, isn't that..."

She caught my gaze, and pushed me back towards my room. "Yes, that's Dad. He... came in to help me with the Boogeyman. You know, to scare him off. Don't wake him now, he's sleeping."

Back in my room, under the covers, I hugged my new phone as I thought about this awesome Game Leila had introduced me to, and when the next Game would come. Listen, Leila had said, we'll play this Game as long as we have to, and the moment you lose, I'm taking the phone back!

But Leila wouldn't do that. Not Leila. As I said, she's the best sister, ever.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Why Do Court Trials Take So Long?

I recently came across a forum post asking why court trials take so long. I offered this reply:

----

I know you’re on Reddit, but do you have a wife, husband, boyfriend, girlfriend, waifu, husbando or significant other? (I’m not suaning you, I’m just trying to make sure my analogy below is relevant. No offense ah, please ah, we all one people one nation.) OK ah, even if don’t have, just pretend have, otherwise down here my story no point.

For convenience, let’s assume you are male and got wife. Now, pay close attention – last Friday, your boss (let’s call him Lao Ban) jio you go KTV with him. You are hesitant, cause you know his KTV not clean, plus your wife will kaopeh. But he’s boss leh, what to do?

So you tell wife you going “business development”, then you and some colleagues go (Ah Ter, Ah Kow, Ah Mao all kena drag along) cause these things got more people then more fun right. Most importantly, you are cocksure you never do anything wrong at the KTV. When Lao Ban order girl for you, you say don’t want, no thanks, tomorrow going temple. When a girl nevertheless come to sit with you and say “let’s pretend I’m a stockbroker… you want to see my assets?” you awkward awkward smile and say sorry paiseh not tonight haha market all crash also.

That night, when you go home, you are damn bloody sure you never do anything wrong. So you go to sleep with clear conscience, happy that wife will never find out and you can put this behind you.

HONG GAN. Next morning come, you wake up to find your wife angry liao. Why leh? Cause you la, your receipt never clear from pocket, she find out you went to lapsup KTV and even paid for “5 girls”. In one short hour, your wife kill your dog, throw your PS4, call all your friends and relatives, then now crying in the hall asking for divorce cause she “not as good as those young things”. She even refuse to see your Viscosity Test (note: if you haven’t kena this test before, be thankful).

Then you look to sky and cry, Lao Tian ah, why no justice, why no due process? If you can hear me, Jade Emperor / Guan Yin / God / Allah / Flying Spaghetti Monster, why don’t come down and help me??

BOOM – the heavens part, and Lao Lee come down. Young one, he says, come, let’s instill rule of law and let natural justice take its course. With a snap of his fingers, truth, justice and mercy flow forth and immediately the following takes place:

1. Before your wife chu power, she calmly and meticulously asks you questions about last night. She then goes on to do her own fact-checking – calling KTV la, calling your Lao Ban, calling your friends. She then looks at all the evidence and decides, ok, this bastard is guilty. Your wife here, she is the CAD.

2. Your wife’s best friend, Mimi, then comes over to your house to whack you one good one. Mimi is suited for this, cause she’s legally experienced and very bitchy. Both your parents and parents-in-law all come to see show and decide if you guilty, cause they are impartial, wise, and also at home got nothing to do cause you never call them for long time. Mimi is the AGC, and the parents / parents-in-law are the Judges in the Court.

3. You scared mah, hum mah, so you ask your brother come defend you and speak on your behalf. Your brother also go law school before, just that now he no job cause gahmen let 10 million lawyers join each year. Your brother is your lawyer.

4. All relevant witnesses now also have to get their own representatives to speak, cause now serious stuff leh, must have best lawyer to save them. This not only includes your colleagues and Lao Ban, but also the KTV girls, the waiters at the KTV, the credit card company people who processed your payment, etc etc. A lot of people for one KTV leh.

5. But people also not free all the time. While your Lao Ban is explaining what happened to the Court, all the other witnesses waiting outside your house also got their own things to do. You ever got organise party for more than 10 people before? Had experience trying to deconflict multiple schedules before? This is like that lor, x10. And imagine if every time one witness or his lawyer not free, then the whole trial cannot continue, cause everyone must be there same time. Siao boh.

6. Then after everyone all tell their story, your Judges look at the clock and say, wah lau we have been here for 1 year already lor. Some stories we have forgotten by now, some stories so interrupted that we have to go read transcript to have whole picture. Judges also human mah, so they also need time to review all the evidence.

In summary, by the time your Judges have heard from each of the KTV girls, your colleagues, your Lao Ban, seen all the documentary evidence, reviewed CCTV footage, heard your own evidence, evaluated how honest you were, then decided on whether it was you or your didi who had more fun at the KTV last night, it’s really been a couple of years already.

But at least your dog no die, your PS4 still here, right?

Thursday, July 09, 2015

I'm Ready To Translate Important Things

My mum recently sent me a fairly long text in Mandarin. I asked for a summary, and was told firmly that I should soldier my way through it and to brush up my Mandarin if necessary.
I rose to the occasion, and sent back a translated version to demonstrate my understanding of the fable. I haven't received any more fables from her since smile emoticon
Here are the respective texts to share:
---
[闭上嘴是最高的修行]
一个流浪汉,走进寺庙,看到菩萨坐在莲花台 上众人膜拜,非常羡慕。
流浪汉:我可以和你换一下吗?
菩萨:只要你不开口。
流浪汉坐上了莲花台。他的眼前整天嘈杂纷 乱,要求者众多。他始终忍着没开口。
一日,来了个富翁。
富翁:求菩萨赐给我美德。磕头,起身,他的 钱包掉在了地下。流浪汉刚想开口提醒,他想 起了菩萨的话。
富翁走后,来的是个穷人。
穷人:求菩萨赐给我金钱。家里人病重,急需 钱啊。
磕头,起身,他看到了一个钱包掉在了地下。
穷人:菩萨真显灵了。他拿起钱包就走。流浪 汉想开口说不是显灵,那是人家丢的东西;可他 想起了菩萨的话。
这时,进来了一个渔民。
渔民:求菩萨赐我安全,出海没有风浪。
磕头,起身,他刚要走,却被又进来的富翁揪 住。为了钱包,两人扭打起来。富翁认定是渔 民拣走了钱包,而渔民觉得受了冤枉无法容 忍。流浪汉再也看不下去了,他大喊一声:“住 手!”把一切真相告诉了他们。一场纠纷平息 了。
你觉得这样很正确吗?
菩萨:你还是去做流浪汉吧。你开口以为自己 很公道,但是,穷人因此没有得到那笔救命钱; 富人没有修来好德行,渔夫出海赶上了风浪葬 身海底。要是你不开口,穷人家的命有救了;富 人损失了一点钱但帮了别人积了德;而渔夫因为 纠缠无法上船,躲过了风雨,至今还活着。
流浪汉默默离开了寺庙……
许多事情,该怎样,就怎样。等待它顺其自然 的发生,结果会更好。可面对现实的时候,有 谁又知道,事物本身该有的结果是什么样子呢?
静观其变,是一种能力!
顺其自然,是一种幸福!
----
Ah Beng see Buddha so cool on lotus seat, he chao gian. He jio Buddha give him sit. Buddha say want sit is can sit la, but must shaddup.
Ah Beng sit lor. Shaddup onli ma, how hard.
Rich man come pray for virtue then drop purse. Ah Beng think this is goondu, but he diam diam.
Poor man come pray for money, see purse, ho sei! Ah Beng think you just lucky lor, but still diam diam.
Fisherman come pray for smooth sailing, halfway rich man come back and anyhow point finger. Of course fight lor, one say steal my money la, one say where got.
Ah Beng buay tahan. He shout loud loud "I got see everything!" So money return to rightful owner.
Buddha come back, say wa lau simple instruction also cannot follow. If you neh say anything poor man got money save family. Then rich man also donate and is got virtue. Then fisherman fight until no time to sail, but now he go out then storm come die. See la you, see la. Tell your mother.
Moral of story: If Buddha tell you do, you better blardy do. People Buddha leh.
---

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Waldo

One of the fiercest quarrels I had with my brother was over, come to think of it, a single hypothetical.

(In fairness, that was years ago. I'm wiser now - why quarrel with someone who, in times of medical emergency, will then be both fully justified and thoroughly motivated to open you up and stick all manner of pointy bits in you?)

And the hypothetical was, would we ever adopt a dog again?

A spot (a-ha, ha-ha) of context first. Years ago, my family adopted a Dalmatian from the SPCA. There we were, waiting in an open area as puppy after puppy were led out for the meet-and-greet. There was the little black dog I would have named Shadow (too hard to see at night, my mum said, we would step on him), the long thin dog which was a smidge too aggressive (what an unfriendly bugger, my mum said, so ugly still so fierce) and then, finally, Fido.

There weren’t any digital cameras in those days, so all we have left today are a couple of yellowing photographs and a vault full of memories. His endearing fear of thunder, the way his spots darkened when his fur got wet, that time he intervened when my neighbour’s dogs attacked me, even how he ate a plastic bag once and my brother and I had to toss a coin to determine who got to pull it out of his bottom (I won).

Fido even featured in one of my Chinese compositions, and so inspiring were my adventures with him that I scored the sole “A” I ever wrung out of Huang Lao Shi – proving also that it was important to know and cater to your audience (she loved dogs, so naturally Fido had to die saving me from a fire).

My point to my brother was simple – we didn’t have enough time or energy to properly care for another pet. Yet neither of us budged. As the incumbent heir I refused to even discuss the subject. Meanwhile my brother chipped away at us patiently, one day showing us cute pictures of puppies, and the other claiming that Fido had appeared in a dream and given his blessings for us to move on and adopt another.

This standoff was broken, temporarily, by an unassuming orange cat named Waldo.

I can't account with precision how Waldo came to be a permanent guest in our house. That's the nature of cats, I guess, quietly yet insistently slinking their way into those crevices of our lives which can accommodate them. If dogs are like pimples, loudly and unabashedly announcing their presence or arrival, then cats are far more wily, stealthy, eluding detection till such time as they deigned to let you know... just like a receding hairline (sob).

Waldo's charm lay in his discretion - he knew just when to stay out of your way, and when to purr and curl up next to you. Unlike most cats, he was also comfortably affectionate around humans, even allowing my brother at one point to simultaneously yodel and thrust him up in the sky a la The Lion King. I do believe pictures of this exist.

What then was the peak of my friendship with Waldo, you may ask? Unquestionably, it was that singular stormy night when I was roused out of deep sleep by a slightly damp pussy cat, all balled up and gently-snoring on the pillow next to my face.

At first, I freaked. Deeply-embedded instincts flared, muscles tensed. Back then, I was unused to waking so close to such a potentially charged primal force of nature, serene and graceful in its restive state, yet capable of reaching fireball levels of fury if disturbed or awoken too early.

But as my night vision rallied, I saw that it was only Waldo, just plain old Waldo, taking shelter from the rain outside, choosing to seek refuge next to me. To me!

My heart burst with joy. I fetched towels to gingerly mop up the worst of the rain from his fur, then fluffed the pillow, then laid an old hanky over him. As I drifted back off to sleep, I remembered wondering if he would still be there in the morning, or if a cat-shaped indent in my pillow would be all that remained of our encounter.

(Interestingly, the overwhelming response to this story seems to be one of disgust. Friends and family ask how I could let a stray cat onto my bed, much less my pillow. I point out that he’s not a stray, that cats are very clean animals, and that I would have been heartless to shoo him away. I also try to ignore the many occasions since where I witness Waldo nonchalantly prowling in the drains around the neighbourhood.)

Waldo left, never to return, the day my brother adopted a shih-tzu named Soda (another story for another day). I moved out shortly after, but found myself dwelling on him from time to time, especially on cold rainy nights. My fears compounded when I learned from my parents that Waldo’s owners had moved away and apparently abandoned him, going so far as to remove his collar before tossing him out.

There’s a happy ending, not to worry. I visited my parents recently, and they spoke of how the neighbourhood had adopted Waldo, such that he spent his days wandering from house to house, peddling nothing but his company in return for warmth and hospitality.

And I saw this was true, for when I left that evening, I caught a flash of orange as he strutted into my neighbour’s house, heeding calls for dinner. He was a bit more bony, a bit more stringy than when I last cared for him, but it was unmistakably the very same Waldo.

Now, if only Huang Lao Shi still accepted compositions.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Zodiac

I was born in the Year of the Rat. This will soon become relevant.

I visited Brenda's extended family this past weekend for CNY, and they are equal parts warm, outgoing and gregarious. Definitely not a quiet bunch. So you can just imagine how charged the atmosphere was when the gaming tables opened.

You see, gaming does... something to Chinese folk. It's the mutagen to turtles, the latex to billionaires, the Hermione to Hogwarts. It changes them, elevates them to something greater than what they were.

Barely ten minutes in, the din from the gaming tables permeated every part of the house. Intrigued, I sauntered over.

I saw ten people crowded around a table, cards held close to chests, stacks of crisp notes held down by oranges on the table. Ah, Twenty-One. Brenda was banker, and when I approached she grinned at me and gestured at the little money hill in front of her.
"She's terrible! She's been cleaning us out!" her aunt exclaimed. "I can't stand these Tigresses and their luck this year!" Dejected faces all around confirmed that Brenda was, indeed, making a killing.

(For the uninitiated, Chinese tradition has it that there are 12 Zodiac animals, each assigned to a year. Legend goes that eons ago there was a jailbreak in the celestial zoo, with the result that 12 animals broke free and regained their freedom. Since then, the years have been ordered in the sequence that the animals escaped – the Rat, then the Ox, the Tiger, Rabbit... Dragon... Cow Elephant Hamster Cat Panda Koala Whale.)

Then something happened.

Brenda started losing.

It began with just a couple of meh hands – too low for her to stay, then too high for the risk to be manageable. Then, slowly, painfully, inexorably, her money pile dwindled away. Brenda became gloomy.

As her relatives cackled at the turn in fortune, another aunt suddenly piped up. "Hanting! What year are you born in? Are you a Koala? Brenda's luck has changed since you came!"

“Rat, Rat, I’m a Rat!”

“Oh my!” a cousin chimed in, “Rats are terrible luck for Tigresses this year! Everyone knows that! Guess you’re washing all of Brenda’s luck away!” A murmur of agreement resounded around the table. “Please stay ok! When you’re here you suppress Brenda’s Tiger luck!”

Brenda turned and gently, sweetly said, “Don’t mind them. They’re just kidding. Stay, please stay.”

(As an aside, scientists have recently made advances in understanding how human instinct works. They posit that the human brain is able to take in many pieces of information and then subconsciously arrive at a conclusion even before the conscious intellect establishes recognizable links. An everyday manifestation of instinct is in the way we recognize danger – an out-of-place smell, an unfamiliar sight, is enough to forewarn one of impending doom.)

I voluntarily left and meandered over to the TV, thinking that I should probably just let her carry on with her game. Minutes later, she whooped and yelled uncontrollably, “I’ve just had three blackjacks in a row!”

My mind raced. The implications were enormous.

What if luck and Zodiac compatibility had a quantifiable relationship? What if, given a large enough sample size and a controlled environment, I could uncover and bend the hidden rules of the cosmos to my will?

Consider the casinos. It would be effortless to design a system that determined your Zodiac sign when your ID was scanned upon entry. We could then funnel people to play at specific tables, where the dealer would of course be your opposing Zodiac sign. Big roller born in-the-year-of-the-Tiger having a flaming hot streak of luck? No problem. Let’s send over five Ratty hostesses to fawn over you and suck you dry.

Lost in thought, I almost didn’t notice Brenda returning and taking a seat next to me. “Sorry sorry,” she said, “it’s just that my luck really changed when you were there. Not saying you’re my jinx or anything, you know it was all just for fun! I was so sad when you went away, you know that I really –”

“Brenda! It’s your turn to be banker again!”

“Coming!” And she was gone.

See, that’s gaming for you. And not even the kind that I like.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

What Lies Fallow

I observed him sing his song, starting over again and again whenever he missed a note, until he performed the song as perfectly as he could.

I asked, why did you try so hard to sing that song, when perhaps your talents lie elsewhere?

He smiled and said, aye, and tenfold is the loss to the man who has the talent to do so, but chooses to spend his efforts elsewhere.

Aye indeed.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Please Come Away, Mr Hedgehog


The sun, worn out from a day’s hard work, slowly but surely edged towards the horizon.

The Monkey skipped over what he remembered to be an uneven patch of ground, puffing his chest out a little at his mastery of this particular spot in the savannah. With a few more deft leaps, he found himself high above the ground, secure amongst the branches of his favourite tree.

The Monkey fished out a couple of figs from a little hollow in the trunk of the tree (he found it quite agreeable as a hiding place), leaned back and prepared for a quiet evening.

Eyelids drooping, slipping in and out of a dreamless sleep, the Monkey soon became aware of rustling from the bottom of the tree.

“Oi! Who’s there!” the Monkey whispered urgently, suddenly alert and awake.

“Huh? It’s me, just me, don’t mind me!” replied the Hedgehog, in his usual befuddled and carefree way.

“Hedgehog? What are you doing there? It’s late, you shouldn’t be out!”

“Oh yes, yes, I should be going home. But perhaps later. I found this patch of berries, you see, and I’m counting how many I’ve picked.”

The Monkey’s ear pricked up, and he stared intently into the darkness that had now settled on the land. He was very sure he heard something, but the cloud cover was heavy tonight, and he couldn’t see anything.

“Hedgehog, go home, go home. You don’t know what’s out there. It’s not safe.”

“I will, I will, just a bit more.”

“Or if you want, how about you come up here with me? I could, maybe, pull you up, just don’t poke me or anything.”

“Oh no no, that wouldn’t do, I don’t like heights, you see.”

And so on and on the Monkey tried, with suggestions, explanations, requests, appeals. It didn’t work. Nothing the Monkey said could get the Hedgehog to budge from his curious task of counting the number of berries that lay in front of him in a little circle.

Strange, the Monkey thought to himself, the silver tongue I thought I had is having no effect at all on this Hedgehog.

Then, from the corner of his eye, the Monkey saw a flash of two pearlescent eyes away in the distance. Then another pair. And another. When the Monkey turned to get a better look, the darkness bristled with indignation, that a mere Monkey might try to see right past it.

Looking back down at the Hedgehog who was still steadfastly refusing to heed his advice, the Monkey tasted true, unadulterated frustration and helplessness.

The taste was a bitter one.




Thursday, September 01, 2011

Patience

Patience is a virtue. It is also a resource. I think that I am, if compared objectively against a cross-section of society, quite a patient person.

I remember assisting at a legal clinic once. The person seeking help didn't have a case at all, and any first-year student would have reached that conclusion within 10 minutes of applying their minds to the matter. So bad this person's case was, that I couldn't find any redeeming point after a whole half-hour.

That boggles me, now as I am looking back, because I spent one and a half hours (patiently too, I might add) in that little claustrophobic room staring down an increasingly plaintive yet belligerent person who just couldn't seem to accept that there was no case to be had. It was as if beating the facts over my head continually would somehow produce defensible points on which the multitude of errors that were self-created would all go away.

So I am quite patient.

But, as I've found out, I don't have an unlimited amount of patience.

Sometimes, when things go awry, I take a step back and marvel at how tangled things have become. I then optimistically calculate how many units of patience I would need to come out of this particular encounter dignified. I then scrounge around the depths of my pockets for the loose change of patience I'm hoping which squirreled themselves away in anticipation of this rainy day.

And when I come away short, bone dry, I grit my teeth and hope that I emerge from the next few fitful moments with the blessedly spotty memory of Dr. Jekyll.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Infinity Cockroach

Cockroaches used to die three kinds of death in the Leong Household.

Method One: The Smash 'n' Scram

Application: Locate cockroach, calculate distance to cockroach, scream, scream, scream, grab closest object regardless of how wieldy it is, smash, leave, summon maid.


Method Two: Twin Flowing Tai'chi Palms

Application: Locate cockroach, calculate distance to cockroach, grab closest wastepaper basket, upend said basket, trap cockroach in basket, leave, summon maid.

Alternative: ... trap cockroach in basket, sidle basket to outside brother's room, watch him kick it over when he comes out, observe brother's interpretation of The Smash 'n' Scram.

Method Three: The Hoodwink

Application: Locate cockroach, rush after it gallantly, issue multitude of death threats, secretly shoo it away to safety, tell audience (if any) that you've killed it, earn karma points.

Well, as I said at the beginning of this post, cockroaches used to die three kinds of death in the Leong Household.

Tonight, I unlocked a new method to replace them all.

Method Zero: Infinity Cockroach

Application: Play Infinity Blade for 2 hours, spot cockroach, think about catching cockroach, catch cockroach with bare hands even before thought about catching cockroach has ended because mah hands are now Swift Furious Instruments of Death, look at struggling cockroach in hands, feel the power.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Away

It was almost too easy.

In my mind I saw her dancing away, teasingly out of reach, gravity and momentum conspiring to pull her away from my grasp. A hundred simulations showed me that no matter how fast I sprang, no matter how deftly I moved, she would see me coming, and with the slightest of effort elude me.

But I tried, nevertheless, fingers outstretched, determined to reach her, to hold her tight... and I did.

I felt her hair, enervated into flowing tresses by the stiff evening breeze, whipping against my arm. I felt her jacket, her thin cotton top, her bra strap, layers that vociferously demanded distinction as I gripped her shoulder tightly. But there was no time to luxuriate in the senses.

"No, please... you cannot go. Not like this." I wasn't sure I had spoken at all, until she turned to look at me. "What will I... we all do without you?"

She smiled. Her lips were quivering. Perhaps, perhaps I was getting through to her?

"I don't know what I can do for you, personally. But I will try. I promise I will try. If you want my company, I'll be here. If not, I'll go." I tightened my grip, although I knew that the real battle wasn't in simply getting her to stay here physically. I needed to persuade her to remain here with me, with us, and find joy in doing so.

She said certain things, but her feeble voice was no match for the rising wind, and her words drifted away before I could discern them. No matter, I had heard what she had said before. It was not likely that she would have anything new to say, by now.

"I've told you. Step by step. Just one day at a time. We'll try together... people have done it before. Why can't we? If we make it through today, just one more day, wouldn't we... wouldn't we be stronger than we were, yesterday? Doesn't that count?"

At some point my emotions, summoned by the unseen hand of some hormonal gland, had boiled up from the pits of my stomach and mixed themselves into the words I spoke. Tears, those attention-seeking fraternal twins to sadness and longing, were blurring my vision, cramping my style.

I must have said a lot more. I must have. I know I wouldn't have given up so easily. The clear knell of defeat, though, came as swiftly as it did unexpectedly, and it presented itself in the most tranquil and serene look of calm I'd seen on her face since the accident those many months ago.

"I have to go and be with him. He's waiting for me."

This time, when she smiled... it chilled me, to the bones. A trick of the light, perhaps? But there was now no warmth to be seen, nor felt, in her round black eyes. Her lips were properly upturned in a gaunt approximation of her normal toothy grin, but there was now a resolute and grim determination to those curves.

She reached up and placed her icy hands over mine, and shook her head slowly from side to side.

My mistake was in being too late. She had left some time ago, and none of us had recognized it.

My fingers unfurled, one by one, and my hand fell slowly, shamefully, back to my side. She turned back, took a deep breath. Looked up at some far-off point in the sky, seeing something I couldn't see.

And she stepped off the ledge.

It was almost too easy.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Away

It rained today.

The droplets, they pattered against the glass windows quite insistently. I couldn’t decipher their message, if any… though I noted a certain half-hearted urgency in their tempo.

There was also tea-time, today.

The buns, they lay steaming in a corner of the office. There were shrieks of delight from our friends as the pastries put on a final brave front, and for a while the cloak of silence that swathed the office rippled.

There were other things too. Things you didn’t get to see, today.

I hope the weather, and the food, and the wallabies, are agreeable, over there… where you are.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Visitations

I pounded on the door, and suppressed the urge to call out my uncle’s name. It was late, almost 11.00 pm, and the last thing I wanted was to attract the attention of the neighbors.

Enough of a scene had already been caused, I felt.

“Uncle Mark!” I hissed. A thin swath of light spilled out from the crack beneath the doorway, and I was certain he was inside. A quick check of the shoe rack showed that his shoes were still neatly stacked side by side.

If my parents were right, he hadn’t left his house in over 4 weeks. He stubbornly refused to pick up any calls, and had only sent the occasional SMS to ask after us, telling us he was fine. Well, I didn’t think so.

I took a deep breath, and made ready to rap on the door again. Heck, so be it. If he didn’t care about the neighbors, why should I.

Surprisingly, the door swung open before my knuckles could make contact, and my fist came dangerously close to knocking on my uncle’s face instead.

I’d expected him to look gaunt, withdrawn, pale. The type of face you see on people who have spent too much time indoors mulling over unsolvable tangles or lost loves. In my head I’d already braced myself for his thick eyebags and unkempt beard.

I didn’t expect him to look… well, refreshed.

“Adam? You should have called, I didn’t know you were coming.”

“Hello Uncle Mark. Erm… may I come in?”

“Oh, oh yes of course!” He fumbled around in his pockets for the keys, and the solemn padlock yielded quite gracefully once the appropriate key was applied.

When he closed the door behind me and locked it, I let out a sigh of relief, and flopped down on the nearest sofa. It was a long ride here, and the worst-case scenarios fermenting in my imagination did become a bit too compelling towards the end.

“We were all worried about you. Dad said that you were trying to deal with things on your own, and that we should give you time...”

“Give me time? For what? I’m fine, don’t know why you all kept calling, in the first place.” He splayed out his hands towards me. “What’s there to worry about?”

“Yea, you actually look kinda ok…”

He laughed. “What, I don’t come visit for a few weeks and you all thought I was sick and dying here?”

I was starting to feel pretty silly for getting so worked-up. “I was in the area anyway, so you know, just dropped by.”

“You are worse than a mother hen, I tell you. Water?” I nodded, and he shuffled off to the adjoining kitchen.

“Did you eat out today?” I called out as I distractedly leafed through some old magazines he had left by the sofa. “Don’t just eat hawker food all the time, you know. You can come over to our place for home-cooked food anytime you want.”

“Nah, outside food’s not healthy. Besides, your aunt cooked today, so I came back for dinner with her. ”

I froze.

He came back out bearing three glasses, and set them on the coffee table. “You of all people shouldn’t lecture me about food. You’re getting pudgy yourself, if I may say so.”

I forced myself to look across the table and directly into his eyes. They were clear, lucid eyes.

“Uncle Mark…” The strength was fleeing from my voice, and I wondered if he would notice. “You said that… she cooked for you today? Dinner?”

A puzzled look began to settle on his face. “Er… yes?”

He didn’t sound like he was lying or pulling my leg. I could tell that both of us were thinking the exact same thing – what the heck is wrong with him?

“Uncle Mark, aunty couldn’t have cooked for you today. She’s…”

“What’s the big fuss about?” His tone took on an annoyed inflection.

“She’s not here anymore. She couldn’t have cooked for you.”

“Tell that to my stomach, who is positively sure that I have had my dinner. Look, you can ask her, she’s right next to you.” He vaguely gestured to the empty spot next to me.

At that moment I became acutely aware of three things.

One, that the altar we had helped install at the far side of the hall was no longer there. Gone was the incense burner, or tablet, or picture of my aunt taken when she was about 40. He liked that picture the most, he said, because it was a year or two before the cancer came, and it was the last time she had smiled so genuinely.

Two, that there was the faintest whiff of honeysuckle in the air. I’m no expert when it comes to perfumes. I can barely tell honeysuckle from jasmine, or from the ten million other scents used for perfumes. I only knew the term “honeysuckle” because I had, in my younger days, asked my aunt where that distinctive smell around her came from.

Three, that reflected in my uncle’s clear, black eyes, was an image of my aunt sitting next to me. She was smiling.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Dressed Up Blackbird

Rummaging through my cupboard today, I came across a program sheet for The Dresser, a 2006 production. It took a while for the relevant memory to shake itself loose from the cobwebs, feebly raise a hand, and report for duty.

I came across The Dresser only because I was looking for a space to store away the program sheet for Blackbird, a 2010 production. I wanted to squirrel away this little keepsake from Blackbird, because it struck a chord somewhere, and I wanted to be reminded of it from time to time.

The scary part, is that I did the exact same thing for The Dresser, and yet, 4 years on, I actually had to pause to try to recall even going for it. Or even who I went with. And what we discussed as we streamed out from the theatre into the warm clammy Singaporean night.

To reminisce is to draw water from a well that won't ever run dry. No matter how sweet the water, or how bitter, or peculiar, there's always this sepia-toned muteness about it, in the same way that you can remember how a song sounded but you can't hear it.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Cost of Doing the Right Thing

Doing the Right Thing is very expensive, as I've since learned.

Recently I had problems with a service I had signed up for. Two options lay before me - Option A (the Right Way) involved me filling out a feedback form, seeking an appointment with a customer relations officer, detailing my problems, awaiting the official reply... and subsequently another estimated 1500 administrative hurdles before I got what I wanted.

Option B (the Sith Way) was considerably shorter - threaten to leave the service and / or fully relate my woes to CASE or to the Straits Times.

My friends assured me Option B was the smarter option. The service would weigh the costs of solving my problem on the spot, against the costs of bad publicity in the press and defending the CASE complaints, and figure out its much easier to "pay me off".

But there I went, pursuing Option A on my high horse of ideals. By the time the service had rejected me enough times for the spirit of righteousness within me to turn into a flaming spire of anger, I was only left with... Option B.

Of course, my friends all chided me for "wasting my time" when I should have just opted for the "smarter way" out.

Isn't it strange though? Our society places such a high cost on the Right Way that everyone turns to the Sith Way, and yet, if anyone oversteps the line and is caught red-handed, he or she is immediately lambasted, and to keep with my metaphor, fined so very heavily for it.

The only place where it's actually alright to choose the Right Way and still keep one's head high, without having to pretend to ignore all the whispers of foolishness from the more hardboiled, is probably in Primary School.

It's the only environment whereby doing the Right Thing earns you pats on the head and stars on your score sheet, where the rest of the community is encouraged to laud your actions and to keep you in high regard.

After Primary School, I guess people forget those lessons.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Patience

I think it's funny how I'm most patient when I'm telling other people to be patient.

When my friends or family get into confrontations because they lack the patience to slowly resolve matters, I find that I can spend literally hours sitting down and telling them to be patient.

Walk a mile in the shoes of others, I'd say. Think about how just a few well-placed words will soothe tempers and derive solutions for both parties, I'd say.

It's tough following my own advice though. Sometimes you just feel like even when you're trying to help others, they keep lamenting the infinite intricacy of their own problems, oblivious to the simple fact that you can't solve everything in life.

I like to think that if even 40% of life goes well for you, that's cause enough to celebrate (pessimistic optimist? optimistic pessimist?

Solution to all problems?

Get a big dragon. A big, red, flying dragon that only, like, 5 other people have ridden before.

Yes, so I watched Avatar late.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Through These Glasses I See

Today I talked to a friend who's on the verge of a break-up. Whether they actually will part, that's tough to say. These things are unpredictable.

Strangely though, her relationship issues seemed so very crystal clear to me. Maybe it was overly-hasty judging on my part, but for that hour or so their actions, their thoughts, their feelings, they were all laid out in front of me so neatly.

I didn't voice it out, of course, but in my head I thought I knew who was at fault (both parties), why the problems were surfacing (again both parties), what they could do going forward (nothing much).

Maybe it's part of growing up, this way we accumulate so many stories that we can reasonably predict how the next one will turn out. Watch enough slasher flicks, and you can kinda guess which one's the werewolf in disguise, for example.

Human nature keeps playing out the same way I guess. It's just that the younger actors themselves have yet to realize that the dramas they are playing out are but scripts with differing variations but always the same themes.

On another note, I'll try to write more again. I think I slowly drifted away from the internet as part of some self-reflecting experiment, and now that I've found what I'm looking for, maybe I can come back to this very familiar and comforting black page of mine.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Fillial Piety

Today I was forced to reflect upon the nature of fillial piety.

Question: should parents receive fillial piety as a privilege, or an entitlement?

The Confucian texts on fillial piety maintain that it is one of the highest virtues. According to the texts, by being pious to one's parents, one also learns to be respectful and loving towards others, therefore becoming a better person.

But where does one find the motivation to be pious?

Two avenues become apparent. One is love. Imagine a situation where a parent, or grandparent, has played a vital and involving role in bringing up a child. Naturally, the child would be close to that elder, and learn to love and care for that elder in time.

The other is obligatory. A child would come to recognize all the pressures and expectations compelling him to be pious, and would then choose to either give in to those influences or resist them.

We don't really like to discuss the latter obligation. There are too many questions that we can't answer satisfactorily, thorns in the flesh we cannot expel easily. Questions like, are children expected to be fillial to parents who abuse them? Or, are children obligated to love grandparents they have never really known?

If I were to put on a government man's cap, I would say, yes. Yes because it is the best way to order society. Someone has to bear the burden of taking care of the old, and while the government can share some of that burden, the onus should definitely remain on the children.

That doesn't answer the manifold questions, however. If we assume that fillial piety is not meant to be blind, that there has to be some degree of... reciprocity for it to mean something, then what do we do about the people who, frankly, do not deserve it?

Of course, there is a distinction we must be aware of. There are those who are not pious because they are selfish people who have received but who do not want to give. Those we can ignore for this discussion. I'm thinking of those who have not received such love and concern from their elders, and are yet expected to be pious.

How do you tell the person who has never been shown love and concern from their parents that, hey, you should love and care for them regardless? That you might not know the stranger standing before you, but the blood ties dictate that you show fillial piety?

I think that you can't. The more I dwell on the subject, the more it seems that fillial piety has to be earned.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Yes, Those Were The Days


I guess I'll meet up with you soon, one of these days.

And we'll sit in a cafe, awkwardly at first, in silence, as our eyes are glued to the menu. Because it's a bit strange at first, meeting again after so long, and the conversation wouldn't flow.

Then, hopefully, we would figure out a tempo that suits us, as we slowly exchange bits and pieces again. Heck, we did it before, so it shouldn't be impossible.

I wonder what I would say to you then. Would we reminisce, or would we look forward and talk about the future? Would I succeed in my attempts at candor, or would I seek refuge in political-correctness?

Soon, I guess. In a few years our friendship would be a decade old, can you imagine that? Gosh.

Soon, I guess.

The Love of Teachers

Heh. Not often that I have the discipline to write as frequently as I did, but hey, here I am. Did promise before not to let this blog die.

I was thinking about teachers today. And the love they have for their students.

And something about it irks me.

I'll be honest: I never was a teacher's pet. I never did have a teacher look out specially for me, or appreciate me over and above others. And yes, I used to envy classmates who enjoyed special friendships with our teachers - who wouldn't?

But it's not jealousy that makes me uncomfortable with the whole thing.

I remember this time when it was clear that a teacher liked certain students more over other others. I discovered a certain drive in myself to compete for that teacher's attention. I wanted to... talk to that teacher more, share more of my life, show the teacher how I was more deserving of attention than others.

Because that is a human reaction, I think, to want to compete for attention. To have one's own uniqueness recognized.

And I guess I couldn't do that. I couldn't bring myself to fight for that attention. A part of me knew that teachers, just like parents, try hard to love all their students the same. What then, when the year ended and the teacher moved on to a different class?

Or if the teacher just had a deeper affinity with another student? Or if the teacher just didn't have the time or energy to live up to your expectations of how the friendship should be?

It was like being drawn in two directions at the same time. On one hand it would be very nice to have a close friend in a teacher, to be special to a person you look up to, but on the other, there were too many complications thrown into the mix.

Or maybe I just worry too much. Heh.

P.S. I am aware that I'm not following my old rule of starting a post with a picture. I am also aware that I've not thought of how to escape the problem of using other people's photographs. Hmm.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Short Story: Sabine


It started drizzling delicately around six, and the people in the street clutched their jackets tighter, and a new urgency entered their footsteps.

This was not good for business, because it meant that people wanted to get home quicker, rush back to a warm, comforting place. No one wanted to party on a night like this. But money was tight, and I had to try.

I spotted a group of them emerging from the nearby subway, and quickly stubbed out my unfinished cigarette. Cards at the ready. Painted smile out for the encore.

"Sir, sirs! One minute, sirs! I guarantee you... look! See them! See how pretty they are!" I knew I was sounding a bit too eager, but anything to compensate for the drizzle. "No lies, no bluffs, just a good time, sirs!"

Mumble mumble, sheepish grin. We cannot, we are late, we are on our way to dinner, we're not into that. No excuse I've not heard before.

"But sirs! It only costs you 5 euros. Just see. Use your eyes! No need to pay more if you are not happy! Just to see!" I had to try. They were slipping away, I could feel it.

Mumble mumble, slight tinge of anger. We cannot, we are late, we need to go, why do you keep bothering us?

"No no, you don't know what you are missing out on! See now, see this is what you will get! Sabine, come out Sabine!" Last chance now. If Sabine couldn't do it, no one else could.

I turn around, and there she is, Sabine, emerging from the darkened interiors right on cue. She has her make up on, and that splendid maroon dress, but she really didn't need either to send pangs through my heart. Oh, Sabine.
"So what do you say, sirs? Come right in now, you won't be disappointed!"

Mumble mumble, muffled laughter. We cannot, we are late, and in any case is that the best you've got? The other clubs have much prettier girls, I wouldn't go in even if I had all the time.

Of course, I react before I think, and the wiseguy who laughed at Sabine is on the floor, lip cracked from an unintended meeting with my knuckles. Sabine gasps audibly, as do the other guys with him. No, at that point I didn't really care about business anymore. Not when it comes to Sabine.

Mumble mumble, middle finger, vague threats of violence. We will remember this, you watch out, you watch your back.

"Get lost boys. Don't let me see you here again." They scoot pretty quickly, but they're already out of my mind. I walk back to Sabine, heart heavy, and I pat her on the shoulder. Poor Sabine, with all the worry in her eyes.

"Sorry you had to see that. Now go back in and wait with the other girls. I'll get other people in tonight, watch me."

"Yes, papa."

I turn back to the street again, and for a moment I wanted to believe all this wasn't real, that Sabine wasn't here, that Sabine didn't have to come and help. But money was tight, and I had to try.

Cards at the ready. Painted smile out for the encore.

The Problem Of The Maybe


I watched that show today, and it's put me in a contemplative mood. One of the themes in the movie was about how certain mistakes from the past just don't go away - "We may be through with the past, but the past ain't through with us".

In that sense, the past to me is like a big sandcastle built with sand and stones on the shoreline. When the waves have done their part, and the sandcastle is robbed of most of its details and much of its form, the stones remain as emphatic reminders of the most defining portions of that sandcastle. And oh, how do the stones refuse to be washed away.

Perhaps then it is not good advice to tell people to 'forget the past', and to simply press on. Some things will never go away on their own, after all. But maybe people say that because, well, those things can never be remedied, or healed, or fixed. So, to fix, or not?

The main difficulty with correcting past mistakes, at least with regards to falling out with other people, is rooted in The Problem of The Maybe. Imagine this: two friends sleep together in the same room. The next morning, A discovers five dollars missing from his wallet. He could confront B, but it's not easy to do so, and A decides to keep quiet, believing that he can forget it all happened. But A never does forget, and as time goes by, it gets harder to bring it up all over again.

Now, that little unresolved mystery will cast a long shadow over their friendship for a long time to come. Maybe B took it, and is playing A for the fool all this time. Maybe B really is innocent. Hence, The Problem of The Maybe.

Of course, I would like to keep a clean slate, know that I have no unresolved problems lingering in the past. It's not that I fear them catching up with me someday, but I generally don't like to know that I have unfinished business behind me.

Yet, The Problem of The Maybe. It's hard to pull people off the street, drag up old, old memories and issues and mistakes and then try to somehow make it all right. And what then, after that? Become friends again? Would it be worth it?

I won't be that ambitious. I'll start with a small misunderstanding. I'll try to see if attempting to solve The Problem of The Maybe really does set one free, or muck things up even further. Will post results soon, I hope.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

There's Something About Paris

It's a bit surreal, to be walking down the streets of Paris when just a few days ago the three of us were scrambling madly in Singapore to prepare for the upcoming competition in Evians.

The first glimpse of Parisian sky I caught from the smoke-stained window of the commuter train was a gloomy one, framed with dead trees and sparse grasslands. Then came the ragged outskirts of the city, with vintage architecture and a well nurtured serenity, then finally the beating heart of Paris itself. Pretty normal, or so I thought.

There's lots of people around, so it isn't as dead as the wintry Canada I visited a while back was. But there's also none of the rushed madness that typifies New York, so it's somewhere in between, in between a gently-swaying mute coconut tree by a desolated beach, and a pack of frenzied gerbils being attacked by fire ants. Something like that.

There's a certain peace to the atmosphere here I haven't quite experienced before.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Poetry at 3 AM

In my defense, it was late at night, I was tired, my work was incomplete. Then Joel challenged me. Hence. =)

On the 12th day of Christmas my true love gave to me,

Twelve Guinsoos Hexing
Eleven Daggers Blinking
Ten Rings a-Healing
Nine Yashas Maiming
Eight Gems a-Seeing
Seven Gloves a-Hasting
Six Dagons Spamming
Five Arcane Rings
Four Cranium Bashers
Three couriers,
Two Battlefuries,
And a scroll which I use to TP

On another note today Khai Joel and I went down to NATAS to settle our Grad Trip tour, and it's really exciting to think that in a few short months we'll be halfway around the world having fun. Heh.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Snippets

Hmm. I've not be blogging much. Of late.

Anyways, just had this conversation.

Brenda: Hey look at these shoes online! They're cheap!
Me: Really? I know another place where it's cheaper.
Brenda: How much?
Me: About... $5, instead of the $60 there.
Brenda: Where where!
Me: They take the shoes off dead people.

I wonder if I'll still be having conversations like this in ten years.

Monday, October 06, 2008

BLOG I WILL NOT LET YOU DIEEEE.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Hello Holidays

Exams are over!

My mind boggles at the lengthy holidays that stretch in front of me now, and although I know school is a long way ahead in August, I've no doubt that when that time comes, I'll look back at this entry and marvel at the way time went by.

Which is kind of how I'm feeling now. Tonight's the last night I'm spending in this dorm room of mine, that's been my home away from home these past 10 months or so. I rushed a lot of my packing today, so it hasn't really sunk in yet that I'm no longer going to see this particular slice of the night skies anymore.

Heh. I'm looking forward to life back in Singapore though, despite the majority of exchange students all loving exchange life too much. For me the primary draw to going home would be feeling anchored and rooted again, because this past year just seemed too transient for my liking.

Well, tomorrow I'm off to Costa Rica for a week with Zhixiang, then when I return my parents will be here, so finally I get to eat well again! I doubt I'll get much internet access next week, so I shall return and post more to make up for lost time soon.

Take care all! Happy holidays! Unless you're like working or something. In which case, er. Happy working!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

On Love



It's scary, how romantic love is always justified.

It didn't strike me until some time recently, when I first noticed a common link between all the love stories, love songs, and real-life romances out there. And that was, every romance is somehow completely, unequivocally, unflinchingly justified by the parties involved.

Of course, it's a good thing when people fall in love. But consider that love, as a raw, pure emotion, often relinquishes little control to logic and sense. Could there be situations when love drives one to do what would normally not be right?

Consider the song My Boo performed in the video above. "And though there's another man who's in my life, you will always be my boo."

Consider Romeo & Juliet, which may merely be a work of fiction, but which stands for the oft-propagated message that unadulterated love is worth dying for, worth defying one's parents for. There are perhaps only half a billion other love stories where parental disapproval is similarly shrugged off.

Consider Mary Kay Letourneau, the teacher who maintains to this day that she is truly in love with the (then) young boy she abandoned her family for. You can read more about her here, in case you're not familiar with her story.

I think what happens is that people in love suddenly find themselves the living emissaries, the breathing ambassadors of love. Suddenly, against the backdrop of a gloomy world beset by too many painful realities, they are the only shining beacons of what is right, what should be, and they set out to prove that their love can conquer all.

In fortuitous cases, people fall in love without causing too much disruption to the order of the world around them.

Other times, in their quest to see their love come to fruition, people go to extreme lengths. Regardless of the obligations or obstacles facing them, people tell themselves that if they can only love deeply enough, they will overcome everything else, that since love is so rare, they are fully justified to pursue it to its end.

It's a pity then when these obligations or obstacles are ones which when abandoned, do cause very real harm to other people. Marriage vows to the wandering husband are obstacles, and so are friendship ties to she who covets her best friend's boyfriend, and so on.

Funny thing still, eh, how humans are still so very enraptured by watching only the budding love stories? You never read about how Mary Kay's first family are surviving her abandonment and betrayal. You never hear that unnamed boyfriend in "My Boo" sing his side of the story, about how he feels knowing that his love is off singing songs with Usher.

To say that one would always give in to love's demands is selfish, and irresponsible. To say that one would always fulfill obligations before love, is to be robotic, mercenary, cold.

Heh. Not an easy task balancing, at all.

Monday, May 05, 2008

If My Mind Had No Lid II


Reading weeks are not much fun.

It's almost as if you have this big, oversized, humongous, gargantuan behemoth of a Blender, and you chuck in all your days and round round the blades go, until the week rolls by in an indistinguishable blur.

There were times this week when I forgot which day of the week it was, simply because everyday seemed the same. Staying at home and in the library though, I realized that the ice-cream man makes his rounds at 2pm and 6pm, and that forcefully cheerful tune his van emits kinda cheers me up.

The ice-cream man must feel quite different each time he makes his rounds, though. On his 2pm round he's like a celebrated hero meeting his adoring crowds, as the children spill out from their houses and rush to him for sweetened treats. After all, with lunchtime just over, who wouldn't be in the mood for ice-cream?

On his 6pm round though, he must like a recalcitrant homicidal pedophile - on every street that he plies his wares, parents are pulling their screaming young aside, averting their gazes, dragging them away from The Man Who Will Spoil Your Dinner.

I bet he looks forward much more to the 2pm crowd.

Sitting in the same spot for too long seems also to sap the days of colour, such that you wind up absolutely famished for variety of any sort. But you can't really enjoy any guilty distraction either, because you're wracked with guilt for not concentrating on studying.

So it was that yesterday night, I found myself eyeing the bottle of Eye-Mo on my tabletop with my mind completely submerged in contemplation of the question "I wonder... what Eye-Mo tastes like..." I snapped out of it in time, had a good cry, then went back to reading.

Lest you think that I've been studying very hard this semester, please, disabuse yourself of that notion. I'm cramming my entire syllabus in like 2 weeks. For 3 subjects. I think I played too much this semester. And hi mum if you're reading now, this is all just hyperbole.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Perfect Timing

I thought my streak of terrible misfortune with electronics ended a few weeks ago.

My laptop fan was fixed at no charge, camera was restored, iPod battery swapped out successfully, earphones exchanged for a working pair. All seemed well.

You can probably see where this is going.

Last night, at the Tribeca Film Festival, my camera started acting up again. Without warning, my camera lost its ability to focus properly, much like a hyperactive kid swimming in a chocolate lake trying to concentrate on trigonometric equations.

Hey, I thought, what's the big deal, I must learn to chill, it's just a camera, life's too short, I can't be blogging about dying electronics all the time. After all, I'd already taken a few shots of the crowd for keepsakes. Peace out.

In the theatre though, as we were getting seated, I overheard two girls near me chatter in high-pitched squeals:

Girl 1: Oh did you see! They're here!
Girl 2: Who?
Girl 1: The director and the lead actress! They're here! They're outside right now having drinks with the press!
Girl 2: Seriously!?
Girl 1: Yes yes! And she's wearing a white dress, it's so pretty on her! I heard they will be answering our questions after the movie!

I couldn't help but start to sweat a little. You see, we were catching Three Kingdoms, some recent Asian flick starring Andy Lau and Maggie Q, and last I checked, Andy Lau was still male.

Let me try to convey the excitement I felt at that moment. If Maggie Q really were in the house, it would be as if a PS3 suddenly sprouted legs, snuggled up to me and said hey let's make a PS4. With lifetime warranty.

Disturbing imagery aside, YES, that was when my camera died. I turned it on to check if the focusing error had resolved itself, which indeed it had. Why, there was only the minor problem of the camera extending its lens, then shutting down automatically without retracting the lens.

My brain was working feverishly. Was it the battery? No, I just charged it, battery bar says full. Did I drop it? No, I've been cradling it as gingerly as I would a baby jellyfish. Did dust get in and jam the motors? Ridiculous! I'd even bought a new camera case for it!

There were only two possibilities left. Either it was pure undiluted bad luck, or the girlfriend-bought shirt I was wearing had the latest Anti-Straying technologies built in (which would include a sound emitter that intones 'Full price full price no further discounts', audible only to females, creating a vague sense of discomfort and thus keeping them away).

After the movie, I sat by the sidelines as fans went up to Maggie and put their filthy soiled arms around her waist or shoulders for the pictures they took. My friend told me I could still go and have my picture taken with my camera phone, but Maggie deserves better treatment than that.

In those few frustrating minutes when hope seemed to be running on its last legs, I kept pressing various buttons on my camera as I tried to fix it, but my magical touch didn't seem to transfer well from girls to cameras at all. Little motors within just kept whirring, which I guess when translated would mean "HAHA take that. Lick my batteries!"

To be honest I did think of just going up to pose with Maggie, while my friend pretended to take pictures of us with a defective camera. But somehow that seemed slimy, and desperate, and dang if I were going to sink to such levels.

Here's the only proof I have that I was really there that night:

Today, I sent off my camera for (further) repairs. From now on, it's only going to be known as 'my Fuji camera'.

Yes, I have disowned and un-named her.