Monthly Archives: February 2012

Untitled #1

The foolish man looked up at the evening sky and chanced upon the moon, Jupiter and Venus. Venus would be the first to set, while Jupiter and the moon would stay for an hour or two hence, close to each other – at least from his vantage point.

The fool failed to realise that Jupiter was much further from the moon, and fancied them being together simply because they appeared to be so. Venus looked on silently, somewhat contented. She could well be in the very same phase as the moon, but the fool knew no better. So she bided her time, knowing that she would be always closer to the moon than Jupiter ever would.

The fool thought twice, smiled weakly, and went on with his worldly life.

Three Musketeers Named Frank

So the first one said “I’ll be Frank here”, and the second one said “I can take it”, and the last one said “that’s my line…”

As of now, this is the third time I’m replaying this:

and on that note (no pun) I’ve also got to say that Znaider’s rendition of Brahms’ Violin Concerto was worth the listen. I’ll put the youtube links for that and Albéniz’s Pavana Capricho for four hands at the end of this post.

I’ll be tackling these little brain-attacks in reverse chronological order:

 

How Much One Can Do

Looking at the relatively dark night sky from the corridor got me thinking. In more eloquence than my own,

“It’s been said that astronomy is a humbling, and I might add, a character-building experience.” – Carl Sagan

That being said, how much can we do? And, begging the question, how much are we worth? Five years ago, in roughly the “same” spot, I called a classmate to inquire on said classmate’s wellbeing. That took about 15 minutes. Fifteen years ago, I stood in the “same” spot taking a photograph with my sister, who was in her secondary school uniform. That took probably less than 5.

Think about the last conversation you had – how long did that take? What effect did it have? The last few one-to-one conversations I had, face-to-face or online, each consumed upwards of one to a few hours. There is a limit to the number of people an individual can effectively love, care, and eventually mourn for.

Let’s say a GP does a consultation in say 10 minutes. Working from 8.30am to 5.30pm with an hour’s lunch in between nets the impressive total of 48 patients a day. Or about 270 a week, rounded up. Apart from the fact that most of the healing is done via natural immunity, apart from anti-biotics, -fungals and -virals, that is approximately the size of a year’s worth of the NUS medical cohort. That is certainly noble, but not nearly enough to be ideal.

I just had a discussion over dinner over the stock market, inflation, and environmentalism – how the stock market keeps going up, causing inflation, and how either the goods and services become inflated or the actual amount increases, which debilitates the environment. A single individual shareholder is subject to being buffeted by the waves of stock trading done by funds, companies and governments, just as a single worker is subject to inflation (whether or not he/she dabbles in the stock market) and a single activist is as good as mute.

Someone said that everyone thinks each is the protagonist of their (our?) live – this may be somewhat true for a select few, but a brief look at the night sky would convince anyone sane enough to think otherwise.

 

Author of the Rulebook

If there were to be a question it would we us, humans.

I added a rule to my rulebook tonight – no voluntary viewing of videos/photos of people dying or getting dismembered. This came after my mom told me about a video of a man in Cambodia (?) getting hit by a train. Sometime in the last few weeks, I chanced upon a thread on TeamLiquid regarding a case in US with the police firing ~10 shots into a guy armed and attacking a colleague with a pipe, with attached video. Somewhere along the thread there was another youtube video of a policeman getting shot to death by (no joke) a hunting rifle over a (again, no joke) speeding ticket (the murderer, a veteran, was sentenced to death).

So the culmination of these stomach turning events (and a few others unlisted here) led me to change my personal rulebook.

This brought me back to the past times where I edited my rulebook. Not to kill insects unless they were going to reproduce in my house. Not to eat meat (and then failing). Not to hurt others (humans, and probably failing as well). The author of my rulebook is whimsical to say the least, and to make matters worse I probably know him better than anyone else. How do you criticise someone like that?

Here I would bring up the near-universal example of the Ten Commandments, shameless copypasta-ed here:

THE TEN COMMANDMENTS
JUDAISM* AUGUSTINE ORIGEN
1 I am the Lord thy God. I am the Lord thy God and thou shalt not have strange gods before me. I am the Lord thy God and thou shalt not have other gods before me.
2 Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain. Thou shalt not make for thyself any graven image.
3 Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain. Remember to keep holy the Lord’s Day. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.
4 Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy. Honor thy Father and Mother. Remember the Lord’s Day to keep it holy.
5 Honor thy Father and Mother. Thou shalt not kill. Honor thy Father and Mother.
6 Thou shalt not murder. Thou shalt not commit adultery. Thou shalt not kill.
7 Thou shalt not commit adultery. Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not commit adultery.
8 Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. Thou shalt not steal.
9 Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
10 Thou shalt not covet. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s goods. Thou shalt not covet.

Source: http://biblescripture.net/Commandments.html

Treading over proverbial lava flows, I would agree with 4 through 10 wholeheartedly, while remaining a respectful distance from 1 through 3. On that note, among those that do believe 1 through 3, would there be any of the other commandments you would not agree with? Can the rulebook of our lives be written by anyone other than our self-determinedly, self-important (selves) egos?

On that note, dear readers, when did you last edit your rulebook, and why so?

 

Free Lunches

As of today, I have the proud accomplishment of possessing a few offers of free lunch(es) which are in exchange for simple favours. Oddly enough, or not for those who already have read thus far, this set me thinking.

It was said somewhere that “research” was done where friends asked for favours which were either agreed to or not (no contention here i assume), but when money was involved most friends declined outright. Perhaps this is because friendship and money do not (blend) mix.

Attentive readers may draw the connection between the aforementioned limitation on any individual’s close circle of friends and the fact that time, concern, care and other intangibles with which friendships are forged cannot be substituted with money. Furthermore, introduction of money compromises said stability of friendship.

Surely food has to be bought with using money.

That being said, the world of “free lunches” (and sometimes, free rides, movies, candy, etc.) is not just limited to those between friends. The contribution of sheer time and effort has been made as a favour to communities, from charitable movements to free programmes like Unix and to online forums and articles.

This article would be the epitome, I would daresay, of sheer time, effort, research and talent, rendered at a grand total of $0 to the Starcraft: Brood War community on TeamLiquid (and it’s only part 1). However, the only “free lunch” the author gained was (widespread) recognition, thanks, and a star next to his name that can be seen whenever he replies to any thread.

Sometimes, I would also like to think my blog worthy of holding such an image of altruism, hosting juvenile short stories and poetry for all to view.

Now, we graft, rather awkwardly, the idea of “free lunches” into the world in which money is present. Technically, there is no “free lunch” – any favour done implies the expectation of some money generation or political leverage. Conversely, for every intangible deleterious decision made, there is a real, monetary loss, and possibly a loss or compromise in goods, service, or business.

My friend supplied me with a simple example – a company which was configured to process a type of goods suddenly saw their raw materials dwindle, but still had contracts to fulfil. Annulling said contracts would allow said company to cut its losses – yet this was not done, to save the company’s reputation.

Since this author has a thing for Starcraft, the consequences of match-fixing in professional Brood War has lead to the massive disbanding of teams and shutting down of one of two TV channels featuring Brood War, MBCGame, as well as it’s individual league, MSL. For those who are wondering just how the heck the heck a video game could be so important to anyone, refer to the first and last two links of this paragraph.

The world that does not accept money is a strange one. On one hand, the items that are traded, including time, (emotional and mental) energy, sex (this would have come up sooner or later), could all be equated with money in the world which deals with money i.e. the rest of the world. On the other, the uniqueness of the currency (or currencies) traded allows it to have a very odd and differing impacts when isolated to the no-money world as opposed to the no-money-no-talk world.

After digressing steadily on a tangent, perhaps everyone should take heart and take note, that the existence of “free lunches” is simply the manifestation of the oft-uttered phrase “Don’t take this for granted.”

 


A Bump in the Dark

A couple days ago, I read of this American-Korean guy in Korea who broke up with his girlfriend (of unknown length of time, perhaps a year or two), whose father had just passed (succumbing to cancer). Apparently, she is anemic, but also wanted to travel the world for a year, alone, after the ordeal.

Today, well insulated from the many horrors of nature, modern man (or Man or Mankind) still seeks and finds adversity in life.

Perhaps that is the true meaning of life.

Edit/Update: Actually, I would like to add some context here – about a week ago, having supposed to have gone to bed, I ended up writing in this notebook (actually my classmate’s, which I picked up in secondary school and remember not how I actually procured it). The first two attempts were not completed, so I resorted to attempting to sleep, then my idiot brain reached again for said notebook and the nearest pen my reverse-turned hand could find and wrote a host of blurbs in the dark. Minimal editions were made.

 

Lights Out

I write in the dark knowing no
one
None shall see the light of this until
it is deemed
Complete. My
Psyche is master of its
Composition
Authority is all given
Respectfully might I add
To the lines of dark ink on
Light paper
Which blends – only
Separated in the moonlight
I am tempted to glimpse at my
Script but the temptation,
Fleetingly being, passes

 

Insignificance

Wither a tree
Plow through the grass
Forget the ages come to pass
Burn out the sun
Freeze up the sea
The cosmos cares not what is meant to be

No god would give as much a care
Neither beast nor human knew
Still the winds rushed throught the air
whilst ignorance pushed earth askew

So sleep through your dreams
And waste every hour
Relish each day in your ivory tower
Then utter each silence
And bleach every page
For all the world is but a stage

 

冷性

I’d never guess
That passion spent most
Time as a glacier
Too cold and it froze in its
Tracks – Too warm and it but
Melted – into nothingness

Nay, not nothing, but something
Not quite measureable but
Given time to congeal
To find itself again
Transmuting – or, recrystallising
Love would
Reform instead

 

14th February

I wrote you this letter
Hoping you would like it
Knowing that any attempt would be
Far superior to what I can say
For in writing will I not
Blush or stutter when I
Say that I want to be
More than friends, and
In so doing
So would I
Get to the point without mincing
Words

I hope you like it.

 

4am, @ New Midnight

Lucidity arrives at the doorstep
When no one is available to
Answer – but now I feel that
I must take the leap of faith
In the moment when lucidity
Hails me in the middle of
Nothingness. I must
Greet it
Invite this bosom friend,
Long lost, of
Clarity
In
And speak at great length
With lucidity
and Laugh and Cry and perhaps
Spend a moment of
Silence with it

 

P.S. Work on the unfinished ones in progress

Scrawls, and A Little Less about me

Before I go on further about myself, here is a much more pressing issue which needs to be addressed:

Budianda Tioanda, a Piano Major at Yong Siew Toh Conservatory, has sent out an appeal for a liver donor for his mother (blood group O+) for a transplant. His facebook appeal is quoted below (with his drawing).

“Dear Friends, my name is Budi. My 57-years-old mother is currently suffering from liver cirrhosis from chronic hepatitis B, and she is currently in end-stage liver failure. She is currently in coma state, and at this moment, we need to do a liver transplant as soon as possible. We are now searching for a donor for my mother. My mother’s blood group is O, and therefore the donor must be of blood group O. Please pass this message to your friends in hope of finding a kind and suitable donor for my mother. ”

” Please help. Looking for a kind donor who is willing to part with 66% of his liver. (Blood group O+)
Budianda Tioanda (+6583617203) ”

 

 

My original title for this post was “Scars” but given the fact that I’ve lived though nothing significantly painful nor debilitating – “Scrawls” made the cut (no pun inteded).

As I write this, I’m playing the hugely long DVD of SNYO’s trip to Vienna in 2005. 7 years, not too long, not too short, have passed since then. The familiar strains of Dichter und Bauer (Poet and Peasant) are replayed in front of my eyes and, despite the sometimes tiresome viola part, I am reminded of a time less complicated.

You see, dear readers, I would go out on a limb to say that the mid-life crisis is not limited to those in mid-life. When one looks backwards at a landscape one overviews with nostalgia and forward with trepidation mixed with a tinge of jaded clairvoyance, the loneliness of one’s position is brought into sharp focus – all in a sudden moment, no less.

Digging through my mass of (literally) memorabilia dating approximately back to my secondary school days (the earlier ones are hidden in another drawer and largely un-digitised) I find that adolescence was hardly difficult, (pardon the expression). I received customised songtracks on CDs (the modern equivalent of a self-mixed tape) from both a French teacher (who was on exchange) and a friend. I performed everywhere. The open atrium, hall, and dining hall in Secondary School. VCH’s opera pit during Secondary School. A town hall, school, and concert hall in Vienna. The parade (assembly) square, Lecture Theatre 2, and even the library in JC. Despite not being the most hardworking nor best sounding musician by far in a radius of several miles, the raw opportunity and experience possessed by such a string of fortunate events has left, in the calligraphy of time past, indelible scrawls on the mural of my life.

Having awkwardly incorporated the title into the previous paragraph, I’m now free to embark on the rest of my little delve into the past. Apart from the anecdote that I’ve been told before that I did not look like a musician (and that many assumed me to be hardworking), I still had little things to offer. My MTG (Magic: The Gathering) collection was called upon a few weeks ago, and handily extracted from between the stack of programme notes and collection of postcards (“ZOMG” Zocards).

This exhibit brings me back into my primary school days, not by material but by context. It is the second collection that I possessed – the first was confiscated in primary school. At that time, I am fairly but not completely certain that it was against the school rules to play trading card games at the void deck just outside the school gate. Nevertheless, we would bring our decks of cards, which were painstakingly built from months’ worth of pocket money and scouring strategy magazines and gaming shops for wise souls who were younger then than I am now. Then we would challenge each other, usually next to the mama-shop (another artifact lost in the development of our prosperous nation) across the road, which we thought of as a haven from the (sometimes) prowling teachers.

All trading card game players from that era of Magic, Pokemon, WWF and later Yu-Gi-Oh, LOTR and the likes will understand the arduous collection, refining, and gaming process. Many also learnt how brutal society can be, indirectly, from a game.

You see, firstly, the game was expensive. A booster pack of 15 cards was worth over 2 lunches, and a starter of 60 worth more than a week’s. Although I did not know the word “corporate” or “commercial” to any meaningful extent then, I did know that selling mass-produced art on cardboard for a massive profit was both brilliant and cunning.

Secondly, nerds. Society. Society and nerds did not mix well. Gamers, especially in a society like Singapore, are outliers (but so are musicians). “You play what???” was a common refrain. Cool kids played sports, were rich, and lived in big houses and moved in fine cars. As stereotypical as this might sound, they also went straight for the jugular of the Singaporean system – grades. With an impressive record in both academics and non-academics (sports, and/or Maths olympiads), continued success was guaranteed in long lines of high socioeconomic status. On that note, our gamer clique in primary school was about 5-6 strong, with about double that total when including those who (eventually) gamed rather seriously (Starcraft qualifiers, Magic Prereleases).

It is with some hope that with the growing power (and regulation) of the internet together with commentaries such as Sean Plott’s Day9 Daily the stigma will one day be smoothened out and society will treat outliers (which includes the “disabled”, “special needs”, “elites”, “marginalised/minorities”) appropriately.

Lastly, the loss of the entire collection also signalled the end of primary school, but perhaps not naivete – not entirely at least. The first portion was lost when I hastily asked a (trusted) senior to keep my cards when my parents turned up in the middle of a game (I had to hide this from my parents as well). It came back abridged.

The final proverial nail was driven in when my form teacher confiscated the rest of them, about a year hence. Little was I to know that that I was in for a greater shock. The event was brought up in class, with no names (mine) named. There was the deliberation over flouting of school rules. What struck me also was the mention that the game was “satanic”.

Now, playing games in school uniform (this was before cybercafes/LAN shops were common) was an understandable concern, despite the fact that the impact of children playing games in public on the reputation of their school is largely independent of the game, unless said game involves criminal or malicious intent. The “satanism” argument brought a whole new weapon to the table, on which “discipline” (some might say “policing”) was already drawn and displayed. Never mind the fact that Singapore is officially secular, nor how stupid claims will always exist regarding “satanic” items – cue the Teletubbies, Spongebob etc.

The ironic twist was reading Friedrich by Hans Peter Richter the very preceding year.

Perhaps that little nerd obssession taught me more about the world in my losing of it. Human greed, prejudice, dogma, commercialism, evangelism – all these served as poignant reminders to this day.

Seen on NUS Tables

Warning: Contents might induce choking and a nagging suspicion that the author is actually a stalker.

So on Friday I was giddy with the prospect of the upcoming recess week and decided to prowl the Med Fac tables for graffiti and juvenilia/emo poetry. After harvesting, squinting, a table’s worth, I realised (too late) the underwhelming originality of scrawls – most pieces were (parts of) song lyrics including:

Sympathy – by Goo Goo Dolls
Two days in February – by Goo Goo Dolls
Fallen – by Sarah Maclachlan
A Little Past Little Rock – Lee Ann Womack
Vampire – by Antsy Pantsy (I KID YOU NOT)
So Nice So Smart – by Kimya Dawson  (the last 3 lines, immediately after the above song’s lyrics)
Because You Loved Me – Celine Dion
At The Beginning – Richard Mark
You Give Love A Bad Name – by Bon Jovi
I Could Not Ask For More – by Edwin McCain

Of the original ones the notes are follows:

Specimen#13

I’m so happy now i think
I might spontaneously combust into
a hundred little fluffy balls of happiness.

(a line’s space but in different handwriting)

But I’m gonna miss this when you’re gone
But thank you for the memories
And everything else.
Every little thing that I never gotta say thanks for.

Specimen #8

2009. The year of breaking boundaries
dreaming dreams (then illegible for 3 lines)
The year of taking(?) the change and
wishing that I could fly.
The year in which the rest of my life begins.
So here’s to 2009.

Specimen#7

You said your lies were white and I… I, too stained(?) for them

Specimen#7a

(Author’s note:  this one is actually part of a poem by Jewel Kilcher

Lost is a puzzle of stars that breathes like water and chews like stone.
Fear is a bird that believes itself into extinction.

Original Poem:
Lost
Lost is a puzzle of stars
that breathes like water
and chews like stone.
Alone is a reminder
of how far your acceptance is
from your understanding.
Fear is a bird that believes itself
into extinction.
Desperation: the honest recognition
of a false truth.
Hope: seeing who you really are
at your highest
is who you will become.
Grace: the refinement of a soul through time.
Taken from here

Specimen #4

the city crawls, the rivers flow, where you are I’d never know but I’m still here
You always said I’d be the one to run away but I’m still here
if you were right & I was wrong why are you the one who’s gone but I’m still here?

Specimen #2

Why are we here?

It b a question that has been asked
a thousand times and yet the the answers
change from year to year, day to day
hour to hour , minute to minute, and
second to second. The answer
might never be right. The answer
might never be known. But nevertheless
it is one question that we have to answer.
Our very existence depends on
that holy grail. So my friend I ask of
you

Why are we here?

Appendix:

Ode to a Moonlit Night

Life was simpler then
You called it childhood
I called it immaturity
The moon nodded in silver silence –
We were her children then
Who now craved the light of day, of
Innocence lost, and longed for
Our coming of
Age, and the passing
Of song.