Monday, September 26, 2005

Can you spare some change?

Delirium says in her orange voice balloon: When you say words a lot they don't mean anything. Or maybe they don't mean anything anyway, and we just think they do.

Being a purveyor of change (in my line of work), it was with some surprise that I found myself in a reactionary mood when given the chance to change. I've been given a ticket out of purgatory that is my job; instead of jumping for joy at the prospect, I've been racked with by hesitation and... the fear of change.

Ultimately though, I've decided to go for it. It is a good change after all, and it means I come out of it (hopefully) a better person. This journey of change will begin with the new year, and it will be the first time I've made a move out of my current job situation.


It is understandable that we all fear change to some degree - I've always advocated change if it was for the better, or was necessary for improvement in the current circumstances. My change though, won't improve current circumstances in the short term. It will, in fact, be really hard to cope with for a year or so.

The truth for me is, if I don't change, I'll die. No, I won't die literally, but I will die spiritually. The longer I stay in my current steady state, the more I find myself dug further into a hole, stuck like that frog at the bottom of the well, entrenched like a World War One infantryman. I believe that we do not play dice with God - if He gambles big, so do you. And that's where I am - I'm putting everything on the line for this one.


Caution is a bane - it binds you to a set of principles you've defined to limit yourself. Caution is option - the option to back down, take the well-trodden approach. Caution is to live like today will be repeated tomorrow, tomorrow being as certain to turn out the same as today.

Caution is also living to expectations, doing enough to meet demands. Caution is to regard change as the work of the devil - what good is there in uncertainty? Can you measure it? Cautiously?

Tread with care and you'll dread to bear (the pain).


A wise man told me once: God gave us free will because He loves us as a father loves his children. It would have been so much easier for God to have been absolutely dictatorial in His creation - rob us of free will and reign over our lives, dictating every move from the point of creation till the end of time. But what good is that to his creation, if they can't chart their own destiny? Humans would never have learnt to explore and experiment, and they would never have found God on their own.


The most absolute form of love you can give your children is to set them free - give them that opportunity to explore and experiment. Advise, but don't dictate - for isn't that what God does? Prayer to God isn't about making demands or prostating oneself in deference to a mighty being. Prayer is about communication and hearing the voice of reason.

I think we ultimately choose our destiny - though it does appear there is someone to guide us along.


If a chance for change should come your way, jump at it with all your heart and don't look back. If I don't change, I might as well die for lack of enthusiasm. It may be a black hole now, but you might come out the other side pleasantly surprised.

I don't want to play dice twice.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

It's fine except that it never happens

I had my encounter with the Exception Monster today.

See, the first thing about our line of work is that there will always be exceptions. Exceptions are those things which nobody wants to really care about, but some stupid user will bring up nonetheless.

Exceptions are those things which some people insist can happen, and will happen, and must happen just to prove that they will and can happen. I have this nagging suspicion that these exceptionistas create the scenarios for exceptions to happen just to prove a point.

See, most people don't want to build complicated system processes just so that you can take care of that once in a year exception. Why? Because most people pay good money for complicated system processes. For that once in a blue moon thing? Don't bother - cross that bridge when you come to it. However, more than one client that I've been to insist on getting that 'bang for the buck', and so exceptions need to be handled.

These irritating exceptionistas don't have half a brain: Its either "Cater for it! I don't care how!" or "Document the exception handling processes, all 20,000 of them". I'm sick of it all - the world isn't ending just because your stupid exception is not being handled. And please wipe that stupid smirk off - I am not really impressed that you're able to find exceptions to throw in my face; I'm appalled that you're not helping with the situation by screaming at me about it.

Anyway, it never ends and that's why I sometimes hate system implementation. No matter what you do, and no matter how much you try, you WILL leave shit behind, and someone else has to clean it up. There are just too many things to juggle, and invariably, some unfinished business gets left behind, tucked nicely away for some unsuspecting soul.

Exceptions are one of those things I'm fond of sweeping under the carpet, so good luck to whoever's looking under the carpet! (you have my sympathies)

(Note: reproduced this post from my post here)

You can't win this battle

2 weekends ago, an event occurred which spelt tragic consequences for the rest of my life. It was to cause never-ending grief, locked in an eternal battle against relentless enemies. And yes, it was to make me enemies in places where I never previously thought possible. It was too late for regrets - the doorway has been walked through and the door slammed shut behind me. Locked in, I have no chance to reverse the chain of events which have led up to where I am now.

Oh, that event? I collected my newly purchased car.


Yup, sure I'm now a happy car owner, but I've made enemies. Presenting here, in no particular order (though they are all annoying and irritating to different degrees), the rogues' gallery:

1. Trees - My tree hugging days are over. Trees mean leaves. Leaves fall when the wind blows, and this means leaves can fall on my car. Add in rainwater and damn do they stick like superglue. It is a nightmare walking towards my car and seeing the profusion of yellow and brown leaves plastered all over. No, I don't really need trees for shade - I don't often drive around noon anyway.

And the worst part about leaves? Those buggers can find their way into every nook and cranny of your car. I've had to dig them out of spots where my pinky couldn't even fit in. The moment I dig a leaf out, some other leaf manages to dig its way in. Argh...

2. Birds - These... these... fowl beasts. I don't think I need to describe the indignity of what these... fowls can inflict on one's precious. (oh do curb that Gollumic behaviour). White, brown shitstains with a touch of the acidic. The worst is when they land on windshields - the shit trails (depending on how wet they are) are just plain horror to clean off.

I keep wet tissue packets picked up from restaurants for the sole purpose of wiping fowl shitstains. And I'm already running out (four shitstains cleaned thus far - I'm an unlucky guy).

3. Lorries (and other big vehicles) - They go slow. They don't signal. I'm impatient. They're a nuisance. They don't look out for the little guys. They're big and they block my view.

Ok, I'm just impatient.

4. Hurricane Katrina, Saddam Hussein, OPEC, George Bush, the Middle East, Muslim militants etc - if nothing other than for the fact that all of the above tend to inflict upward trends onto oil prices. I should not pay THIS much for dead dinosaur mulch.

5. Rain - The worst thing the weather can do to a black car is to rain on it, then cook it dry. Something about the rain we have in Singapore is that it leaves behind this white residue-y stuff which clings onto a car and forms a film of whiteish stains. The only hope of salvation is for the next heavy rain to wash them off (with fingers crossed that this one doesn't leave white stains too).


I think the battle with the elements of nature is one we are bound to lose - the car will always get dirty. I've realised that the moment I cleaned the car, I'm inviting a whole new host of dirt and other undesirables to invade my car. It is the leaves that are especially annoying - they find their way into the unlikeliest places, stick in there, rot, and refuse to leave.

In any case, if you do see a shitstained rain-splattered Mitsubishi Lancer with leaves stuck on like post-it pads zipping around with an SFY plate, be sure to wave --- it could be me. :)

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Be with Me Part 2 - Where is the Love?

Be with Me has the trademarks of an Eric Khoo film - the nymphet, the ghost, the despairing man, the down and out lowly-educated guy, the suicide case, the mother figure.

Remember 12 storeys? Nymphet - Lum May Yee (yummy - she looked real delicious in that film). Ghost - er... you know that guy who killed himself in the beginning of the film? He's also the suicide case. Despairing man - ooh, too obvious to miss this one, go watch the film again.

Be with Me: Nymphets (!!!) - Ezann Lee and Samantha Tan (and I thought at least one of a pair of lesbians has to be a butch; how unfair to men). Ghost - the despairing man's wife, who died in a nursing home. Mother figure - Theresa Chan, deaf, blind and expressive, her thoughts on love are beautifully crafted. Suicide case - lesbian loses love and tries to kill herself. Down and out guy - security guard lusting for some of Lynn Poh.

Ed note: Hmm, there's too much name dropping back there.

In any case, I liked the idea of having Theresa's text from her book typed into the subtitles, without any voice over. For once, I truly focused on her thoughts and her recollections of her life - without her talking about it. One reads it in the text, with the subtlety all in the scene being played out.

And isn't it somehow familiar to see Ezann get jilted like this? Unrequited love - I think we've all gone through it at some stage of our life, but to feel it so poignantly in smses is something new. Our modes of communication has changed so much that one experiences real pain when one sends an sms... and the reply never comes back.

'Be with me my beloved love, so my smile will never fade'

Be with Me Part 1

I saw Eric Khoo's Be With Me today by myself.

Actually, I was glad that I saw it alone - I couldn't bear with having to discuss it with anyone at all; this thought having come out of what I heard as I left the cinema.

"That scenario will never happened" - it's a movie, so enjoy the movie for what it is, don't diss it for an improbable 'scenario'. Yes, I know it is unlikely that a girl committing suicide will end up hitting someone below (well, she should have looked, etc), but heck, it's part of the plot. Do try to say something more intelligent next time.

"Ezann's uniform didn't look right - I think that JC's skirt has a pleat" - Haha its the first time I've met a JC uniform purist. He thinks the uniform is somehow wrong (oh, is it the wrong shade of green?) and couldn't stop describing it to his friend.

"That woman playing the deaf and blind woman didn't act like a deaf and blind woman" - Bimbo of the night said something as silly as that. With all the publicity this movie has been getting, you would think that all Singapore knows that Theresa Chan was... well, played by Theresa Chan, a real-life deaf and blind woman. I think she was being herself - especially when playing a deaf and blind woman. Didn't the words "Inspired by the Story of Theresa Chan" appear in big bold arial font at the commencement of the movie? Oh, even better still, didn't the name Theresa Chan appear in the credits?

People should quit acting intellectual; I would have hated discussing this movie with anyone at all, because:
a) I'm going to hear about that lesbian kissing scene
b) I'm going to have to cringe at talk of 'what it all means'
c) someone's going to say 'Nobody really understands Eric Khoo like I do'
d) someone will think he's wasted his money
e) a certain friend would preferred to have seen less brainy fare - the Longest Yard for example ;)


To be honest though, I would rather have seen the movie with a friend. The GF is out of town and it was too late to call someone (anyone at that point) out. And another night having dinner with my dad and mom would have driven me nuts (I need time away from my parents - they suffocate).

On the other hand, watching a movie is mostly a solitary experience. You pay an exorbitant price to sit in a comfortable seat, eyes riveted to the big screen watching drama unfold. Unless you're in the cinema to make out or snuggle with a loved one, you're unlikely to have much interaction with anyone else, save for the occasional comment shared or elbow being nudged.

It was with this ideal that I spent a lot of time during my uni days watching movies by myself. About a third of the movies then were watched alone, with nary a friend accompanying. Frankly, it would have been difficult getting someone to come along sometimes - I wanted to watch the less mainstream stuff (it's mostly to indulge the perceived arty side of myself; arty being a misnomer, I realised).

It's with this thought that I urge you to do this the next time you watch a film such as Eric Khoo's (whether it be the raw gritty Singapore film-maker kind or the pretentious arthouse Wong Kar Wai-esque kind or the Zhang Yimou pretty colourful sights kind):

Don't discuss the film.

Just remember it for what it showed you, and the story it was trying to tell. Your memory of it suffices - the words of another just taints the picture you have drawn of it.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Poor from the richness of the Earth

"India is the poorest country in the world. Therefore, to see its poverty is
to make an observation of no value; a thousand newcomers to the country before you have seen and said as you. And not only newcomers. Our own sons and daughters, when they return from Europe and America, have spoken in your very words. Do not think that your anger and contempt are marks of your sensitivity. You might have seen more: the smiles on the faces of the begging children, that domestic group among the pavement sleepers waking in the cool Bombay morning,
father, mother and baby in a trinity of love, so self-contained that they are as private as if walls had separated them from you: it is your gaze that violates them, your sense of outrage that outrages them.


Stay six months. The winter will bring fresh visitors. Their talk will also
be of poverty; they too will show their anger. You will agree; but deep down there will be annoyance; it will seem to you then, too, that they are seeing only the obvious; and it will not please you to find your sensibility so accurately parodied."

So wrote V.S. Naipaul in his excellent book 'An Area of Darkness'. Naipaul has made a wry observation about people from developed countries visiting a poorer neighbour (and none poorer than India, in his world-view). The visitor is outraged, impotent with rage at the widespread poverty and incensed that people can be subjected to such adverse conditions anywhere in the world at all. (All right, I exaggerate; perhaps this is how I usually feel visiting Third World countries, like when I visited Myanmar last June).

But there's a twist to it: the visitor does become numb to it. We are all sensitive creatures, and something as staggering in its obviousness (India's poverty) shock us into emotions in the extremes. I will certainly feel a sense of compassion mixed with depression, a certain futile and resigned feeling when it overwhelms, and finally, consoled that I am lucky to be born in a different place and time.

At some point though, it doesn't do to state the obvious - everyone can see for themselves. We are inured and our sensibilities dulled by daily contact, and that resigned attitude gives way to an indifferent air. As a human being, we adapt too well to our surroundings - we often don't make that effort to change it anymore, and instead, grow to accept it. V. S. Naipaul points out that once in a while, someone new to such sensations - as you have been numb to them, they are still raw - could make the 'error' of pointing the obvious out to you.

And that is the tragedy, the comic error of our ways. Our reactions vary - we wave it off, we shrug, we exclaim unsolicited insults "Been there, done that, got the stupid T-shirt". It's cruel to the newcomer; it's crueler to yourself I feel, for you've lost that naivete. I want to keep seeing things afresh and anew - poverty is poverty, and yes it should shock us. Let us stay shocked though - for it doesn't go away even when our sensitivities do.