Monday, June 30, 2008

Slated

Slate's so great that even after reaching home past midnight, preparing for next day's class and feeling like I want to sleep for the next year or so -- I am still stuck on the site and want to blog about it.

I don't know if its just me, but recently their stuff has been really great. I really want to dissect it from a publisher's standpoint, but I'm seriously too tired right now. Especially after having read about how to create a noisier version of yourself at a reality-TV school, the death of the semicolon (with the cutest headline ever) and discovering there's another African dictator we've forgotten about while obsessing over Mugabe.

And of course, along the same vein of office-speak (Tym's got the details on this), a great article on the pop culture catchphrases.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Bill Gate's 'leaving' video. Its rather awesome. As much as I love Jon Stewart, I thought George Clooney's bit was the best.





Couldn't sleep last night due to recurring, semi-lucid discomfy dreams. Was constantly half-awake, and the dreams were about me being not being able to sleep, tossing and turning and working on some layout on my laptop, trying to get it done so I could get it out of my head and go to sleep.

I tried several things, washing my face, walking around, drinking some orange juice, but everytime I closed my eyes I just kept seeing those grids. My mind was working overtime. Then I eventually slept and had dreams that were not about work - but about sulphur powder, me trying to give someone my Singaporean number, drink coupons, taking the MRT and a faucet that shot out powerbeams into people's eyes.

So I compensated this morning with an extra teaspoon of coffee, which turned out to be too much coffee, and resulted in a terrible, scattered and unfocused class because I couldn't control my speech and my own train of thoughts. Even now, as I type, my hands are trembling.

This also means that its unlikely I'll get any work done today, because I just can't think straight. Frustrating this is!

There is one heck of a cumulonimbus cloud over my part of the city now, which means I may be stuck here for a while if the winds don't come and blow the rain clouds away.

Is it just me,

or is Facebook now the daily "engagements and wedding announcements" section?

Saturday, June 28, 2008

我真的要搬家了。

没办法,许要用华语来写这消息,应为我还没跟我室友讲。

是有点突然,我心里还不完全确定,很怕会后悔。哎呀。不可能会比这边惨。

Friday, June 27, 2008

Randomness: LKY says it'll only take five years to ruin Singapore, but people like Sally Ang shows that perhaps corrosion has already taken place from within.

Rather Full

I had dinner with a group of Singaporeans today. A rather close-knit group that meets up every Thursday evening for dinner followed by dessert and coffee.

There are a lot of conveniences involved in mixing with people that come from the same country as you. The accent, the jargon, the language, and there's no need to provide background stories or explain cultural differences.

But the life I have here is so different from theirs. They cannot believe I travel around via public transport on my own. They still talk with the assumption that I live in a fully-furnished house - giving me tips on microwaving, what shows are on television tonight etc. I told them I expect to spend Friday doing a lot of laundry since I have little time during the week for the chore. But then one of them said it was easy - dump it into the washing machine and let it hang indoors. I had no choice but to reveal that I didn't have said machine, and that I have to hang my clothes on the roof. Which means I have to be home, waiting for it to dry - because no one's going to save them when the rain comes.

I lamented to my friend here, No matter how hard I try, even to the people that know me, I will always be bideshi - foreign. I didn't want to be treated like an alien, not by my friends. But I know there are just some differences that can never be bridged. I believe that my fellow Singaporeans are quite glad to be bideshi.

I got off the huge car (they insisted on sending me back because god forbid I get mugged) some distance away from my place, and walked back. And I felt so unsettled, because instead of the feeling happy to have been with 'my' people, I felt like a foreigner all over again.

An old man was squatting outside the grocery shop, and a young puppy was playing by itself behind him. I got my supplies (eggs, water, butter) and stood there for a minute just to look -- the old man was now laughing and playing with the puppy, trying to entice it closer with a box of matches (???). A young boy stood close by, giggling at the scene. I couldn't help but laugh out loud, thinking of how all my the photographic cliches were now brought together (old people, animals, kids). I stood there for a long time, really, because I generally don't leave scenes that make me smile.

And I know I've been griping about life here, but tonight made me realise that I don't want that kind of gripe-free life -- filled with facilities and golfing and chartered tours and trips to expensive restaurants and personal drivers. I much prefer my own imperfect, tedious and uncomfortable arrangement. I cannot imagine being shut out of this city that way, to not have seen the things I have seen, met the people I have met, felt the way this city makes you feel. They may have been based here for longer than I have, but they have never truly lived in this city.

Of course, I'm not delusional enough to think that I have had the hardcore local life - of course I haven't. I have lattes and pasta, I buy cheese and imported juices. But I like to think that I still walk the same street as they do, feeling the same stones beneath my feet, and getting as close as I could possibly get while still being myself.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

To Buddha and Back

Last night I wrote and deleted (again) some long confessionalisque post about a very horrible thing I had done. Remember what I said about projecting anger and frustrations? Yeah I kinda hit rock bottom with what I did yesterday. I deleted it because I wasn't sure if my attempt at honesty was a poorly-disguised lunge at absolution.

Anyway, you'd think I'd be allowed to wallow in my shame a little. The day after, as I sat on the rickshaw on the way to the office, I kept chiding myself for what happened. I've got to chill. Stop taking things personally. Take the higher ground. Ignore. What would Buddha do?

It was good I was thinking about all those things, because at that moment a bus full of teenage boys passed my rickshaw and whup! - a tightly-balled up ball of newspaper hit the side of my head. The loud laughter and jeers continued even as the bus went on its way, all of them peering out from the back window to see how I would react.

I didn't, of course. I was channeling Buddha on the outside, but my god, my mind realised a new state of viciousness then.

Stuff I Read this Morning


(AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
  • Bush To Arroyo: "I am reminded of the great talent of the -- of our Phillipine-Americans when I eat dinner at the white house." The chef is Cristeta Comerford, who was named White House chef in August of 2005. Personally, I'm surprised he knows her nationality. Incident has not been reported in the local press in the Phillipines.
  • Singaporeans and South Koreans are the region's biggest online spenders, a survey by MasterCard said on Tuesday. Is it just me, or does anyone else wonder what the results would've been if Visa had conducted the survey instead?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Photo Tag.



I'm playing photo tag. By myself, probably, but hopefully not.
I have a rather large burn mark on the top of my hand that's turning into a nice purplish-blue colour. I have no idea what to put on burns - I remember reading that nothing was better than something, but I could've skipped a chapter or two during first aid in home ecs class. Besides, who really has the mood to think of home remedies when you wake up to check email and read one that just shows signs of unintelligent life on this planet? Anyway, the burn is caused by me dropping the iron on my hand (I KNOW), and if it turns out the way the other two iron-caused burns on my calf and knee (ironing without an ironing board can be tricky) then I am in for an ugly-ass scar that can't be hidden under clothes. Well, maybe gloves. All in all, a fantastic addition to an already sucky morning that couldn't get any worse.

Oh I'm so going to regret those last five words.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Lugged myself out of bed at an hour unseemly of my usual bad habits, if only because the internet failed on me last night and I had a lot of work to get done before my morning class.

Can I just say, I do love Getty's Creative section -- for all its horrible corporate monsterishness sucking the soul out of photography, turning photographs into visual equivalent of a Magnetic Poetry Kit when images can mean whatever you want it to mean, and goddamn whatever the photographer was trying to express.

It's still too early to say, and this day could go either way, but everything has been swell so far and I hope it stays this way.

I realised something yesterday (a rarity in my recent haze of i-don't-know-ness) that I no longer feel sympathy or empathy for a lot of what I see. The boys shoveling rubbish, the rickshaw wallahs sweating it out in the sun, the handicapped beggars that approach me. Which would thus require an admission that, yes, a lot of my initial perceptions were coloured over with a glaze of pity.

Now I no longer know who reads this blog, this admission could potentially come back to haunt me. Regardless, I still feel it's important to note how my thoughts and attitudes have evolved.

This is all still slightly confusing for me. Did I pity them? Did I learn how not to care anymore? And if I'm wrong about this, what's the cause of my recent disinterest in everything?

There was a lot about people that drew me in. It used to be addictive. The every day stories of people we meet. People used to fascinate me. I wanted to hear their stories, to get a glimpse of their spirit, to share what I had seen and learnt with others.

You see, I was never really interested in the privileged. I wanted to hear about the struggles, about the overcoming-of-odds, the way people survived in ways I never could. I was familiar with the privileged, after all, I was one of them. In this sense, I was always looking for "the other", looking for lives I would never be involved in unless I actively sought them out.

I'm not sure how pity comes in here, and my mind is too scattered to understand it properly now. All I know is, a couple of months ago, there is no way I would have been capable of what I'm doing now -- yelling at CNG drivers who ask for more money, getting pissed off and walking away from rickshaw wallahs, ignoring eye contact with child beggars and not even bothering to smile or make small talk anymore. Not all the time, but often enough to puzzle myself.

A big reason is that I have accumulated so many negative experiences here, I may be projecting all this anger and frustration on whoever I meet. The fucking racist remarks and shouts, the ill-disguised bitchiness, the snide jokes and remarks, the loud laughter that erupts after I pass by -- all these things that constantly makes me feel like a circus freak on parade. A lot of it is just plain rude, and I may have tolerated all I'm able to tolerate.

And I know I shouldn't take these things personally, and I had been doing a great job of ignoring all this - just have to try a little harder, I guess.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Roadkill

rftd.jpg


These are for lovable, rainbow-sprouting Frankie, because it really couldn't be for anyone else.
(If clicking on his link, do heed Blogger's warning. Really.)


rotd.jpg

Thursday, June 19, 2008

"He comes from a respectable Muslim family of Bangladesh which has produced many worthy sons."

I'm sorry, but having to edit this sentence ruined my morning. And its only because of one word.


Woke up to the strangest dream this morning. Sarah said she liked the first six seconds between awakening and the harsh-hitting-of-reality, and I would concur but I think that only applies if the dream was pleasant.

So I was back in Jakarta, with a certain SOMEONE and there was a lot in between, like an escape from jail, some high-speed cart race with a baby somewhere, rushing for an MAS flight, and someone pinning me down to write the alphabets W-E-S-S N-E-S-S on my knuckles as a joke.

I was trying to get back to where I was before, but I couldn't remember the name of the area, and I was trying to talk to them in Bangla but then i remembered thinking that dude the two languages have completely different origins - this is not going to work.



This xkcd strip perfectly sums up every damn morning for me:




Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Nice.

Unwinding after work and a class today by watching Chris Rock's Never Scared.

"Another thing fellas -- don't argue. You cannot win. You cannot beat a woman in an argument. It's impossible. You cannot win. Because men, we are handicapped when it comes to arguing, 'cos we have a need to make sense."

Lazy Bastards

You're probably going to read this.

Monday, June 16, 2008

More on Mom

Slight digression first: I watched a couple of the Indiana Jones movies. Were there only three? Ok, then I watched them all. Wow. Spielberg's really good at milking exoticism, isn't he? Dude, you were rather offensive. That scene in Temple of Doom, when they started serving the snakes and beetles - oh come on.

So, I was rather surprised by the comments on the previous post - you mean all this time, I wasn't talking to myself? I feel so self-aware now. Joke.

Anyway, spoke to my mother and found out a bit more about the situation that I wrote about previously.

It turns out that my mother worked at this place for 11 years, only to get retrenched when there was a merger. She then went on to work at the Cadbury factory in Jurong - how did I forget about this? I do recall her mentioning this, but it had slipped my mind completely. How strange it is that I used to stand at the platform at the MRT station complaining about that weird chocolaty smell without remembering that my mother used to work there.

Her return there is making her nervous: "I'll be working with all these young punks." - referring to the poly graduates that are usually hired for this position. She's also worried about her close relationship with her ex-colleague and now boss - who wanted to hire her without any hesitation whatsoever. Nobody wants to be accused of having "pulled strings".

They had met up again at the wake of a former colleauge - my mother had seen the notice in the newspapers and it happened to be near our house, and, being the woman she is, she went to pay her respects to a friend that she remembered.

She told me, how strange it was to be reunited with all these friends again under the most unlikely of circumstances. But there was no mistaking the happiness in her voice when she told me about this.

So she had worked there for more than a decade. These folks had celebrated her 21st birthday with her - of which I had seen the pictures, and even tried on the green dress she had tailored for that event (not my style, unfortunately) held in the kampong in Punggol. I wasn't there, but I bet she had a helluva time.

But to my brother, who commented that she "didn't agonize about what she coulda-shoulda done with her life" - how do you know this? I'm not saying you're wrong, and I really hope you're right, and this is an assertion best left unexplored (by her children, especially).


Alright, I best get to sleep.


Addition: A bit slow on the catching up, but WAH LAU did you read my brother's old entry on Valentine's Day? My brother SCORE.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

I cooked pasta tonight. Awesomeness. I took some stuff, so I'm really calm right now.

A few days ago, my father sms-ed to tell me that my mother may be switching jobs. She had just gone for a job interview, and may go back to working a five-day week - a vast improvement from the current six-day arrangement, which would basically give her better working hours and more time to relax and do a bit more running.

She had almost collapsed at the Sundown run, making it the first marathon that she could not complete.

That news about the job interview is in itself already a fucked thing for me to hear, because my mother is 52 years old. She's the smiling one in the photo in one of the posts below. She doesn't look 52, does she? In my mind she's 40.

Why is my mother attending job interviews at the age of 52?

When my mother was pregnant with me, she worked in a sorta-chemicals-lab as a technician messing around with sand and other stuff - I'd forgotten the details over the years. I know she did sales at a departmental store when she was 18 or so, before she had met my father.

She continued working as a lab technician for a while even after I was born, until my parents realised the situation required someone to stay home to look after me.

So my mom quit her job. She has been mostly a housewife ever since. When I was in primary school, she sold World Book encyclopedias, going house-to-house and doing fairly well. She had booths at the book fairs they used to have at the old World Trade Center exhibition halls. She then went on to dabble in flea markets, buying wholesale gift items and booking stalls at various locations that hosted such temporary events. We went everywhere - Century Mall, Tanglin Mall, Tiong Bahru Plaza.

She upgraded, somewhat, to a permanent stall at the World Trade Center before the place was torn down. Do you remember that Guinness Book of Records exhibition they had there? I do. She had a pushcart outside of where McDonalds used to be. I would visit in the weekends.

She was an excellent saleswoman. She has a way with people, friendly but never too familiar. Persuasive, but professional and never pushy. I faked most of my enthusiasm about the stuff she sold - soft toys, knick knacks - but I didn't mind because she sincerely loved everything she had at the stall. Even today, she talks fondly of some of her favourite items. There was that Mr. Bean bear, and the assortment of Totoro memorabilia.

After the pushcart venture ended, she worked at the Prudential offices at the SingPost building in Paya Lebar, manning the gift shop they had. The shop sold stuff with the Prudential logo on it, which agents would buy as gifts for their clients.

And then after that, there was an attempt at a business with relatives. A wholesale shop in Bedok. She's been engaged in that business ever since, although her own shop failed and she was relocated right back where she used to work - except that now they call the place Harbourfront.

And now, she just went for a job interview at the first company she worked for as an adult, applying for the same job she had given up 25 years ago.

My father, in his sms, said he "couldn't believe it". And I couldn't really either. My first instinct was to be happy - just because it meant a five-day week for her and an overall better working environment.

But there is an implication to this story, one which I lack the courage to articulate and I find very hard to pen down.

I told Rajiv this last night - slightly drunk but still upset enough so that he could tell it was not a moment for one of his famously callous remarks.

I told him that I had spent some time wondering about what she was thinking as she sat in her swirling chair in that laboratory at the age of 24, newly married and working as a technician in an excellent company. I wonder if she had made plans then, if she thought about how long it would take for her to be promoted, if she may make a jump to another company in the same line. I wonder if she had a vision about where her career would take her.

After all, she was at the start of everything. A great husband, a good job - considering she didn't do too well in school - a new flat.

And then, I suppose, life simply came in and played itself out on her behalf. Here she is again, right back where she started.

And I really want to ask her how she feels about this new/old job that she's about to embark upon. Is this a pleasant trip down memory lane, or a painful reminder of sacrifices and regrets? I want to ask her, but I'm so afraid of what the answer will be.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

xkdc. lmnop?



Because I'm incapable of finding anything really cool online - I end up relying on friends to find them for me. So thanks much to Tym for directing me to www.xkcd.com - I've been on it for three hours and I'm obsessed.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

What, oh what?

I told my friend here a couple of days ago, one of the fellow mid-20s people who suddenly feel lost after having being so sure about everything before, that I couldn't hear my "inner dialogue" anymore.

The inner dialogue, as some of my other friends would say, those who have gotten over the feeling of being lost, is akin to "thinking too much".

"Goddamit just stop thinking so much about life and just go and live it."

I tend to agree with them, but I found it impossible to silence that voice in my head. That voice that always thought too far ahead, reconsiders past actions, questions decisions - well, basically keeping myself in check anyway.

And well, I can't hear that voice anymore. Right or wrong, left or right - I used to know this because the voice would tell me (regardless of whether or not I listened to it). I haven't heard it in a while, and I quite miss it.

So when I told this to my friend, her face lit up because she thought it summed up how she was feeling as well.

I'm sure it'll be back in no time, casting doubts over everything and making me feel bad about myself all over again, but oh boy, I sure do miss it.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Do You

want to know how the meeting with fellow Singaporeans went?

It was great.

The endless talk about the food was somewhat predictable, but much appreciated. There were less than 15 of us, although they believed that there were many more than had not surfaced.

"How come we don't know you?!" became the oft-repeated refrain of the night. "Where have you been hiding?!" Are Singaporeans always so friendly?

Most of them lived in Gulshan though - living high on expat pay, travelling in big cars with drivers and golfing. I had my reservations about that, but after they told me about how this was supposed to be bak zhang week, and how one of them makes killer kong ba... well, I'm not exactly in a position to be choosy these days.

Gems of a Find

As I settled into office today, my ex-student came along to tell me about his recent discovery - some shop in downtown Dhaka that apparently will slash the prices by as much as 50% on good t-shirts and jeans.

Now, why he felt like he had to share this information with me puzzles me somewhat. It wasn't small talk, since he actively sought me out in my office to tell me this. We don't have that friendly-friend thing going like I do with some of the other students. And I hadn't put word out that I was looking for a bargain on clothes.

Maybe I just look like the sort who would be interested in such information? Is there even a look for this?

The real gem of a find this week was that my favourite advice columnist Dan Savage actually does podcasts. I have been reading his columns since I stumbled on the syndicated version on The Onion's AV Club. Not really because I need the advice (clearly, as you will realise if you check it out), but just because I'm such a voyeur and I enjoy his crude lucidity and no-nonsense common sense.

I can only download one podcast a day, but to be able to hear Dan yell at a caller's "wife-stealing-ass" and to tell her to get her "clingy, emotional, meathooks out of her" is well worth the time.

So I'm plodding along. I like that word - plod - even though it seems rather clumsy and awkward - something the Economist's style guide might call "ugly" (wouldn't know, haven't gotten to "P" yet) - because that's exactly the sort of sound my life would make if it had to be translated into audio.

Last night, at the usual cafe, I found myself sitting with a friend that was only with me because he had nothing else to do. Dude. You have no idea how much I empathise.

Just as we were about to get up and leave, when I turned around in my seat, there it was, a young calico cat sitting daintily at my feet. I have no idea how it got there, since we were on a balcony of sorts on the second floor. But it just sat there looking at me, and I bundled it up and sat it down in my lap and it went on to play-bite-scratch me. The pain was exquisite.

I know most people who keep cats try to discourage them from biting, lest it became a habit. I never could be bothered to do that, and now its something that I've become very fond of.

Hmm.. Maybe I do listen to Dan Savage for a reason.

Anyway, I have a class soon, and a fancy dinner tonight, a farewell/welcome party for both the incoming and current Singaporean High Commissioner to Bangladesh. A Malay guy working at the office here gave me a call last week to invite me, and hearing his slight-Mat accent with a heavy, heavy dose of Singlish on the phone just made me smile like crazy.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Quote

"Yes its good for health, but not so good for your addiction."


Hurhur.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Maybe there's some truth to this mid-life crisis thing - and I'm not even speaking about myself, but I don't remember the last time when all my few friends, including a few close acquaintances, were all simultaneously dealing with shitty shit. I mean, don't we usually take turns at this?

Hanging out with a few of them here, all roughly the same age although I was the oldest, I just burst out halfway through the conversation, and couldn't help but laugh at how ridiculous it all was, "Isn't there anyone here that's happy? Come on!"

Everyone was quick to qualify - oh we're not unhappy, things could always be worse, our troubles are nothing compared to blahblahblah. Still, pretty funny anyway.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Some things from before, and one from yesterday.

Hello There


Mom



And yesterday, the rain was madness. A series of events unfolded and I ended up sitting on the back of the bike in this rain, shivering with the cold and wishing very hard for us not to hit any potholes or drains since no one could see the road underneath us. It somewhat refreshed me, but only for a while.

Torrential

Monday, June 02, 2008

Ahem.

Well, evidently did not delete post below although I was sorely tempted to.

Things are starting to sound rather dreary here, and I do apologise - for what, I'm not sure - since it is after all a personal blog and I'm not obliged to censor myself just to appear constantly basked in sunshine. But I'm sorry nonetheless, dreary and emo posts don't go down well with me either, unless written by a close personal friends.

I do apologise to all those who have had the misfortune of crossing my path on the internet in the past few days. That was a helluva lot of craziness going on, wasn't it? I thank you for putting up with it. Before I left, a friend asked if I had experienced a panic attack before. I naively and idiotically said 'yes'. I know now that I was quite mistaken.

Anyway, the point is that I'm fine now, and I thank you for having put up with my nonsense.