Thursday, August 18, 2005

Short and Sweet - Haiku

Even before it started

Wondering how it will end

Not how it plays out


For interesting haiku comic strips, go to Haiku Circus. It's great read for attention span challenged folks.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005


Do you remember the first camera you owned? Suddenly, you have a tool with which to capture the sights and sounds around you. Life has a whole new definition - the camera becomes the focal point of your existence. You want to capture certain sights, keep a snapshot of a memory. You'll even invent reasons for using the object (Let's take a picture of mum cooking for keepsakes!).

Probably not everyone had a camera fetish though...

What about your first handphone? Do you remember? Life re-orients itself when you own a communicative device such as that. Your friends' handphone numbers get stored in it, and it becomes the centre around which appointments are arranged. Accessories such as handphone covers, little stringy attachments and downloadable ringtones accompany it.

How about that ultimate object - the CAR? Do you remember when you first owned a car? This is as opposed to driving your parents' car(s). When you truly own a car (like paying the cash for it and driving it), you have arrived. The car empowers you; you have friends you never knew you had and parking becomes a sport. Money suddenly flows like water - petrol, parking, accessories, car washes etc.

Certain postive feelings are created whenever we own a new item. It creates in us feelings of elation to touch and hold something postively useful; to wield it and show it off to our friends (sometimes on a sub-conscious level, but it is there). Comparisons are drawn between the haves and the have-nots, and there is a certain satisfaction to gain from owning an object that is, in one way or another, superior to someone else's.

But there is a dark side to ownership. When a person regards the object as important and precious (think poor misunderstood Gollum), that person's sense of worth becomes somewhat warped.

Have you ever dropped a friend's brand new camera? That friend turns unfriendly - the slightest scratch, the smallest perceived misfunction of the equipment can drive wedges into a friendship. A grudge, unforgiving stares, numerous reminders that afore-mentioned item has been damaged by you. The object takes on more importance simply because it was paid for. Simply because it is precious.


I used be obsessed over my new handphone. My first one to be precise, for all the others following it generated less excitement and awe. It wasn't a great handphone - a Nokia 5110 I think. But it served me well and I was fascinated with it. It will be kept in as good a contdion as it possibly can be - that first time a scratch appeared on its panel, I was sore just rubbing away at it. At the same time, I also started to get acquainted with all the handphone models out there on the market - I knew what the good models were, how much they costed, even some of the other features they had that mine doesn't have (this was possible in the older days).

In other words, I became a handphone junkie. I will stare into shop windows, longing to own one handphone or the other, feeling inadequate because my 5110 just doesn't cut it (too chunky, can't program ringtones, etc). I became that kind of materialistic person where the object of affection, notably a device such as the handphone, exerts a certain control over my wants and desires. It's like Maslow's hierarchy of needs reaching it's lowest rungs.

At some point, all of us feel that attachment with an object, be it a handphone, camera, PDA, MP3 player. It extends to other expensive stuff too - Hermes handbags, Tag Heuer watches etc. It's the forces of materialism I suppose, and there's no denying that it drives us. Our wants drive our sense of self-worth, and we're driven to accumulate the cash to attain them.


Gollum and his obsession with the one ring is perhaps the warning of where our materialism can drive us (well, think metaphorically here - I know Gollum's mind was warped by the ring et al but if you think about what JRR Tolkien might be telling us, you can draw the connections). Life is not measured by what we own. Life should be measured by the relationships we create. And the legacy of what we leave behind is not in monuments such as that house or car - they fade, rust and get buried in the sands of time. The legacy we leave behind is our children, our DNA so to speak.

Possessions are not the ultimate measure of one's worth, so stop the obsessing, please.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Distances between Us

Nothing beats the physical presence of your loved ones. Technology has allowed us to keep in touch over long distances - phone, email, instant messenger, and - a new toy - webcams.

But nothing beats the physical presence of you. We're apart and yet I can still see you. That little camera and broadband access - another toy, albeit with monthly payments - allows us to 'see' each other. Yes, please stop picking your nose, and try to ignore the living room ornaments you see hanging from the ceiling.

Nothing beats the physical presence in a hug. Sure, I can send a "*hugz*" over IM, or heck, one of those fancy schmancy animated smileys (can't really call some of them smileys these days). That is not a hug - it's just an icon, a (mis)representation of a hug. A hug says so many things and soothes so much hurt.

Nothing beats the physical presence of a kiss. Exchanging saliva is therapeutic. After all, in a more biblical age, saliva was thought to have healing properties. It's not the same when you send kisses over a communicative media - it's just not the real thing.

Nothing beats the physical presence in a touch. Staying in touch - that phrase is such a misnomer. When you say "Stay in Touch", you may be communicating with each other, but you're not really in touch. What's a touch? Bunch of nerves telling you that your skin is in the presence of something else - when something else = other skin, usually, that is a pleasurable touch.

Nothing beats you and me, touching, kissing, and hugging. That's the most obvious expression of love, isn't it?

Yes, the physical expression of it.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

On Forgotten Passwords, Book Warehouse Sales, and Blink

You know you've been gone too long, when your password eludes you.

Thankfully, it's the same as all the other passwords you've used, but it still eludes you. Why?


I was at that book warehouse sale at the Expo over the weekend, rummaging through piles of books (neat piles though, thanks to the Time temp staff), looking for that odd gem or two to bring home to read. It is sad to see, sometimes, that certain titles tend to keep showing up.

The books were spread out neatly on several tables, each helpfully marked with bright yellow cardboard cards - 'Fiction', 'Non-Fiction', 'Food', 'Children's Books'. Fiction has the most tables (naturally) but the selection of titles left me with something to ponder on.

For one thing, there seem to be too many copies of the following titles (you see them on more than 3 tables, they're appearing too often):
The Lake of Dead Languages - Carol Goodman
Blood Canticle (The Vampire Chronicles) - Anne Rice
Wolves of Calla (The Dark Tower Book 5) - Stephen King

There're several others, but I can't recall their names, nor the authors. The above were somewhat reasonably good book-moving names - Times the Bookshop probably over-rated their saleability, and ended up with excess stock. Pity - I have no beef with Anne Rice or Stephen King, but I guess in writing books with the intention of creating sequels, you tend to lose steam at some point.

I did bring home some books though - I found a copy of Thomas Keneally's Schindler's Ark, a couple of V.S. Naipaul gems, Susanna Orlean's Orchid Thief (made into Adaptation starring Nicholas Cage, go watch it!), this book titled 'Transistor Radio' (I read a couple of chapters once) and a book on gift ideas. Not a bad haul for cheap books, though it is kind of disappointing not seeing some of the more popular titles. Being a virgin book warehouse sales trawler, I went with the expectation that there might be Booker prize-winning titles there (and returned without any).


Do you know that having more information about a case or situation does not mean you necessarily make a better decision? (regarding the said case or situation that is).

I learnt recently that you've got to trust your intuition at times. That little unconscious part of the brain that compels you to feel a certain way or direct you to action; it acts quickly and unconsciously, and often, it is not wrong.

Of course there is the other tack - to analyse and gather as much information as possible, so that one makes an informed decision. I don't think having more information makes for better judgement (people call this analysis paralysis) - you can't very well conduct a meeting to decide on the appropriate course of action when in the midst of... well, fighting a fire for example. All you have are your instincts, and the ability to thin-slice.

Thin-slicing (nothing to do with potato chips) is one skill that comes with experience. The more you're exposed to analysing and making decisions in a certain field, the more you're able to come to quick decisions based on limited, but vitally more influential, factors.

Alas, what I've learnt is just that: it is good to trust your intuition. I never learnt how to develop that kind of intuition though (the bit about gaining experience doesn't count really... like some old guy telling you those 'when policemen wore shorts' stories).

Go read Blink (Malcolm Gladwell, now my favourite read) - you'll find a whole new way to see how thought works.