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.


About jfkwt

A little person on a little island in a little planet

Posted on February 20, 2012, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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