Wherein I Find Myself with Difficulties Blogging

Yes, it’s tough to blog when you’re trying to peel the skin off your raw flesh and wincing every few minutes form the pain. But I’d best put down the last few day’s experiences lest I forget.

Right then – I suppose the highlight of my week has been the NUS biathlon. That’s right – I actually completed a biathlon! I am, of course, proud of the achievement, though in reality the thing I did was really only a half-biathlon and I was really slow.

We(Nick and I) went to Sentosa for the thing. I believe I woke up at six to get there early, having planned to meet at seven for some breakfast. I was late, of course, having been plagued by problems such as my goggles breaking and the lack of safety pins in my arsenal of stationery. Luckily Nick had spares of everything, and we met up not too late at the Jarbourfront hawker centre for food. The place was crawling with biathlon people – you could tell them from label sporting equipment barely covering muscular tanned bodies. And the jibes about fainting, heat-stroke, prizes and other biathlon-related stuff. Needless to say, I was rather cowed by the whole testosterone-filled environment, though Nick seemed unfazed. I suppose if you’ve been in one sporting event you’ve been in them all.

The event itself was a nightmare – we queued for around two hours for registration, and waited another two before our turn to run. That’s right – we arrived at around 0845hrs, and only ran about 1255hrs. The result – a sunburn from trying to fit in(ie. being clothed in as little as possible) and stupidity(ie. trying to fit in but not having sunblock). It turned out that somehow our pre-registration was never logged, and our records weren’t found. It was the same for a couple hundred other people, so I was feeling rather misery-loves-company, but there were some pretty pissed-off competitors around.

In case you’ve never been in a biathlon(or similar sporting event) before, let me elaborate a little on the procedures. Competitors are split into waves and flagged off at different timings, so that there is little congestion in the track/swim lanes. And so it was for this one, except that there were over 150 people in my wave(the wave of lost people). I was kicked, flailed, scrathed and crashed-into by a whole lot of people(I lost count when I started drinking sea water). Of course, I gave as good as I got(unintentionally, I assure you) and managed to make good time. Even beat Nick, who’s usually faster than me, as he got lost somewhere in the ocean and bumped more than I did. The run, though, was awful. I’d spent most of my energy swimming and couldn’t go at more than a gentle jogging pace. Nick overtook me. Well – almost everyone in my wave overtook me, even the little girls who didn’t look a day over twelve. I finished one of the last, in front of this girl called Shumei(spelling guessed), whose friends were cheering her on in the most enthusiastic manner. It was so sad when I overtook her, with all her friends screaming “COME ON SHUMEI!!! WHOOO!!!” Yes, it’s sad for me too, but if I don’t take some pleasure home from all this I don’t think I’ll ever want to go back, no?

Then it was a rushed trip back to hall to change and then Talentquest at Jurong Point, where I was supposed to do something for the website for publicity. I was quite lost, really, and sister’s stupid camera ran out of juice after about a hundred clicks, which got me into a frenzy(not to mention that by then I was smarting from the sunburn). I had thought I’d interview some of the contestants at first, but then it made no sense to me because it was only the quarter-finals and most of these guys wouldn’t even be in the final show. I settled eventually for just using some of the snaps and a song list. See what I can do, though in reality I haven’t planned anything yet. Thought I’d finish it on Monday, but…

Monday was spent a with the Computational Science Society with a meeting and then a visit to the Institute of High Performance Computing. It is ironic(yes, this time I’m right!) that the visit is supposed to draw talent to join the organization, but the people who visited lacked either drive or the qualifications. I was of the latter – they only wanted PhDs, and it was painful and insulting at the same time to have to sit in a room and have some HR manager explain to you logically why they do not want plain-old-graduates. I nodded obediently, of course, because I am an obedient person, but it smarted as much as the sunburn.

Yesterday evening I watched Constantine with Gary and Francis. It was… okay, I suppose. Was chastened as to the meaning of the word Irony. I am well-informed now. Argued about randomness. Am also convinced that I should not get a job in the IT line, though it is my second-last fallback(next to teaching). I shall list the fallbacks someday.

And today – well, today was spent playing some silly games and then heading off to Jurong EAst to watch Hotel Rwanda with Ben. At last – someone who actually wanted to watch it with me. It was good, too. I can’t recall why I didn’t press harder for it the last time I went to watch a movie with someone. Ah well. Am relieved that there was no comment on the by-now peeling skin.

And now I’m just tired. And peeling. Will refuse all outdoor activities for a while, meaning the next entry will probably be a philosophical reflection.

It will be! Just you wait and see!

Wherein I Witness Watermelons

So I was blog-surfing again, and I stumbled upon the most evil form of advertising – viral. Viral advertising, for those of you who do not know, are the kinds that you don’t have to promote at fairs or door-to-door, but rather propagates among it’s targetted audience through “contact” among it’s hosts. Meaning it’s usually so strange or fun people will forward it to their friends, and so on, unwittingly being advertised on as they play games or watch lovely animations. The common traits of virals are a strange lack of backlink to the companies that commission them, which makes no marketing sense at first but in reality is quite effective(look at Nike) and the fact that they are usually quite brilliant(it’s an evolutionary requirement – virals that aren’t don’t survive to tell their tale). Examples are the famous(well, if you play Halo) bee-thing, a viral for Halo 2 and the Subservient Chicken.

I rather like virals myself, because they are usually good. And I don’t mind the corporate sponsorship – free Art is usually quite bad, sad to say(Duchamp, anyone?).

Needless to say, the preamble above serves to announce the fact that I found a new viral – the Watermelon Love video. It’s an amazingly rendered/animated video of a chick who gives you… well, I won’t spoil it – look and see.

It’s brill.

Wit (as in the Film – watch it!)

There’s something that’s been bugging me for a really long time. You know when you understand something, but it doesn’t affect you yet? Like when someone tells you that thousands of people are dying of malnutrition in (insert poverty-stricken-country’s name) but you can listen to it rather dispassionately and nod and make pithy comments like “Oh yes, that’s horrible”. But when (insert name of favourite artiste) is insulted then your feathers become ruffled, and emotions overrun, and you’re left spiralling in a pit of vertigo-inducing colours, dizzied by the strength of your feelings, before the words(or fists) come out.

And I was left spinning on my wheels a few weeks ago in a film literature module I was doing for fun. It was a rather boring tutorial, and I think we were discussing something about Eric Khoo’s cinematography or use of colours or something. And the tutor asked the class:

“So why did he do this?”

No reply came.

“Do you think he had a reason for doing this?”

Still no reply.

Frustrated, she ejaculated with emotion, contempt practically oozing from her eyes,

“So you think he was just being… clever?”

And that woke me up right up, shaking my head with fervour. Upon which she turned on me and asked for my opinion, which was and is irrelevant(suffice to say it was bad). What’s important was that I knew(having done my readings) that dear old Eric was not just trying to be clever. And her remark about his wit sent me into analytic shock – at that moment I was suddenly possessed of a terrible fear of my own life and story.

Because you see, I think I’m pretty clever.

In literature, no one famous is really too clever. Cleverness can be gotten away with by artists, but clever writing is far too superficial to be taken very seriously, like being the stereotypical bimbo(fine art is mostly superficial, so can get away with it though). Typically a good piece of writing is about something – at the very least a description – it has got to have a point. Even the most banal of romantic poems are supposed to evoke feelings to despair or tragedy because of lakes or small white fans. “Very clever” is said not usually as praise, but in contempt of some errant author whom we deem to be insulting our intelligence by smoking up our asses using the tricks of the trade. If you possess wit without wisdom then nobody wants to read you.

Is the same true in real life?

Now, I’ve been a really clever person all my life. Everyone says so. I know(and always feel the urge to share) these interesting facts that nobody else(at least, not in my social circles) knows, all from watching too much Discovery Channel and Animal Planet. I even chose Physics as my major of study, so that I could become cleverer. I crack jokes and make fun of people. Somtimes other people laugh too. I’m sarcastic without even meaning to be, sometimes. I can’t help it, I think it’s bloody clever.

Do I have a point? Is that the same question as “Does my life have any meaning?”

They do say “everything happens for a reason”(usually which we can’t see) – a reasoning I debunk to be popular belief embraced by boring people who can’t bear to think of their existence as being paltry. Luckily, if you believe that, though, you can also believe that your lack of wit or substance can be compensated by God’s.

Let’s hope he’s a clever one, then. And that he gives you big points.

What substance is there after you peel away the layers? Can you actually add anything to that depth? Will I end up dying on a hospital bed just wondering how futile it all was? In the end, will I look back and say,

“I was really just trying to be just clever.”

Okay, that’s off my chest now. What was my point? None, really.

Wherein I Celebrate a Not-so-happy Chinese New Year

The festive season has finally passed, with the end of the accursed Chinese New Year. I hate the festival, despite the monetary benefits that come with it and make my friends so happy. The act of receiving money from relatives just feels somewhat demeaning for me, as is the constant questioning of whether I will be married soon. The past years have also seen a new irritance – the mistaking of my younger brother as the older sibling. I don’t blame them, of course, you see. He is taller and better built than me, as well as being a lot more forthcoming and bold in his mannerism. But to have to keep telling people year after year that you’re the older one and having them laugh out loud, as if it were a joke of cosmic proportions, because “Wow! I wouldn’t have been able to tell unless you told me! Wahahahaha!” is tiring. Especially when the mistake is compounded by the statement of me looking really young and the “gosh, you’re really 24 this year? Better find a girlfriend then.” Having to face such stupid relatives every year wears me down. Hell, I visit them only once a year and I can remember their faces well enough to greet them if I see them in public, you’d think they’d be able to recognize my place in my family.

Another bad thing that happens yearly is the Chinese New Year sore throat and flu. You see, my family is plagued with a somewhat less-than-ideal immune system, and every year at this period, when the pineapple tarts and assorted yummy tidbits march out to chinese songs of blessing, at least one of us ends up sick. It was me this year. I now have this horrible sore throat and my tonsils(or some other part of my throat) are heavily inflammed, rendering me unable to swallow anything harder than oatmeal soaked in milk. It’s worse this year than other years, because both my usually voracious siblings are on diets, and the goodies were left to only myself to finish. My parents, entering that time of their life when old age begins to prevent them from enjoying anything too sweet of flavourful, also gave up on the things. And I, foolish glutton that I am, bit off more than I could chew. Or in this case, swallow.

Ah – and the last thing I hate about this festival? The sheer business. When I was younger, my parents would drag me to relatives’ homes all over Singapore. It was tiring, having to go out so many times a week, and to stay at some hideously boring place for hours at a stretch whilst the big people talked their boring talk. I swore then that when I grew up I would go out and do things that were fun – and dump my parents for their rounds. And so I have been doing this year – except that having fun can be just as tiring. Been out and about the last few days with friends(I had no idea I had accumulated so many), which probably hasn’t done any good for my throat, and run me quite ragged.In the end I crawled back home to spend a most relaxing day with my parents, relishing in the quiet serenity of my father’s gentle snores and the ever-present television sounds.

Sadly, danger lies beneath silent lakes. Whilst I lay peacefully on the sofa half-asleep, mother asked me if I would like to meet one of her nice, young colleagues. That woke me up instantly. I turned her down flat, of course(though if any of you would like to get to know a nice, young teacher you’re welcome to her), and beat a hasty retreat back to hall. It turns out that both siblings, besides forgoing food, have also given up on significant others. The lack of her offsprings’ boy/girl-friends has mother worried for grandchildren and channeled them onto her eldest’s failures in the region. Blind dates arranged by mother? I haven’t sunk so low yet. With luck my siblings’ nice new waistlines will attract some soon, pulling me out of the danger zone.

That’s all, I guess. A rather boring little post for a rather boring little holiday.

Wherein I Feel Like a Raskolnikov

It happened at last. After so long and so much thought, that tiny moment of carelessness and I am undone. But now that I have the luxury of retrospection I am not so sure that I was unprepared for it. I had paused in worry about it, at first, before I left the room. I could have done something – but was I perhaps, innards churning in turmoil, seeking some form of release as well? Maybe, maybe. Maybe subconsciously I was sick of it all, the hiding and the lies.

But unlike Raskolnikov I don’t hold that much romance in my heart. What’s done is done, and I can’t undo it. If it turns out for the better then so be it. And if it doesn’t, there’s no point crying over spilt milk.

But I do so hope it turns out good.

What am I blabbering about in this post? Something personal, too personal and which I am not privy to revealing here. My guts don’t extend so far. But suffice to say it was important that I want to remember this day – which explains the post. Perhaps subconsciously, though I want to reveal my secrets, which explains why it’s public.

Ah, blither. Speaing of unspeakable acts, here’s an article by Ward Churchill about the 911 “attack”. Ward writes of the bad Americans having only themselves to blame for the (not) terrorist attack. Personally, I think the allegation that the people who died in the crash were not merely “innocent victims” and had it coming is a little too strong, and definitely isn’t going to sit well with the American public. Granted, the employees in the towers were probably quite highly educated, upper-middle class citizens who could not possibly have been ignorant of the issues outside their own country. And yes, they supported(statistically) a President who sanctioned “deliberate genocide”. So really, they should have expected retaliation. You hit someone, someone’s gonna hit back. Hell, the Americans sure as heck hit back when they were hit.

The allegations serve their purposes, though, in making aforementioned bad Americans sit up and look around them at what they’re doing to the rest of the world. I’m not a Yankee-hater myself – after all I am a culturally-dereft-Americanised-bastard, so it’s difficult for me to accept that what the country whose media I take in so readily can be so bad.

But it’s got me thinking about life, and about the much-vaunted freedom that Americans treasure so much(it’s something of a luxury here in Singapore). You see, back in Philosophy 101 I learnt about the definitions of Freedom, of which there are at least two. There’s positive freedom, in which you have the right to do things, such as the right to education or the right to nutrition. Then there’s negative freedom, which is the more intuitive concept of simply not being restricted in your actions.

The thing is, we usually talk abot negative freedom when we do talk about idealistic freedom, but in practice we usually implement positive freedom. This rather rowdy friend(unnamed, to save embarrassment) I once had was constantly going on and on about how she had the right to do this, and that, and no one should restrict her because she had the right. I broached the topic of her rather narrow view on rights. She had fallen into the rather sad trap of believing that rights were somehow given to her, that there were things she was entitled to. But she never saw that in reality she had given up her negative freedom, the kind that starts you off with nothing, and yet everything.

She failed Philo 101, by the way.

What I’m trying to say here is that too many of us have fallen into this trap of taking our rights for granted. The right to education, the right to employment, the right to marriage – all these are societal concepts and laws set out to protect you. These rights don’t exist naturally, and when they do they exist for a reason. For example, the right to education is not so much about human dignity as it is about improving a country’s economic strength – you don’t really deserve any education.

I hate people who emphasize their rights like God-given sacraments. These people usually never stop to think why it is that they have these rights. And the more rights you have, the less freedom. How so? Because rights are actually limiting factors to negative freedom to protect ourselves against intractions from other people. The more of them you have, the more restrictions you put on yourself too.

I’ll explain next time. Too late now to be thinking about this sort of thing.

Wherein I Live in Luxury

Back from the most expensive room of my night in the Fullerton. Ming treated us Angels(members of my Kolkata trip, Project Angel 5 – I will continue to use this term of endearment throughout this post) to a room at that hotel beside the merlion, the one I always look at from across the road and walk around the lobby in, and as of today finally got a chance to stay at. It turned out something like a chalet trip, except that you don’t usually get marble flooring and a bathtub in a chalet. Faiz’s brother gave us two complimentary rooms – a suite and a double – for free too, which was a very nice gesture, though the reason(according to Faizy, though I hope he was kidding) wasn’t. In any case, thanks to him we all slept in relative comfort, with no more than three people on a bed, most of which looke dlike they could have acoomodated more anyway.

Theme of the party was chinese costumes, and most of the angels came in something suitably chinese. Ed and Iggy really raised the bar with their rented period china costumes. It was a laugh. Faiz did drag, we had a pageant thing, a couples-matching thing and a quiz thing, all of which seemed to please the crowd. Am much relieved, though I am still in a little bit of shock that I actually helped organize something that was genuinely fun. Usually it’s just lukewarm hahas all round.

Or maybe it’s just the crowd.

I am witness again to the power of taking things seriously. The thing is, I am a born cynic(well, maybe bred, but that’s a topic for another day), and I just can’t take anything that seriously. There’s always this black lining to everything I am part of, this neon sign in the background that flashes the message that life is, at it’s root, inconsequential, silly, and transcient. Very buddhist.

Unfortunately, this results in not being able to really enjoy something when I should, such as when I play orientation games or make introductions with strangers who seem the least bit ditzy. And I hate that about myself. And this self-consciousness about my self-consciousness feedbacks, growing on itself until I can no longer take what I’m doing seriously and just mess things up. Or worse – make fun of it myself. Sarcasm is the bastard child of insecurity.

Of course, at the root of it life is inconsequential, silly and transcient and I should be no better and just go with the bloody flow. Thing is, that I was raised with this platonic belief that the good man should try to outgrow this silliness. I have been somewhat shamed out of this opinion of late, of course. And life really is more fun if you just stop thinking of yourself as someone outside of the loop and just jump in to have some fun.

That’s right – I’m gonna use birth control.

Really really tired. I don’t know why – I must have slept like 10 hours on the bed(which was so nice). Or maybe it’s the reason. Will post pictures when I get the chance to.

Wherein I am Swamped with Nothing Much in Particular

I suppose I should update about the last few days of my life. Nothing really significant or life-changing has happened, but not to blog about it feels wrong, all the same.

You see, as we grow older and we gain more experience in this fucked up world of ours, we also become more inundated against the currents in life that try to carry us away into one stream of thought to another. We become more resistant to the changes our environments brings us, in case my last sentence wasn’t clear. And it takes more and more to shake your convictions and beliefs. And you just go “Oh, I’ve done that before, nothing that great about it. But let that continue too long, and you end up old befoer you know it.

So in a bid to keep myself young and springy, I shall try to force some enthusiasm into the past events of my life.

The week has been rather strange – skipping lectures mostly because of the weird movies I watch late into the nights and training with Nick are the strongest impressions I have this week(other than Impressario, of course). I haven’t sweated so much voluntarily since I went into a steam room, and to match up volume for volume I’d have to stay in the steam room a whole day. And yet we are slow. As it is completing the short version of the race, “Bi-Lite”(who comes up with these names?) – 400m swim and 2.5km run takes me about an hour. I have visions of being the slowest competitor that day. Nick doesn’t seem to care. Then again he seldom seems to care about anything, least of all doing well in an event he cares little for. Oh my, a circular definition.

And then there’s the iCare project. Sadly, the video I “produced” was canned due to indecency. Poor Woogle’s(name changed to protect her identity, see previous post) exposed legs were too much for the sensitivities of the staff and in the end we just split the audio for the audience. Sad. Embarrassingly, the in-charge pointed me out to aforementioned audience that I’d done such a wonderful job with the video and as a shining example of volunteerism despite the scant pickings on the screen and speaker. I wanted to melt into my seat and disappear.

Planned the last outing with PA5 with Fai and Ling(names abbreviated, they aren’t really named like Oriental assasins), which is turning out to be a pain. I didn’t know planning a party was so difficult. Usually I’m relegated to the post of standing in a corner making fun of how silly the games are. Turns out that almost all games are silly, much like soccer, and I’ve just been a big ol’ meanie. We also went out to buy crowns and tiaras at the Concourse, where there’s a bunch of shops specialising in selling party goods.

And then today was Impressario, which I went to watch because Nana was performing. She won, which was great, seeing as this is the thing she wanted to do with her life. Many congratualtions, of course. So nice that she’s getting validated for her efforts. Best overall composition plus best lyrics, a double victory for her(she wrote lyrics). Moving on now.

The show turned out to be pretty good, production values were way beyond my expectations of something produced by students for free – I suppose this is the kind of thing you’re proud to tell people you organized in University and will you kindly give me a job please. Was surprised that just about all the NTU students I knew were aware of the event and had actually gone to see previous incarnations, if not this one.

Impressario’s website is awful, though. See it here. Looks like someone’s publicity team was somewhat understaffed(or underskilled).

Been looking around for some cheap trips out of Singapore too. This Singapore-based website offers some nice deals for travel out. Bangkok seems to be an ideal tour, being quite safe and cheap to fly to. Perhaps sometime before I graduate, then. Have realized finances will be tight in the days to come.

So that’s about it for the week, I suppose. There’s other stuff, of course, but those are even less inconsequential than this, and I actually typed about some of it but had to delete it due to severe insecurity about the pathetic state my posts have become. Better things to come – I promise.