Youngest kid of six with an inferiority and black sheep complex, but determined that God saves not just his soul to heaven but the remainder of his manic-depressive life, so others won't say he became a Christian and remained a jerk.
i won't be transparent before i'm opaque. and you'll get to know me starting from the small things: who my favourite bands are. what kind of movies i like. who are my heroes.
I’m convinced that when confronted with sincere, real love, the Jesus factor will become obvious. But let’s not plant the cross before we carry it. I’m not trying to con you.
Some dreams are meant to be achieved. I know that. But maybe other dreams are meant to drive us, privately. Never known to anyone but ourselves.
It is a sadness that, when choosing between crying and sighing, will choose sighing. I'd almost say that melancholy is being sad about sadness itself.
On memory and nostalgia
It saddens me when life moves forward and people decide that certain things are worth forgetting.
I've learnt that the word irregardless is filed as a non-standard word in the English language. That's a lexicographer's way of saying it's not a real word.
Crowds are fickle things. So when we stand in the thousands and cry against the present government, do we know who we're actually crying for?
People always want the best for themselves. But I want to sometimes take second or third or fourth best, just so that the loser down the road doesn't always have to come in last. It must feel like shit to always come in last.
On growing old
Leasehold property make me feel sad. It doesn't matter how old the family photos are that you put on your wall. It's your family but it's not really your wall.
I ask you, if God loves everyone, and if God is also incapable of loving evil, how can there be such a thing as an evil man?
On a daily basis
One line quips, like this.
Friday, February 29, 2008
ON CHINESE FAITH AND THE ELECTION
There's a blogger called "The Malaysian" who recently said this regarding malaysian chinese voters:
"The older among the Chinese electorate may not wish to rock the boat and may be willing to accept ruling party assurances that things will be better next time around. Feeling resentment, anger, disappointment and bitterness is not enough. Translating those emotions into a 'loyalty shift' is the tricky part. And are the Chinese really up to it? Or will they as usual chicken out at the last minute, preferring to keep what little they have rather than 'gamble' on the future?"
when athalia sent me that, i told her it's because of the religion.
chinese traditions and folk religions foster a very one-sided hierarchical relationship between man and deity. the chinese psyche is governed largely by compliance and fear. don't believe me, look at the number of superstitions surrounding events like weddings or chinese new year. you have to do a, b and c, or else, x, y and z.
the end result is an entire community that seems to me to be perpetually paralysed towards change. maybe they afraid of the quasi-spiritual, quasi-confucian authority, and the retribution that either it, or natural order, brings, especially if the change that is called for necessitates that spiritual or confucian authority's demise.
people say that when you talk about preaching the gospel to the chinese, there is a lot of unshackling to do. maybe it's because preaching jesus is preaching a revolution of change. likewise, galvanising chinese towards political reform suffers from the same difficulty - choose the untested opposition and x, y, z. while this in no way links the present opposition to any kind of christianity, it nevertheless highlights the chinese psyche's resistance towards rocking any of its worldview boats.
i think that as long as nobody is patient with this unshackling process, the end result will always be that the chinese mind crawls back into familiar ground and reject change. ironic then, that it is the buddha to whom it is often attributed the saying "everything changes, nothing remains without change".
and so i wonder. what's the point of the chinese living in a democracy if they are fundamentally so afraid of a change in government?
Labels: politics, society
6:13 pm ]
Thursday, February 28, 2008
ON TARRING ROADS AND THE ELECTION
I was in subang this morning and got stuck in a 20-minute jam. it was around 8 o'clock. now, there are two kinds of jams: jams with reason and jams with no reason. jams with reason are somewhat acceptable - a stalled car, a fallen tree, an accident, a broken traffic light. jams without reason are just mysterious and annoying. but jams with reason, as i discovered this morning, are not always reasonable jams. cos when i finally got to the choke point of the jam, guess what was causing the massive slowdown?
they were tarring the road.
at 8am on a working day, they were tarring the road. aha. elections! right? right.
so i got especially angry, because if you drive anywhere near subang, the roundabout at metropolitan college and the roads around section 12, you know that the roads there are full of massive holes, lumpy patch jobs and rubble on either side. and so, with ten days before national elections, somebody upstairs in the subang municipal council decides that tuesday morning 8am is section 12's slot to court votes.
of course, the first thing i do when i arrive at the office is to find out who the sonofagun incumbent state seat person is at subang. i google up a few websites, check out the electoral roll and home in on the subang jaya echo.
his name is lee hwa beng. that's right. this man in the picture.
don't forget his name - lee hwa beng. he's not standing in subang jaya anymore, he's moving on to kelana jaya after march 8. but i've still got a few choice words for this local representative.
lee hwa beng. your roads shame you. your disastrous flyover shames you. if you think you can buy subang jaya voters with dust, soot and a traffic jam ten days before your day is numbered, then you cheapen the people of subang jaya, and that also shames you. i'm embarrased for you that you have to tar roads now. i drive on your roads almost every day, so i am here to associate your name - lee hwa beng - with bad roads.
may that association last for the next five years. may every mention of lee hwa beng remind people of bad roads.
lee hwa beng = bad roads
lee hwa beng = tar road last minute
lee hwa beng = bad roads
there. that's my community service reminder. like i've always said - i'm not being partisan here. i'm not even telling you what party he represents. because when what a politician really represents is bad roads, he really doesn't need any other banner.
Labels: politics, society
9:46 am ]
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
ON ROMANCE AND THE ELECTIONDisclaimer: No, despite its title, this post does not contain election/erection jokes.
Quite a long time back, i fancied a girl. and what i did when i fancied her was, i let her know it. quite unequivocally and without much indication of my own terms either. she knew that i liked her. now it was up to her to like or not like me.
can follow right?
one of my friends scolded me. he told me i couldn't court a girl like that. he said, "now she holds all the cards. what do you hold? nothing". and i thought, ya he's right. the ball is entirely in her court. she can do to me as she please. she can try other guys and if they don't fit, she can come back and say ok, i kinda like you. if they fit, she may not even come back. that's bad courtship strategy.
same thing with elections.
if you vote like your vote doesn't need to be courted, the party you vote for will never have to woo you properly. you will never receive flowers on your birthday, a juicy telephonic kiss at night and surprise delivery of breakfast in bed. if chinese people vote for mca as if it was a default setting, the BN coalition would never have to court chinese votes. you always tell your friends this girl or that guy is taking you for granted. and you say "dump them liao!". well, why are you still fetching mca to the mall and waiting in the car for her to buy shoes and handbags? i'm not being partisan here. i'd say the same thing if the roles were reversed.
make the party court you. your vote, like your dignity in romance, can never be put on a standing order.
9:45 am ]
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
ON REVERSALS AND THE ELECTION
I was thinking this morning while driving, would BN make a good opposition? in the unlikeliest of unlikely near-impossibilities, should BN lose the elections, what kind of opposition would they be? wait. let me put on my 3d glasses first.
their newspapers might not get renewed. maybe in a year's time, we'll all be reading malaysiakini or harakah. but i digress. what would it be like then, for people like najib and ka ting and hishamuddin to be the underdogs with no media coverage, no say in parliament and have lowly dap people condescend on them in the press?
no, i'm serious. i really think that one of the markers of a solid political party is when they can be a good opposition party. a good opposition party requires an entirely different set of attributes: creativity, innovation, resourcefulness, grit and good lawyers. and it's a lot harder too to be a good opposition party. with all the constraints on them in malaysia, you have to be twice as good to get the same number of seats.
so today, i'm thinking, if i asked you if our current opposition was twice as good as the ruling coalition, maybe you wouldn't say yes. but if i asked you if the ruling coalition was twice as bad, you might say yes.
funny. i know. and it's not even politics yet. just language.
Labels: language, politics
4:30 pm ]
Thursday, February 21, 2008
ON OLD FRIENDS: SAY NO TO BIG GROUPS
I told boon ping this chinese new year that i wasn't interested in seeing any old friends if they were gonna meet in big groups.
that's true. all my old high school friends meet every chinese new year at a particular house. it's an open house concept, and all the old boys are pretty much welcome. but i've been to a couple of them and i really don't like it at all. to begin with, everyone's really more interested in gambling and drinking than in catching up. but i've observed something else about old friends.
when they have the security of a big group, they're quite willing to remain cliches. they drink, talk loudly, smoke, gamble, and make very superficial conversation. but if you can isolate them - get them out in small groups of twos or threes, a different side of them crawls out. the side that knew you shows up - the side you knew. and all the pretenses fall away surprisingly quick.
this chinese new year, i met up with boon ping, then again with him plus glendon and bernard. in the isolation of a small group, it felt every bit like a reunion seven, eight, nine years ago. you don't really feel that it's been ten years since we left school. a bit like going into the same car after a week of not driving, starting it up and the same song continues playing on the cd player at the exact spot where you last ground to a halt.
right now, i'm thinking, maybe you can only get to that stage if you've spent something like five to ten years together. maybe that kind of quick restart needs a lengthy foundation period. i can't seem to recreate that with more recent friends. either that or maybe it boils down again to what i set out to say - people just need to be isolated before their true selves emerge.
Labels: friendship, memory and nostalgia
1:33 pm ]
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
ON PEGGED CURRENCY
I remember when the ringgit was pegged to the US dollar. a lot of people were talking about it and some people thought it was smart, the only way for our economy to improve. others - as others always do - thought otherwise. now i don't know much about currency pegging. so i wiki-ed it and found this quote by a former president of the new york federal reserve bank, who said,
"A country that fixes its exchange rate surrenders control of its domestic monetary policy."
anyone who knows me will probably know that interpersonal relationship is probably the pound sterling of currencies to me. i can't function if someone's upset with me. i can't think straight when there are fights. and i can't sleep if i'm disturbed about a relationship. and so it's occurred to me - i am not an autonomous person. i am far from independent and i am hardly sovereign. the currency of my well-being - so to speak - is pegged firmly to the status of my relationships. when the interpersonal plane starts nosediving, everything nosedives along with it. productivity. concentration. worldview. like right now. the world is a very dark place right now.
and so i'm experiencing what that new york federal reserve bank former president guy calls a surrender of control of my domestic policy. i've pegged my emotional quotient to that of others and i've essentially ceded it over. it feels terrible. i know it's good to hurt when others hurt, but this is the biggest piece of dogshit feeling in my world right now and i wish so hard that i were more autonomous. but i don't know how. i've never been autonomous. i've only ever know this - adjusting my mood to the environment and not knowing how to get out.
i know at some point, the ringgit unpegged itself from the dollar. hooray. merdeka. if the folks in the finance ministry tell you it wasn't easy unpegging, ask them to talk to me.
2:06 pm ]
Monday, February 18, 2008
ON OLD FRIENDS: THE YOUNG AND DYING
Today, i'm overwhelmed by an incredible feeling of sadness.
i went back to muar for a wedding dinner this weekend. by and large, i had fun meeting old classmates, exchanging stories and seeing one of my closest friends from school get married. but somewhere between joyous exclamations and saving numbers i may never use, something a lot more insiduous was going on.
i heard about a primary school friend who became a bit of a local singing sensation. apparently, growing up was good for him and he turned out good looking. so he also had a modelling career going for him. some years ago, he crashed his car somewhere outside town and died.
this reminded us of another primary school friend who died in our teens. that night, i found out that he overdosed. my friends said he'd been on drugs since standard six.
there was another guy who got into tons of debt, and loansharks, among others, wanted him dead. his girlfriend left him and his family kicked him out. he told a friend that he wanted to kill himself. the next worse fate eventually befell him and he went mad. they say he started talking to walls. he got committed to an asylum of sorts for a year, and supposedly came out improved. but as soon as he gets better, everybody wants him dead again.
this guy - his grandma used to bring him lunch every day to school. she really doted on him there. i even remember a teacher teasing him for it. this same teacher is now overweight, retired and doing odd jobs to pass the time.
not every story is tragic - some are almost parodic. one friend, best known in our days as a real jerk, ended up with two wives. they all live together and somehow have to get along. apparently, there was a double childbirth thing going on. the first wife bore a daughter, the second bore a son. i don't know whether to laugh or cry.
one of our close high school friends appears to have the success story of the night. he's now in singapore, making a five digit salary. well done, i guess. except that he works for a whiskey company, and that comes on the back of successive employs by tobacco and alcohol giants. today, the success story of my school is a very wealthy chain smoker and almost-certain heavy drinker. so i ask you - what is your marker when you measure something like success?
it turns out, i'd be sad not just for all these folks who weren't there, but also for one right by me. a very old, very dear friend, for lack of a better word, looks every bit like an alcoholic. i think he's always felt like he needed to prove himself, and i think to him, being accepted by a group means a lot. i've always sensed that about him.
cut to ten years later - the boy becomes a man and he discovers that he has an enormous threshold for holding liquor. so i guess it shouldn't have surprised me that he spent large portions of the night taking on drinking challenges, impressing tons of guys and being carted along for the toasts. he finds his acceptence. and i guess he gets their respect. but for what? so he can die young?
we were all held together at some point in school. and that same institution, which is supposed to shape us all commonly, eventually spits us all out into lives that couldn't be more different. some of us are dead. some are mental. others are roaring down the highway to untimely deaths. some of these people hold big jobs. but really, what's it all for?
are you fast tracking your life so that people can say you're a success? they don't take scores at thirty. they only start counting the day you die.
Labels: death, friendship, survival
10:53 am ]
Sunday, February 10, 2008
ON WHAT YOU DO: JOB DESCRIPTION
For someone who enjoys talking as much as I do, I really don't like to give people too much details about what I do. I don't think they're interested enough. Take for example one of Chinese new year's top questions: what do you do?
I could go on about how I work in a production center for a global publisher of legal, tax and employment text. I tell them that we have our regional head office in Sydney and that I serve the Australian market, and that we are a huge production center, boasting more than 150 headcount. Jargon jargon jargon. I don't like to tell people all this. I much prefer to translate all of that into something that my listener will understand. I give them the simplest possible answer because I really don't think they care so much.
So this past few days, I've been pulling out my usual job description, which goes something like this: I'm a subeditor. You know when a lawyer refers to all these books and journals to do research? I'm the guy who makes sure the English there is alright.
Not entirely accurate, seeing as (1) we don't just serve lawyers, (2) we don't really do journals, and (3) we don't just clean up the English. But really, do they look like they care? Usually no. which leaves me happy enough to cap the dialogue on jobs right there and then, so the both of us can move away from the small talk and sink our teeth into the next bit of brainless exchange.
Oh, and yes. if you never knew what I do for a living, yeah. I do that.
Labels: language, society
7:32 pm ]
ON WHAT YOU DO: JOB TITLE
People really don’t know how to say what they work as. They always give me some big corporate-sounding job title that’s usually defined so broadly, nobody really knows what role they play in society. What’s worse, they say it and then expect you to know what it means, when really it means nothing.
I mean, gone are the days when you asked someone what they did and they said “I’m a locksmith”. And you just knew you didn’t have to ask them how they fit into your world. it’s annoying, but with the increased complexity of our jobs, nobody’s making it any simpler to describe what they work as.
I’ll give you an example.
Fergus: Hey, so what do you do now ah?
Person: I’m in consultancy.
Fergus: Oh. Okay.
(Weird silence, accompanied by thoughts such as “consult what?”)
Fergus: What company do you work for?
Person: A consultancy firm in (insert location) called (insert name).
(Incidentally, I’m totally not interested in the fact that their firm is located in Damansara Blablabla or if their company is called Blablabla Sdn Bhd. I’m only asking them what company they work for because I need more clues on what this guy consults [and most of the time, this fails, because most companies have very vague names as well, such as Promax Resources (I made that up) or something like that].)
I mean, am I any closer to finding out what this idiot does? No. the answer is a big fat no. I’ve met tons of people like this. They’re very, very good at giving you their job titles. I’m a senior account manager. What the hell does that mean? I’m a junior executive. Of what? Of whom? For whom? Please, people, all you people with jargonny job titles, please make your job real for me when you tell me what you do.
My company makes software for blablabla. I’m the guy who makes sure this gets from A to B.
We provide services for people who want to do blablabla but cannot because they don’t have blablabla. I’m the guy who does XYZ.
It’s really so easy.
So please, I beg you – if you have a vague job title, something that isn’t self-explanatory like ‘doctor’ or ‘lion tamer’, please do the rest of the world a favour and just give them a brief description of what you really do.
Cos let’s be real. nobody needs you to show off a snazzy job title. The whole world knows job titles are embellished to make young adults sound like they’re more important than they really are.
3:33 am ]
Friday, February 08, 2008
ON PHOTOGRAPHS AND MEMORY: MEDIATION
Many guys i know experience important events in life through a camera lens. at some point in my life, i decided that i wouldn't do that.
i like photographs as much as the next guy. i like them for the documentation they do and i like them even more for the aesthetic good they bring. above all, i like how photos remind you of good days, ordinary days, an hour, a feeling, a person. but as much as i appreciate these things, i won't trade that for the real thing.
whether it's someone blowing the candles off a cake, or a singer taking to the mic on stage, or a couple wearing rings at the altar, i think i've reached a stage in my life where i'd much rather have my real eyes on the event. i'd take that over having a beautiful photograph to help me remember something that i had a compromised real experience of.
to me, it misses the point. i'm there. if i'm right there when it's happening, i'd much rather have a real and really good experience of the thing, live - not mediated. eyes opened. ears trained. taking it in. maybe we live in an age that is somewhat insecure. we feel like we have to preserve all our memories. that if we don't do that, that maybe we'll forget that anything ever happened. maybe we're so afraid of this that even before we experience something, we hijack it by putting a camera in front of our eyes. we never experience anything first hand anymore. we have no memories of a live experience. but we have photographs to help us build these memories.
i was looking through my melbourne photos and many of them were taken hastily. some of them are composed dodgily. others are a bit off-focused. but i'm happy with them. i really am. i'm happy because i didn't go to melbourne to take photos. i went to melbourne to see melbourne. and saw it i did. i can't show people what i saw. i can show them my photos, but those photos were never really going to replicate the experience anyway. so my photos, warts and all, do enough to remind me of the real experiences that i had. nothing more. put differently, i don't need perfect photos of my holiday. i just need thumbnails, so to speak, that remind me of the real moments. the rest, i have real memories for.
do i sound like an experiential fascist?
experiential fascist. yeah, maybe that's me.
Labels: memory and nostalgia, philosophy
11:43 pm ]
Thursday, February 07, 2008
HAPPY UNCHINESE NEW YEAR
Chinese new years don't mean anything to me anymore.
it used to mean a lot. but not any more. at least, not from the perspective of how it ought to.
don't get me wrong. i'm having a really good time being home with my family. i'm enjoying muar as much as i always do and being around my parents and siblings is so much fun this year, it's definitely already better than last year.
so i guess what i find meaningless about chinese new year is really the fact that it's a chinese thing. in the last five years, i've been gradually defining myself less and less as a chinese and i think i've passed a certain threshold. i've passed the threshold beyond which i find it hard to excite myself over anything that makes me special because of my racial heritage.
a few weeks back, i stumbled on an american website, and these women were bitching about oprah backing barrack obama for the democratic primaries. these women's anger was directed at oprah choosing to back the black candidate - and thereby playing her race card - rather than the woman candidate. of course, these women fail to realise that backing someone on account of their gender is really no more intelligent than backing someone because of their race. and in their anger, i guess they exposed their own shortcomings - that fundamentally, what they're really interested to back is just some superficial sense of familiarity. she's a girl. he's black. i'm chinese.
but my chineseness says very little about who i am now. i'm miles away from the guy who's miles away from being - if there's such a thing - a typical chinese person, bearing all the stereotypical chinese attributes. most of us think it's wrong to be racist but it's okay to be racial. today, i'm not so sure if i'm interested anymore to be a racial person. i'm not so sure anymore if it's okay to find racial discrimination repugnant but still find racial identification perfectly innocuous.
family? food? long nights talking? six days in the house i grew up in? all these i love. as for chinese new year itself? i guess i'm losing belief in it.
12:40 am ]
Wednesday, February 06, 2008
Came back from Melbourne.
Came back to work.
Came back to Muar.
More posts will follow. Thanks for logging on.
3:40 pm ]