Wherein I am exotic and menial

The Design Observer has an article about being designers and their role as “Exotic Menials”. Laughed out loud when I followed a link to this. Not that it’s particularly funny in any way, but it hits a little too close to home at the moment.

In my employment as a freelance designer I haven’t had much experience. A couple of jobs for tiny companies, most of which I doubt are still around today. And yet for some strange reason even the tiniest of these seemed fascinated with the idea of Branding. Whenever the CEO of Small Generic Company Very Pte Ltd whispered to me in hushed tones about how branding would bring him business beyond his wildest dreams I had to resist the urge to roll my eyes and risk losing a job. The word still makes me vaguely quesy these days, although my days as a freelancer are over. Perhaps because I was never a design student I never developed the conceit that branding was controllable, at least through design means.

Consistent design does not constitute branding.

Good design does not constitute branding.

A logo does not constitute branding.

Which is not to say these things are not part of the whole package, but they’re just the surface of things. Designers who claim they’ll help you brand your company are just saying they’ll help you come up with consistent designs, which is like having the painters come over. A dilapidated house will still look ugly no matter how nice the paint-job is.

Of course, the poo-poo-ers are bound to shake their heads and accuse me of being a dinosaur still living in a world of production values, but I still say the best way to brand is to have good service and better products. Whilst the measure of a designer should be the ability to make sucky products look good, I’d like to see the successful designer who can take up campaigns like the Americans Against Islam Society and still come up smelling good.

My point is that the primary point of design should be to add value, not to create it (unless you’re trying to sell design).

Guess I’m no exotic. But for a menial I still possess some display value.

Today, as I was tracing a logo to touch it up, the entire office gathered behind me to look (having the cubicle beside the pantry makes for high-volume site traffic). They made guesses as to what I was doing, politely not rousing me from my state of intense concentration with their questions and making token comments like “What the hell, sia…” and “Wah, what is that huh…” whilst I added vector points using Photoshop’s pen tool (intensely concentration required not to roll eyes). I explained to them that I was tracing a logo in vector form as the original was too low in resolution, and people nodded in agreement, muttering generic technical terms that I think were directed at me for some kind of approval.

They dispersed when, after a couple of clicks, no exciting bright lights flashed on the screen announcing a message in bright red Courier font saying GRAPHIC COMPLETED, COMPUTER SUCCESSFULLY HACKED or YOU NOW HAVE COMPLETE ACCESS TO THE SYSTEM.

More movie magic

In the last couple of weeks, I got all hyped up about the batch of good movies out on screen, and told myself that I gotta catch’em all! (pokemon joke, haha) Unfortunately, my weekdays are consumed with work and my weekends tend towards the lazy side with me on the bed most of the time.

I Not Stupid Too was not on my list of must-watch movies.

So naturally that was the movie we had to watch on Sunday, when I dragged my sorry carcass off the bed to meet up with friends. I’m not exactly sure why I agreed – perhaps it was the alarming fact that I had started to talk to myself due to lack of companionship, or that the food I usually store under my bed (so I don’t have to walk to the kitchen) had run out, forcing me to get up anyway.

It pains me to say this, but Jack Neo is the Singaporean director. Forget the other arty-farty-politicommentary directors – no one in a Singaporean frame of mind cares about them. We’re Singaporeans! We’re politically-apathetic, culturally bankrupt and so shallow all the kelongs dried up. Our artists mass-migrate to other countries and people don’t understand the concept of “freedom of expression”. It’s a wonder Eric Khoo got any kind of sponsorship at all.

Gripes aside, I Not Stupid Too is a standard Jack Neo film, although it must be agreed even among his detractors that he has improved tremendously. Directing and editting is good, and humour is a lot les heavy-handed compared to his earlier attempts. Unfortunately, the story drags on and on, and the cliches could sink a ship. I got the feeling as I watched the movie that Mr Neo had started out with the express intention of making people cry and that he was going to start those taps if it was the last thing he did! It worked somewhat, I guess – people were sniffing and bringing out the tissues as yet another cliched tragedy marched out to clout the audience with its moral-laden mallet.

Perhaps I’d have been a bit more moved if I hadn’t been somewhat disgusted with Mr Neo’s paedophilic offerings of his young stars. The boys have Teen Idol Plans pasted over their foreheads like gigantic neon signs.

In some ways, the movie was deep and self-examining. For example, despite a large par tof the show being about the intrusion of the mobile phone into our usual modes of communication, audience members’ handphone ringtones went off periodically throughout the movie. And you have to take your hat off to the mother who can shout at her child to sit still, stop making so much noise and then slap his wrists a little whilst watching a movie where the lead characters are just short of plotting to kill their parents for being so mean to them.

Final review? Go watch it if you’ve ever felt like your parents didn’t do a very good job. If you’re a cynic, bring a vomit bag. A big one, because there’s one touching scene every five minutes.

But do watch it, if only so you can see what being Singaporean is about.

Short – The Letter

Reading Nick’s blog:

Pulled this off someone’s blog that Alex linked to. Turns out she’s in gender as well.

An ambiguous statement if ever there was one, so I had to check it out. Turns out the “she” referred to in this case was Ling, who is in the same gender studies class as Nick, and not “in gender” or into any kind of similarly kinky-sounding sexually-related activity involving gender issues (as far as I know, dum-dum-dee-dum!). The “this” in question is a short movie (youtube broadcast here) about some AJ (young twinky gay) who struggles with his love and then commits suicide. It’s based on a real story, evidently, though since 90% of gay love-story plotlines tend to run along the same forbidden-love-impending-doom track the claim isn’t quite so spectacular.

I do seem to remember hearing about some gay guy who committed suicide several years ago, though I’m not sure if it’s the same person. Mostly it was girls who became all weepy-sobby about the affair and there was a lot of oh-god-I-was-in-the-same-school-as-him-life-is-so-short or death-is-so-random-it-could-be-me-next kind of thing. I don’t think anyone really talked about how if he’d only had a bit more sex he might have been happier.

Since my name’s being used in linking to this short movie, I had to check it out (you might want to also, pokemon hentai fans – if you can watch cute anime characters get it on I’m sure underage Singaporean boys will do as well). The director and producer, Juntin Tan and Dex Kan are (as far as I can find out)ACS (Barker) graduates of class 2001, evidently, meaning they’re probably fresh out of the army. Google their names for more info – it’s a lucky thing they’re not shy with them and they have many friends who blog.

It looks like a student piece, so don’t expect too much. Also you might fail to connect with it entirely if (like me) you were from a computing class, where the girls did not wear short skirts, people were less likely to pass love-notes than lecture notes in class and physical education classes did not feature fun games involving mouth-to-mouth fruit passing. I also seem to have missed out on the love-someone-and-stalk-them-unrelentlessly-despite-being-coldly-rebuffed stage of my life, which of course is regrettable since it seems to be so much fun.

Wherein I owe mother money, big time

Mother always told me as a child not to borrow money. I have faithfully followed her advice into adulthood and kept myself as debt-free as possible.

I checked my CPF statement today.

I owe Mother about S$21,000 for my BSc in Computational Science (Specializing in Physics).

In case you are wondering what this all means, allow me to explain:

The Singaporean government understands that not all Singaporeans are fortunate enough to have wealthy parents who can afford to send them off to university. However, the need for a large base of skilled workers (as opposed to educated loafers) requires that our many of our young have to be packed off to local meat-grinder schools-of-higher-learning. To overcome the hurdle of financial burden, our government has kindly allowed parents to utilize the funds from their Central Providence Fund, an otherwise-untouchable fund we have to contribute to monthly (ostensibly for our financial security during our dotage), to temporarily pay for their children’s university education. The children are of course required (BY LAW) to credit money back to the account when they finally become financially active, plus interest.

I am one of these aforementioned lucky children.

Out of curiousity, I dug up the contract I signed years ago to find out the penalties for defaulting on payment (not that I’m entertaining any ideas about defaulting myself) and it turns out that it’s merely a legal contract not covered in any laws (I’m surprised that something concerning CPF isn’t covered in any of our Acts – this is Singapore after all) and the worst that can happen to you is to become bankrupt. Which, if you consider the many loans you’re likely to have picked up along the way as a student that you’re going to need to pay, the expensive continuing education you’re likely going to need in order to land any kind of decent job and the low pay in the employment market these days, suddenly seems like not much difference from being bankrupt at all.

And if you’re bankrupt, the Government doesn’t require you to make a monthly minimum contribution to your elderly parents through the Maintenance of Parents Act (although you’d better be warned that there is no corresponding Maintenance of Useless Children Act).

Sigh. As a Chinese, of course I know that I owe my parents everything. It just didn’t hit me until now that even a tiny amount of everything amounts to a lot of pain.

Mother had me know that she could have paid for my education in cash but was saving the money for my brother (who might need to go overseas). Also, she could conceivably waive my requirement for repayment but she needs the funds in her CPF account to pay for sister’s education (whose wedding I’ll probably get to pay for, hopefully after I finish paying off this education loan). Since I was the eldest and the most dong3 shi4 of the children, I would of course understand that we were a poor household and that she could only afford to send so many of her children off to university for free.

It’s great to be the eldest child! And of course I don’t mind giving pears away to my lovely siblings (ancient chinese saying).

Turns out financial independance is a large and heavy plate with only a very small serving of pride.