Thursday, July 31, 2008

Questions unanswered.


You may, or may not, be glad to to know that I had a wonderful time last night. [As I typed that last sentence my knee nudged the laptop and almost sent it crashing down from the roof of my office. Would not be fun!]

I dragged him to the legit bar that I visit occasionally, using his presence as an excuse to get myself some beer. I didn't really know how the conversation would turn out - its always a big gamble to meet up with someone you know nothing about, but its a risk I'm willing to take.

I think it was simply refreshing to talk to someone who didn't have his head in the clouds. No talk about idealism and principles, big goals in life and meaningful careers. No need to apologise for what you do. No guilt trips on ethics. No over-analysis of what went wrong, or what should have been done. Life gets in the way of your plans, just deal with it.

The other company I keep here do "deal with it", but not before a complete and arduous analysis of life itself. They are rather fond of digging deep -- which is something I do too, but I'm not particularly fond of doing it every day.

I hoped he would be the trigger I had been searching for. The thing that would kick my passion back into high gear. Maybe some long speech about making the best use of my time here. Who else better to motivate me than a WPP winner?

But there was none of that, and on hindsight, I'm thankful. I think our casual, politically incorrect conversation made me feel more like a photographer than all the other heavy discussions I've had.

And in a very random digression - I wish they had asked where the bacteria was coming from.


Treasure trove of old clips from the 1950s and 1960s of Singapore and other places like Amsterdam, Japan and France. Fucking amazing:

Monday, July 28, 2008


So shall channel feel-goodness from by searching for photos tagged with 'peace'. Behold!


funny pictures

funny pictures

Humorous Pictures


Sunday, July 27, 2008

And then the Earth moved

Ragini and I were talking on the sofa when the floor started to sway beneath us. In the distance, the crows started cawing in unison as they took off from their perches.

We grabbed each other and as our eyes widened, which just reaffirmed that neither of us was hallucinating. Wouldn't have been that inconceivable -- one sat through a six-hour long meeting and the other just got off a 15-hour bus ride.

But nope, Dhaka had its very own earthquake.

I'll read up on the details in the morning. impressed me with a short article half an hour after the tremors.

I had put on my long pants, grabbed my camera and instinctively just wanted to get the fuck out of anything that could collaspe on me. Apparently I overreacted. Kirsty emerged from her room, tousled and sleepy, and while we talked I realised that was probably the end of it so I put the camera down and we chatted.

Of course, and I should have mentioned this earlier, the quake was extremely short-lived and mild. Probably not enough to get the water-swishing-in-the-fish-tank shot that we always see on CNA after Singapore experiences tiny tremors.

I'd take a guess and say we were probably just felt the aftershocks following the two earthquakes that hit Andaman islands (6.1 Sat evening, 6.7 Friday).

My embarrassing, exaggerated reaction is an Aceh hangover, because everyone there took any forms of earth-movement rather seriously. Every tiny tremor was a reminder of what the earth could do and have done.

Anyway, had a marathon meeting that lasted waaaay too long, although it didn't really feel like it. Shall not elaborate since I've ranted enough in the earlier post.

Sarah! I dreamt of you last night. We were having dinner, and you said a really strange thing to me. I had wanted to write it down in the morning, but forgot, so now I've totally forgotten what the sentence was. It was suitably quirky. You would've been proud.

And I visited Mirpur Zoo yesterday. Spent most of the time being pissed off, wishing the tigers and lions would escape from the cages and kill all members of the zoo's management team. Yelled at a zookeeper that kept throwing sticks at a giraffe that tried its best to inch closer and closer to the bunch of fresh leaves they were arranging. It was ridiculous. An elderly man throwing sticks at a giraffe three times his height, even after the giraffe had backed away. Just trample him. I wished in silence.

I miss Singapore's zoo.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Lotsa Words

I had been intending to write this blog entry since the day started, since I logged on the net and saw a fresh bunch of pictures that instantly brought tears to my eyes. It was unexpected - I have been feeling exceptionally immune of late.

But then the day dragged on, turning into a major exercise of restraint for me. I may have controlled what came out of my mouth, but I never could control what showed on my face. My father says so. I tried to etch in neutrality, but failed miserably.

The major meeting I held today was a meeting that should have been held a long time ago. I blame myself for this, because really, who else is there to blame?

What was supposed to be a "moving on" meeting -- filled with constructive comments and perhaps a couple of rightly-placed barbs of criticism to remind people that they had to buck up -- turned into a Singaporeanisque tragic comedy of pushing blame and defensive excuses.

Of course, as it is always the case, I am bound to be generalising. But if I had to summarise today's meeting, it would be: "Its not my fault because XXX did not tell me to do it."

Worst of all, it seems nothing wastaken seriously. I guessed as much when I headed out to buy snacks, and everyone cheered me on asking me to "get drinks as well". I retorted by saying it was not a party. What I really wanted to say was, "This is not a fucking party. You should not be laughing and should rightly be pissing in your pants because the fact that this meeting was not organised by you is an indication that you've fucked up."

I left feeling rather defeated. It was utterly tiring. I don't even care who reads this now -- I will be very glad to announce to anyone who would listen that I was utterly disappointed and let down today.

And on the way to the other job, I got a call from a colleague who told me that the stuff I'd been staying in late nights for was not good enough. This would be fine if I had known I was doing a shitty job -- ironically, I was actually rather pleased with what I had done. That basically meant all the late nights I had stayed agonising over picas of space was for naught.

When I reached the other office, I surrendered. Do whatever you want, I said. Change it however you feel like it. I don't care.

Exchanging barbs with Malcolm online, it occured to me that ST was the first and last place I had worked at whereby I actually believed my bosses to be better than me. They knew what they were doing, they were smarter and more experienced, and even though I disagreed with them on stuff, at the end of the day I am always happy to defer to people that I trust and respect. I was happy to be the novice, to be the one who knew nothing, who had a lot to learn.

Haven't felt like that in a long time. I'm tired. I want to learn. I'm happy to pretend to be a leader as long as the rest of you stop acting like sheep.

My lousy analogy for the day would be this: You're on a sinking ship with a captain that you know is stupid. Rather than figure out a way to save yourself, you turn and ask the captain to save you. And then you blame the captain when you start drowning.

Of course, real life is not so simple. There's no prospect of death to kick your survival skills into high gear. The ugly fact is, we probably don't pay them enough to give a shit.

My friend defends their behaviour as being understandable, since they're saving their asses and aren't really in a privileged position to save anyone else's. My argument is that no one can be saved when a ship is going down.

Moving on.

Everywhere I go, I see flashes of pictures. These are moments -- moments that I knew I would be clicking the shutter, if only I had the camera in my hand. The last one I saw today was when I disembarked off my rickshaw and waited as the rickshaw wallah counted my change. A SUV went by, momentarily illuminating him in the darkness, etching shadows along his sunburnt skin and muscles, highlighting every bead of sweat. His face, furrowed with concentration as he counted his money, was a face that could represent the millions that labour under the sun.

Pictures, pictures. I told Brian that it seems as if I'd lost my passion for the thing I thought I'd be passionate about my whole life. I desperately hope I'm wrong. He sighed in response. I can't help you there, he said. He's right.

I saw an updated batch of photos on FB from the closing of Mercy Relief's operations in Aceh. I'd forgotten about Heru. The last I saw him, he was surrounded by a bunch of volunteers, all trying their darnest to entertain him. It was funny.

I recalled Eddie's words about him. I've forgotten the details, but the essense of it was this: The Singapore government gladly took the credit and glory for Step 1 of his recovery, but threw him back to his family for them to take care of Steps 2-100. Did they even think of how a burn survivor could recover in a house with no working electricity?

Eddie was frustrated. I tried to share the frustration, but I was just another who flitted in and out of Heru's life. Eddie stayed. He built a house.

Terence Teo/Mercy Relief

That's him on the right. He looks about 4 now.

Three years ago, he was a toddler just learning how to walk. I was a budding photographer who thought she had finally found her profession for life. One of us has progressed, the other's right back at square one.


Sunday, July 20, 2008

A most peculiar paragraph:

SM: Religious harmony has to be nurtured

... This 'happy state of affairs' did not happen by chance but through the continual efforts of everyone, he said before giving the leaders a pat on the back.

'We are fortunate to have responsible religious and community leaders who speak up for shared values, tolerate differences and understand and respect diversity,' he said.

I've italicised the phrase that I found rather puzzling and, well, downright peculiar.

Am I being anal?

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Slated (Again)

I've a long list of work to do before I get to sleep, but once again made the mistake of checking out Last week's stuff hasn't been exactly riveting, but today (and yesterday's) entries are beautiful - material so satisfying and relevant that I want to curl up next to it with a hot cuppa coffee and a cigarette.

These include reflections on the news business and a piece about the use of anonymous sources.

And best headline IMO is So Help You, Dog. Or maybe its Victoria Secret's Dire Worldview. I read the former for the same reason why we read Reuters' Oddly Enough. Turned out its written by Brian Palmer - I assume its the same one, who visited a couple of months ago and told me some rather hard truths about the business I want to be in.

The latter article turned out to be rather surprising, I suppose it's because I had absolutely no idea what the it was about -- the headline was good enough to make me want to read it. Gold star for the subeditor. The ensuing lucid and entertaining discussion on the lingerie company's quest for "personal commodification" unveiled rather funny gems like:
"... Very Sexy ® Bra's tagline: 'The classic seduction begins with lingerie. Behind every very sexy woman is a Very Sexy ® Bra.' I've done some seducing in my day, and I'm pleased to report that such a garment is not a necessity."

It led me to a great section on Slate that I never really got around to exploring. The XX Factor is a blog by Slate's female writers. I am usually completely disinterested in anything the follows the "by women, for women" tagline (a bunch of women gathering to discuss women's issues? I will shut down.)

[To explain a little bit, its not really the topic of discussion that irks me, but such groups always come across as being rather exclusive. I have a mental image of a bitchfest disguised as a discussion on women's issues. You will be glad to know I've been harshly berated for having such a view.]

But The XX Factor is different, mainly because it is not instantly obvious that its entries are all written by all females. [Found: Great link to article on a people who welcome a child murderer as a hero, and discovered Elizabeth Wurtzel wrote Prozac Nation when she was 26. Why do I not remember anything about that book?]

And now I'm wondering what is the branding value in labeling something as being "done by women". Anyway, I'm digressing. Back to work.
This morning I made a call to Uganda. To finally hear a voice to match the numerous emails -- it thrills me to no end.

All communication should be done on the phone or in person. Emails suck.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

It's been a crazy couple of days. Everything's been generally swell, thanks to the happy-feelings-maker located somewhere in this apartment. But a particular person's making my mood swing all over the place and all I can do right now is just to sit back and think, not again. It had reached that stage whereby I was so afraid to be 100% happy because I knew there was no where else to go but down.

Regardless, I'm just spending some time to settle in and hopefully use this as a chance to refresh my focus on things.

Invigilated yet another mid-term exam today and the same shit happened. I'm just extremely disappointed, which just means that I had expected better of my students. Actually, I just expected common sense. But some of them pulled the same shit again. By the end of the thing I was so pissed off I decided not to say anything at all lest I utter words I regret.

But it was ridiculous. Going up and talking to a student about a question he had, I had to turn my back on the rest of them in our tiny classroom. Immediately the whispers started all around me. This happened a couple more times till I finally gave up. And I hate to have to use this word, but that was just a really stupid thing to do.

Some conversations will have to be had in private. It's just so disappointing to have to be forced to become a bigger bitch than I already am.

I refrained from passing any comments or voicing any opinions when a friend of mine talked about paying rickshaw wallahs more. I have no problems with people who want to do that, it is after all a personal choice. What I do not like, however, is talking as if what you are doing is the only right thing to do, and making me feel like I'm doing something wrong if I don't do it too.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

What I Read This Morning

-- Found out the meaning of the word karoshi and that its been around since 1987. Highly unlikely Jess will die of karoshi.

-- China's decision to ban dog meat covered in a rather simplistic write-up. The readers seem more aware of the other side of the picture (judging by their comments) which I think should've been part of the article.

-- Two of the five vodcasts on display on ST's website are about the iPhone? WTF?

-- 45 years of begging can amount to 91kg worth of coins in savings. How much money is that exactly? S$484.

-- Kudos to the BBC for its coverage on the Biharis. Alright. The IHT has done it, the BBC has done it. Countless of locals here have done it. I did it myself, three years ago. What else is there to do about this now?

Saturday, July 12, 2008

It feels like a week has passed, what with the moving and all that. Finally settled (somewhat) into the new place, which I have been reluctant and unwilling to fall in love with because a part of me - the masochistic part - wanted to believe I could be fine in a grey, gloomy, furniture-less place.

So, as I sit typing this in my living room on a cushion-covered floor sofa using the wireless internet, surrounded by two bookcases of real books, it just means I've told that part of me to shut up.

I think I never realised the importance of living space. I've been holed up in hostels, guestrooms, and the room in my previous house (although we did have some furniture at some point, the living room never assumed its real purpose). It is a strange and rather illusory luxury of choice, to be able to choose where to sit, to have a space other than your bed on which to stretch your legs and chill out.

But the most important thing, is that this is a place that I don't dread coming back to.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008


- Cectic, via Cowboy Caleb

I'd forgotten how much I love the FSM and everything Pastafarian till I chanced upon the comic today. Who wouldn't love a religion that believes heaven is a land of beer volcanoes and a stripper factory.

And I wasn't kidding when I said Cowboy's site is a huge time-sucker.

Because that led to (Tagline: Let us help you confirm what you already know) where you feel the truth with your gut. The site is "an open internet encyclopedia dedicated The Honorable Professor Dr. Stephen T. Colbert, D.F.A. and his creation, "truthiness".

I have restrained myself from clicking on any links, but I do know that I'd like to go to hell later.

And I also came across this - an online competition to crown the most pissed-off feline: Hard Cats - a very, very welcome change from all the bloody fluffy cutesy stuff online.

I've made a submission =)

Abrupt Changes in the Weather Expected

I woke up this morning, sleep-deprived and in an inexplicably bad mood. Nothing had happened and I hadn't even made it out of my room - but my god, I was foul foul foul tempered.

Some good did come out of it though. My foul mood gave me a suitable temper in which to ask the roommate for the money she owed me. I had been skirting the issue for a long time, because I am a big fat chicken when it comes to money issues. The last time I tried, she opened the door looking sick, tired and in an overall bad state - and I almost cowered over in my chickenness.

Not today. I was pissed off enough (at nothing in particular) to not to bother with the niceties. And as she started to rattle off the same pitiful excuses about the sorry state of her finances, I stopped her in mid-sentence and told her, hey, look everyone has problems, ok?

Still grumpy, I headed off to class. We watched a 40 min documentary which I thought was pretty interesting, but the students kept nodding off and I felt bad about that. I feel a strange obligation to be entertaining, at the very least. Which explains why I tend to rattle off in a stressed out manner when I sense I'm 'losing' them, (hello? hello? are you all still here?) or break out into sudden theatrics/antics.

But my favourite part of the day is after the class. Sometimes I would leave the campus and see a bunch of them having tea at the small tea stall outside, and (most of the time) they would wave and I would invite myself into their group. Things were awkward at first, the guys were scared to smoke in front of the teacher - but I soon corrected that misconception. However, I couldn't stop them calling me 'ma'am', and I've since given up on that cause.

I did worry about possible consequences. I worried that by becoming so friendly, they would lose all respect and I would end up having a class of students who didn't give a damn what I said. It seems to have worked out just fine.

I take pride in this, because they could just as easily ignore me when they see me outside. I suppose, even if I sucked at teaching, my company as a human being couldn't be that bad. As much as I'd like to deny it, its true - I want to be liked.

The foul mood lifted for a bit after the congenial banter with the students, but it got worse when I made my way to the other office. It's a long story, but simply put - I am an impatient person who becomes even more impatient when I'm in a bad mood.

Do we really need to spend 15 minutes talking about a subject when there's absolutely nothing to discuss about? We have a problem. The tech guys will fix it. End of story. No amount of talking or repetition of the facts will make that process go faster.

And I really do not need you to repeat something to me THREE times within the span of an hour after you've already emailed me about it. Jesus.

I apologise. I would not have felt so pissy about it if I had been in a better mood. At some point I even checked the calendar because I figured this has got to be a case of PMS.

By the end of the day, the frown on my face was practically etched in, and I got on the rickshaw to seek a little solitude at a nearby rooftop cafe overlooking the man-made lake. I found what I was looking for.

The weather was beautiful today, for once. It hadn't rained the entire day. I settled down with a drink and Jan White's book on layout and design (great stuff) and just soaked in the sunset. It was the magic hour, when the colours changed right before your eyes. And just like that, everything was lifted.

Since then, I've had shisha, a lot of laughs, chilled out at the apartment that'll soon be my new place, had a cheeseburger and watched half of Danny Boyle's Sunshine. In other words, the day's been worth it.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Be Patient This Gets Amazing

I was gearing up to do work but I've squandered the last two hours looking at Edwin & Maria's wedding photo outtakes on Facebook, defending myself against Ah Lan who 冤枉我, editing old photos so as to use in this blog post, and reading about the pig that's going to make everyone think twice about eating bak kwa.

The blog title has got nothing to do with its contents. I just really wanted to use it because its the name of the new segment on The Daily Show and it makes me giggle when I hear it. Anyway, nothing 'amazing' happens to me. But I did pick up new internet lingo today:

"I am 5n. u?"

That's a first for me.


It was my mom who told me about the news item on the miracle pig. She called earlier, just to chat. I always imagine that when they call, they're secretly hoping to hear me say, "I've had enough! I'm coming back tomorrow!" Hence all the negative questions (Are you stressed? You sound stressed. And unhappy.) and reminders about the cats (Rasco is so fat now! You should see her!)

And in between the small talk and debriefing about the homebase, she said, "Oh, your cleaner friend came to the house just now, looking for you."

Nazrul, who told me almost three years ago that he was never coming back to Singapore to work, actually returned. He told my mom he is working in Woodlands now, and I don't know if he's still a cleaner, but chances are that he's found himself a better factory-based job.

He showed up at my house today, looking dapper in a formal shirt (according to my mom, except she used the word "smart"), and asked if I was at home. He wasn't even sure if he had found the right house. He was polite and nice, and tried very hard to remind my mom who he was.

Of course, my mom didn't need a reminder. She had seen my photos, and he and his colleagues had dinner in my house once (a pathetic meal compared to the lavish feasts they lay out for their guests here). Besides, we see them downstairs every day. She told him I wasn't home, that I was in Bangladesh. He asked when I was coming back.


I can't help but laugh as I imagine him trying to politely explain his sudden visit to my mom. Nazrul was never nice or polite to me. He had a deliberate arrogance, always brusque and always spoke to me as if he thought I was a bit of a joke. Do you have any idea how difficult it was to get him to smile in the photo above? I knew it was mostly an act, but still, I liked him for that. He was the only one of the three that completely ignored my camera. He simply could not be bothered with me. In that way, he was the most accommodating, and I think he was the one who understood me and what I was trying to do best.

There has been several moments here, in Dhaka, when I thought I saw him. I was always mistaken. I figured it was highly unlikely, since he has land in Gazidpur and would not have a reason to wander the streets of Dhaka. But still, I hoped to run into him here, in his own country. I wanted the tables turned.

These are some old photos from when I was doing the project. I don't know why I never got around to uploading them.




It defies all my expectations that he remembered me, that he wanted to speak to me again and took the effort to show up at my house. And this is happening at a time when I feel almost completely disillusioned with what I once thought was my passion -- I simply cannot express the importance of this occurance, and how much this gesture means to me.
I hadn't intended to blog, seeing how its already 4 am, and I intend to wake up earlier (than usual) to get work done in the office. But then I was reading lyrics on an old blog entry on my old Xanga site just as iTunes started playing the exact same song -- such things don't happen often and they deserved to be recorded!

And I know I've said this before, so just bear with me as I say this again -- I can barely remember writing the things I wrote from four years ago. All those things I said, events that I recounted, why can't I remember these things?

I seem to have been a lot more lucid then, in the sense that I was making all these assertions and opinions (rightly or wrongly) with such certainty it is almost embarrassing. There are a lot of things I wrote back then that I wish I could retract, things I certainly wouldn't write about now. Still, I must admit I do miss that blind, arrogant confidence that I wrote with.

The old blog did remind me about Mark Ryden, an artist whose work I used to admire but I had forgotten about him after it seemed like he wasn't producing anything new.

Well, he did!

Mark Ryden's The Tree Show

Friday, July 04, 2008

Last night I dreamt I rode a red Ducati to make a quick getaway. The bike was so big my legs couldn't touch the ground.

A gloriously lazy Friday.

Oh, and I still miss her. In five days, it would be exactly three years since I took this photo of her.


She's grown much since, don't think I can say the same for myself.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

A River Runs Through

I'm sorry but I wasn't expecting you for another month or so.

I had the impression the monsoon starts in August. But I was wrong.

The rain has been rather relentless. All morning and most of the afternoon today, resulting me being completely stranded at home between bodies of water. To get a rickshaw, I have to either wait in the hopes that someone alights at my place, or wade out.

I can't lie -- it's awfully fun. May not feel this way when I have my first slip in the water or leg into an unseen hole.

This means I am going to have a rather tricky house-moving process in a week or so.

It also means that I will be having cool, cool weather to sleep in for a while. Which is a good thing, considering I do need my blanket to act as a makeshift mosquito net because those fuckers are in serious breeding mode these days.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

I'd forgotten how time-sucking the net can be. Sure do miss random, pointless surfing. Once I click on Cowboy Caleb's treasure trove of links upon links - my afternoon is gone. Best time-sucker today? ARGs.