December 31, 2014 0 Comments

Welcome to the last day of 2014, the moment when we are supposed to reflect, give thanks and set goals for the year that would befall us in less than twenty four hours. Just mere ticktocks before we cross another threshold.

There are, naturally, many things to be thankful for. Access to clean water and food. Speedy internet, a glossy hand phone. Taking part in writing projects. The wherewithal to travel and experience different countries, to meander through forests, dirt roads and rivers.

Yet, my thoughts keep wandering to death and dying. What does it mean to pass away? What is the difference between people who choose to die and people who died without intending to?

In a space of days, death bloomed all around, like peonies in the spring. Something passed away. Someone died on a plane.

Do you know that it is statistically significant to experience more instances of death the older we grow? After all, the longer we live, the more likely we are to see dead creatures. It is expected. Growing up means surviving, means being inexorably drawn to organisms that do not survive.

My tortoise died not so long ago and I only discovered its death much later. For days, it lay in the tank, neither crawling nor nibbling. The other tortoise nudged it, pushing it away to get to the fresh green kalian and orange carrot placed right before its closed beak. I washed the poor tortoise with warm water and fed it organic cucumber, its favourite food. Perhaps, it was just refusing to eat, tired of being circumscribed in the same glass tank for almost five long years.

According to online sites, it might react to warmth. Start moving and eating again. Quickly, I bought a heat lamp. It never occurred to me that it was dead. This tortoise had always been passive. Slow, shy and timid. Its companion is the energetic one, knocking over the tray of water and dragging shreds of leaves around.

I thought it wanted to die by refusing food, like the dolphin that looked into its caretaker’s eyes before sinking to the bottom of the tank and drowning.

Years ago, I jokingly named it Xiang Luck, after my younger brother. They are somewhat similar in temperament. Now, my Xiang Luck is dead.

What does the other tortoise think? To be living in such close quarters with a corpse for days. To have to look at a face with rotting eyes, a body that was beginning to attract flies. This tortoise has always been somewhat of a bully, always chewing the tenderest leaves and pushing its now- dead comrade away.

I imagine that they are friends and that this other tortoise, like me, is mourning. It seems less eager to eat.

Would you think poorly of me if I were to say that my tortoise’s death impacted me far more than my grandfather’s? The former had been with me for more than five years, allowing me to stroke its forehead and wipe it clean after every shower. The latter had always been a distant figure. He was the archetypal masculine authority, there but silent, supportive in an aloof manner. Sorrow is a centipede that crawls on us in the most unexpected places in the most surprising manner. We know how much we should feel but don't feel.

Exactly one day after burying my tortoise in a grassy patch outside my primary school – I must do it even though I trembled while doing it – private and public spheres of sorrow collided. An air plane fell into the sea. Many lost their lives. Others lost their loved ones.

This is a moment as good as any to remember what came before and hang on to what would follow hereafter.


Mount Merapi: A Physically Painful Experience

December 12, 2014 , 0 Comments

While trekking on Mount Merapi can be painful, it remains rewarding. Lungs breathe clean moist air. Eyes absorb hitherto unseen sights. Every atom feels alive. 
A local poet once compared dawn to the tearing of light through a wound in the clouds.

Yet, this particular sunrise seems too harmonious to be described as such. It is far too gentle, transient, inviting and quiet.

 This is the cave where we spent one-point-five hours napping. It was exhausting to slither over scree, move from hugging trunk to trunk and just trying not to be impaled by broken branches.

I found myself wondering, why can't I be hornier? A mountain ram, with its exquisitely curved horns, is a skillful climber. So too a forest stag with a rack of antlers. Horny creatures, it seems, are better at climbing.

Our local guide, a patient, humourous, devious person, seemed to be smoking non-stop.
He lied to us that friend is 'pacar' in Bahasa Indonesia when it should be 'teman'. It led to a modicum of embarrassment the next day.
P.S. pacar = girlfriend

 This cloud is like a kueh lapis, with layers of fluffiness.

This giant clam, with stones as its shells and moss as its flesh, seems contented to be embedded in the rocky floor.

Dear faraway mountain,

Wearing a hat doesn't hide the fact that you're bald.


This brain-like fungus (lichen?) is humble. It doesn't demand anything from us except to leave it alone.

Someone - a scientist, I think - once said that it's easy to discover new fungi and name them after yourself. These organisms are abundant and fairly useless to humans, therefore not well studied.

Erioderma Yaoyao sounds like an interesting name.

Breakfast tasted exceptional, this banana pancake drizzled with caramel. (Partly because we barely slept that night.)

There are many moments during this trek that I felt like giving up. So tempting to just sit somewhere and while the night away. So tough to stay awake. So easy to fall asleep. Whatever happened, I am thankful.


A Critical Analysis of Seamus Heaney's Banks of a Canal

December 04, 2014 , 0 Comments

Heaney's Banks of a Canal, somewhat banally titled, is an exemplar of great art. It responds to a painting in the most sensual manner. The sonic beauty loaded into every line, the relentless streams of images, surprising if not startling. A casual reader is invited to stroll along the canal, sharing footsteps, breaths and thoughts with the poet.

This is what great art does: awaken the possibility of beauty, sparking a kernel of interest, touching, invading, even molesting. It upturns the staleness of existence, brings forth a fresh drizzle, clears layers of dirt and dust. A canal doesn't just facilitate the movement of water; it prompts the hesitant footsteps of one's thoughts, inviting meditations.

Painting and poetry, the best of them refracts life, love, loss. They touch even when one resists touching, even when one has hardened into a shiny piece of cold ore. They leave their imprints. It's a pleasure to be so influenced, to be brought to life in such a dangerous manner. Seeing the same with renewed eyes, seeing the familiar anew, it's strange. Weeds, insistent, sprouting, pots of coals, demanding to be felt. A journey about a water source or a reflection about one's thinking.

Banks of a Canal, near Naples, c 1872
by Gustave Caillebotte.
Photograph: National Gallery of Ireland
Banks of a Canal
by Seamus Heaney
Gustave Caillebotte, c.1872

Say ‘canal’ and there’s that final vowel
Towing silence with it, slowing time
To a walking pace, a path, a whitewashed gleam
Of dwellings at the skyline. World stands still.
The stunted concrete mocks the classical.
Water says, ‘My place here is in dream,
In quiet good standing. Like a sleeping stream,
Come rain or sullen shine I’m peaceable.’
Stretched to the horizon, placid ploughland,
The sky not truly bright or overcast:
I know that clay, the damp and dirt of it,
The coolth along the bank, the grassy zest
Of verges, the path not narrow but still straight
Where soul could mind itself or stray beyond.


Having 'Chocolates' On The Train

Our city has often been defined by what happened in the train stations: frequent breakdowns, simulations of terrorist attacks, the human Tetris as people are pushed into spaces between bodies.

Today, yet another event happened - perhaps not that notable, perhaps not that breathtaking. It remains - strangely and hopefully - meaningful. It took place on the purple train line.

An old auntie supported by a walking stick boarded the carriage. She looked so frail, with a shock of white hair and veins showing on her arms.

On the nearest reserved seat, an old uncle, with an equally white tangle of hair, sat. A young woman - probably a stranger to him - was on the adjacent seat.

There was, of course, no obligation for them to give up their seats. The old uncle needed it. The young woman was not sitting at a reserved seat. She didn't have to give up her seat (and she didn't).

For a while, the old lady stood, one hand on the walking stick, another on the door support, her body quaking slightly. What could I do? The train was full and I was standing myself. Before I could decide, the old man stood up to give his seat to the old lady.

It was a swallow of hot chocolate, to see this old man give up his seat to an old lady.

At the same time, it was perturbing. Why didn't the young lady give up her seat? Was she pretending to be asleep? I shouldn't judge, I know, but I couldn't help it.

With a grateful nod, the old lady sat.

Then, the young woman woke up, perhaps disturbed by the movement around her. She quickly took in the scene, stood and offered her seat to that old man.

In this small corner of a carriage in a train that would make many more journeys even on this very day, people were smiling, some more subtly than the others.

Now, in front of the computer, I can't help thinking about this issue even though there is so much to do. Within two minutes, we can glimpse the past and future of our country.


Why The Moss Graffiti Paint Doesn't Work

November 15, 2014 , 4 Comments

Ever saw these wonderful photos of moss graffiti online? The green polar bear, the words of wisdom, even matrixes of squares?
Frankly, these designs look inviting, with the soft fluent green of healthy moss. 
The Q R code below is a thoughtful marketing idea. Imagine people taking photos of this dramatically interesting shape!
At this stage, you might be tempted to search for a recipe to grow, nurture and shape your own green graffiti. The typical formula offered by the Internet involves a blended mix of moss, beer, water, hydrogel, corn syrup, starch and yogurt/ buttermilk/ cream.

Like an excited child, I gathered the suggested materials - along with stencils and brushes - intending to bring the garden to life with miniature mossy creatures. My moss was collected from the very walls that I intended to grow my graffiti.

Three weeks later, I only have mould growing on the sticky paint. Mould, not moss. Black dirty bits. No soft green carpet shaped into gnomes and cats.

After trawling through a host of websites, I Cannot Find Any Evidence of the moss graffiti paint working. NONE whatsoever. Some gardeners, artists and professionals offer their views:

1) None of these moss graffiti is grown on a wall itself. They are pasted there. Oftentimes, the moss graffiti falls off when the adhesive fades.

2) The conditions of the wall - amount of exposure to sunlight and moisture - do not support the growth of moss graffiti even after they are pasted to it. They wither. They die.

3) Some designs are made from dried moss - much easier to handle, though less exciting. Dried moss, surprisingly, looks alive.

4) The moss paint gets washed off by rain. Not advisable to use it (especially in the tropics during the monsoon season).

5) The moss paint just doesn't work. It attracts snails and slugs which snacks on the paint you lavishly slathered. These organisms thank you for the delightful potion.

6) It supports the faster growth of mould. Everything darkens, all the minerals are used up. No hint of greenness.

For more evidence, let's take a look at this guy painting something before the QR code was grown. Does it seem like moss paint? Well, it isn't. It should be some kind of adhesive.
How do we know that the moss graffiti is not grown in-situ? Take a look at the picture below.  

Notice that the moss has patches pointing in different directions. This suggests that the graffiti composed of disparate moss patches. Should the moss be grown on the wall, every furry bit would be pointing in the same direction.

After the excitement of blending a potion of moss paint - looking forward to its growth - imaging mossy creatures slowly coming into existence - feeling alarmed at spots of darkness - pondering if it was even moss - realising that the moss paint wasn't working - wondering if it was due to my failure as a human being - searching for advice online, I've come to the traumatic conclusion that the virtual recipe doesn't work and the moss paint is a lie.


Once Again, Singapore Emerges At The Top

October 23, 2014 0 Comments

Singapore - The Republic has been declared the Most Whiny Country by media conglomerate MetaSurvays. This ringing endorsement recognises Singaporeans as champion complainers, with wonderful abilities to articulate their grouses in multiple languages.

Many Singaporeans find the hot weather unbearable, their workload untenable and the stresses of modern living intolerable. If there were an Olympic game for complaining, Singaporeans would sweep the Gold, Silver and Bronze medals.

Jason Yo, a 40-year-old working in the finance industry, claimed that the smell of durians along the walkway infringed on his freedom to not smell the pungent fruit. "Why can't they have durians that don't smell? This is absolutely ridiculous and I'm going to file a police report." He then proceeded to discuss about the possibilities of banning the thorny fruit from the city-state.

According to Prince Poh, a psychologist at the National United Hospital, people may complain to find common grounds to build relationships. "This is almost like how Irishmen bond over beer."
"We must also consider the fact that they may have been infantilised by the hyper-efficient nanny state and are no longer able to take care of themselves without referring to an authority," Mr Poh added.
Complaining has been elevated to an art form with the advent of technology in this Internet-savvy country. Social media allows grammatically inclined citizens to exchange their favourite complaints about it's/its, their/there and your/you're.

Its and It's. Their and There. Your and You're.
Many have noted that complaining is a national hobby with virtual forums and coffee shops dedicated to its proliferation. The relevant authorities are looking at ways of generating revenue from this activity. 
Ms Fanny Tang, a director at MetaSurvays, said that there were three main criteria used by the panels to award this accolade. "However, I am unable to reveal these criteria as we fear that Singaporeans would try to get tuition in complaining so that they would win this award ever year," she added with a smile.


Open-Minded Man Grimly Realizes How Much Life He's Wasted Listening To Bullshit

October 13, 2014 0 Comments

Here's a wonderful article from The Onion.

Richman estimates he's squandered 800 hours alone by letting salespeople pitch things to him that he's not going to buy.

During an unexpected moment of clarity Tuesday, open-minded man Blake Richman was suddenly struck by the grim realization that he's squandered a significant portion of his life listening to everyone's bullshit, the 38-year-old told reporters.

A visibly stunned and solemn Richman, who until this point regarded his willingness to hear out the opinions of others as a worthwhile quality, estimated that he's wasted nearly three and a half years of his existence being open to people's half-formed thoughts, asinine suggestions, and pointless, dumbfuck stories.

"Jesus Christ," said Richman, taking in the overwhelming volume of useless crap he's actively listened to over the years. "My whole life I've made a concerted effort to give people a fair shake and understand different points of view because I felt that everyone had something valuable to offer, but it turns out most of what they had to offer was complete bullshit."

"Seriously," Richman added, "what have I gained from treating everyone's opinion with respect? Nothing. Absolutely nothing."

According to Richman, it was just now hitting him how many hours of his life he's pissed away listening intently to nonsense about celebrity couples, how good or bad certain pens are, and why a particular sports team might have a chance this year. The husband and father of two said that every time he's felt at all put out or bored by a bullshit conversation—especially a speculative one about how bad allergy season was going to be—he should have just turned around, walked away, and gone rafting or rappelling or done any of the millions of other things he's always wanted to do but never thought he had time for.

At various points throughout the day, Richman could be heard muttering to himself that he couldn't believe he was almost 40 years old.

"Twenty minutes here, 10 minutes there. It all starts to add up," said Richman, who sat down and figured out that between stupid discussions about favorite baby names and reviews of restaurants in cities he'll never visit, he'd wasted 390 hours of his life. "And you know what the worst part is? It's my fault. Here I thought being considerate to others by always listening patiently to what they had to say was the right thing to do. Well, fuck me, right?"

According to Richman, he started thinking about how much time he's flushed down the toilet being an approachable person after a work meeting in which he let a coworker, David Martin, ramble on and on with an idea everyone knew was "total shit" the moment the man opened his mouth. Richman said that a single glance at the clock made him realize he had just spent 14 minutes of his finite time on earth not playing with his kids or being with his wife, but listening to garbage.

"It was like I stepped out of my body and saw myself actually listening to this man's worthless drivel—but it wasn't him who looked like a moron, it was me," Richman said. "I was nodding my head like an asshole and saying ridiculous things like, 'Right,' and, 'I see your point, Dave,' when I should have just said, 'Dave, your idea isn't good and you are wasting our time and you need to shut up right now.'"

By his estimates, Richman's receptiveness has resulted in 160 irreplaceable hours of listening to grossly uninformed political opinions, 300 hours of carefully hearing out both sides of pointless arguments, and at least a month of listening to his parents' bullshit about how important it is to be open-minded.

Eighty days have been wasted on the inane blather of his college friend Brian alone.

"All those hours I could have been relaxing, or reading all these great books, or getting into shape, or working on side projects that I'm really excited about," Richman said. "But instead I've been listening to overrated albums recommended to me by my asshole friends."

"Did you know that in my life I've listened to five days' worth of people talking about their furniture?" he added. "It's true. That's a trip to Europe right there."

While Richman has vowed to cease being open-minded to absolute horseshit, acquaintances reflected on his approachability.

"I love Blake," coworker David Martin said. "He's such a good listener. A lot of people are closed-minded and self-absorbed, but Blake always makes an effort to hear where I'm coming from. The world could use more people like him."


Like Bean Sprouts Reaching

September 18, 2014 0 Comments

Last night, the two roommates were chatting about the grade one had just received for his first ever university quiz.

Roommate 1: "You know, I really don't care about grades. Who care? I mean, 2nd Upper is enough. Who needs a 1st class? That's why I chose to come NTU."

Roommate 2: "So how did you do?"

Roommate 1: "I got full marks. This contributes to my final score, hahah, and I didn't even study hard. I mean, I didn't even go for lectures. And I even skip tutorials sometimes. Even the three scholars in my class didn't get full marks."

He was trying to be humble but was too pleased with his achievement to be so. There are reasons for him to be happy; this did seem like a promising start. He studied from 1 am to 6 am almost every single day. And there was nothing wrong with him wanting to talk more about his academic success when he put in so much effort.

But strange, they seem so young - innocent even - to derive such pleasure from talking about grades. They are like school children in the bodies of young men. Perhaps I was like them too - foolish and insecure, ignorantly pleased about trivia, self-centric and relentless like bean sprouts reaching for something.

Perhaps I'm still like that, deriving a great part of my identity from external validation, seeking approval from family, colleagues, bosses, instructors and peers. Then again, most people are like that.

There is this disconcerting sense of wanting to be free, of wanting to untangle oneself from the web and weight of social expectations. A feeling of not belonging in the endless consumptive craze fostered by a capitalist culture.

It is important for us to know that within these structures, 
we have the autonomy to resist the approved ideals and script our personal narratives.


These Are Poems As Well

August 28, 2014 0 Comments

Untitled (for Natalie and Jeremy), by Derek Beaulieu

Look at the image above. This is poetry at its visual best. 

There isn’t any coherent string of alphabets. This absence of meaningful words is startling and it reminds us of the physical forms and aesthetics of alphabets – the swish of a ‘S’, the surprised expression an ‘O’ has, even the criss-cross of a ‘T’. Each alphabet acquires a depth and character depending on its font type, size and angle of rotation. The identity of each letter is influenced by its neighbours as well.

This visual composition takes the open form of poetry to the extreme by doing away with lines and stanzas completely. It heralds a new age where function is absolutely form.  
Like poetry, the following chemical equations contain alphabets on a surface. They are unique experiments (er hem) on how writings can occupy space. Observe the cyclic nature of the first equation, the flow of particles, how they enter and exit, how they obey universal laws. The precision of architectural lines in the benzene rings, alongside the calming flow of arrows. Hydrogen, oxygen, carbon – none of them are living BUT they form living things. They hint not only at the philosophy of science, but also at that of existence. Ultimately, we are collections of atoms that had come together and will be breaking apart. Perhaps the elliptical motions of electrons would guide us, just like how stars once guided shepherds. 


What's Today?

August 17, 2014 , 0 Comments

Here's an excerpt from The Tao of Pooh:

{Rabbit}   ... you can't help respecting anybody who can spell TUESDAY, even if he doesn't spell it right; but spelling isn't everything. There are days when spelling Tuesday simply doesn't count.

{Owl}   By the way, Pooh, how do you spell Tuesday?

{Pooh}   Spell what?

{Guy}   Tuesday. You know - Monday, Tuesday ...

{Owl}   My dear Pooh, everybody knows that it's spelled with a Two.

{Pooh}   Is it?

{Owl}   Of course. After all, it's the second day of the week.

{Pooh}   Oh, is that the way it works?

{Guy}   All right, Owl. Then what comes after Twosday?

{Owl}   Thirdsday.

{Guy}   You're just confusing thingss. This is the day after Tuesday, and it's not Thirds - I mean, Thursday.

{Owl}   Then what is it?

{Piglet}   It's Today!

{Pooh}   My favorite day.

Yup, Todays should be our favorite Days.


The Silence After A Sigh

August 04, 2014 0 Comments

There's something about these few months that defy words. A stirring bowl of emotions - waxing and waning, growing and receding, waiting - joy, lethargy, a fusion of minds, meeting fresh faces, saying goodbye to old spaces, catching up with memories - a period of change, of transition that resists easy description. So much to say, so few words.

How does one bid farewell to a familiar space where memories sift through every brick, every glass panel, every layer of paint? How to not tire of making small talk with near-strangers? How can one reconcile with the poems written in ignorant youth? 

There's so much to consider.

Is there guilt? About nurturing youngsters to be 'good and useful citizens' of a particular country? What's good and what's useful? Do goodness and usefulness necessarily coincide? Can't something be good but not useful? It seems as though the local education system is a factory preparing young people to fit into a particular economy that someone envisions. 

In the oceans of practicality and reasonableness, there are silvers of idealism, of people hoping to believe in a higher, more noble goal. Everywhere is grey. It's all about survival, about surviving long enough to afford public housing, procreate, raise one's genetic equivalents, then dying (hopefully with grace). Should there be any guilt to being so practical and teaching children to be equally practical?

And there's something ... heartbreaking ... when a student sits up and pays attention only after being told that the concept will be tested in the upcoming common tests. Not because he's interested. Not because he is curious about the world. Simply because the materials will be examined. How devastating. 

Then again, not all is lost. There are children who love to find out more about the world. They come to class, brimming with questions and excitement. One cannot dismiss them simply because they're quieter and less demanding. In every class, it's safe to say there's a bell-curve of attitudes.  

There's much to think, more than there is to write. Let's end off with this video of two elephants in an inflatable kids' pool:


Being Cut Apart in School

July 08, 2014 2 Comments

It's tremendously easy to know when a child has given up on himself. Not attending class, just talking back, homework goes unanswered, making a farce of everything you say. Their eyes will glaze, their bodies will turn as soft and mushy as worms, their heads will swell into boulders that they must rest on tables. Their physical states may be in the classrooms but their spirits are wandering in other realms. The symptoms of a child who has given up are as startling and obvious as the afternoon sun. 

Really, it isn't easy to teach such kids. Let's not even talk about lessons on the niceties of grammar or chemical bonding. They do not want to learn. They want attention, from anyone, from everyone. Their classmate sitting next to them, the friend they just quarreled with next door, the teacher trying to get them to pick up a pen. They want solutions to their problems. Otherwise, they want to be left alone, quiet in their stew of destructive rage.  

Children who've given up, they're tangled in their thoughts and problems. They do not come from ideal families. Perhaps Mama has an incurable disease or Papa had passed away. They may have parents who are divorced, are separating or threatening each other with it. Can you imagine how unsafe the world would feel, if your dad screams at your mum about divorce over dinner? There's no attention from their parents, no approval anywhere. No sense of security. They may even need to worry about where their next meals are coming from. Compared to the very real fears of surviving, homework counts for nothing.

They aren't easy to speak to. Frowning at every smile you give, mocking your every word, snapping at every gesture of goodwill. Sometimes, you feel like breaking down, just because these children are hurting you, the way they've been hurt, cutting you down with every word, shuffle and glance.

But you're not allowed to give up on the child. You're the adult, the teacher, the fabled creature that is supposed to save drying starfishes on the beach. 

You're not allowed to despair (at least, not openly). Because that'll make you a quitter, just like the child. But it's so easy to give up, to walk away. So easy. There's only so much one can take. Being firm but not fierce, that is difficult. But not as difficult as being persistent. 

They'll wear you out, these children, year in, year out, the way rain eventually erodes away mountains and boulders crack from solar heat. And if you fall into pieces, what about the other children who need you?

There's always hope.


Why I'm Giving Convocation A Miss

June 29, 2014 2 Comments

I remember those days of counting down, gazing somberly at the golden-brown tiles. When will the four years of undergraduate life be over? Please, go away, vanish like an unexpected nightmare or an unwanted pimple. 

After the first university semester - a whirlwind of experiments, essays and examinations - I told my mum that the experience was terrible. A monotone of work and joylessness. Was it possible for me to drop out? After all, I had savings. Incurred monetary debts, I could repay, but not the sense of mindlessly trotting along the prescribed path, step by step.

All they want is a son with a university degree, my elder brother said, is that too difficult for you to do?

There's something strange, when these four years are finally over and, here I am, sitting in front of the computer, clicking the mouse, pressing keys after keys. Thoughts become action and action turns into pixels floating on the glaring white screen.

Yes, the four years are over. I've not learned what I hoped to learn. But I've picked up scattered fruits of experience, wisdom and friendships. These fruits were succulent - sometimes sweet, sometimes sour, sometimes partly sweet and partly sour. They looked different too. At times, swollen with purple goodness; at times, green and thorny. For these nourishing fruits, I'm immensely grateful.

It's time for graduation. Time to put on black satiny gowns, wear mortarboards and smile for the dizzying camera flashes.

After much thought - which was mildly(?) self-centric - I've decided not to attend any ceremony where fresh graduates have to stroll across a wooden stage to receive pieces of paper from someone they probably haven't seen before.

"Don't you have any friend?" An ex-classmate asked when he found out that I wasn't intending to turn up for the convocation.

"To save up on the rental fees," I casually replied. It was too embarrassing to explain that this refusal to attend is a symbolic rejection of societal expectations and an affirmation to tame the compulsion to conform. Much easier to behave like a cheapskate.

At times, it seems quite petty to talk about this issue. It feels as though everyone's attending the party, wearing their feathers - how bright and beautiful - while here I am, in a corner with a wet blanket draped across my face.

How did my parents react? Other friends asked. Didn't they want to attend? After all, my parents grew up in a different era. Producing children with paper qualifications mean so much to them.

The truth is my parents simply don't know. If they were to know, they would have encouraged me to turn up. ONCE IN A LIFETIME. GO. WE'LL PAY.

There's a selfish desire to live for myself, to cease being their obedient and docile boy. Parents want what's good for you, but what's good may not necessarily be the best, an author once mused.

When friends are chatting about the collection of their graduation gowns, there is a slight beetle of regret buzzing about, blackish green and shiny. Why didn't someone force me to attend? Make the decision and nudge me into acquiesce, for who wants to be the little fella in a corner clutching his wet blanket?

At the same time, there is a silver of acceptance, of calmness. This act - utterly unimportant in the greater scheme of life - paves the way to rejecting more social conventions.


The Dying Tree's Wish of Being Upside Down

June 19, 2014 0 Comments

For years, it stood upright. Tall, straight, reaching for the yellow rays. It had behaved with the dignity and decorum expected of a tree. It toed the line and grew in an expected manner. It didn’t bear fruits or flowers that it wasn’t supposed to.

It was quiet, unassuming. It was tired.

The time has come for it to go. And before it did so, it wanted to be upside down.

Not just anywhere, but a realm with sharks, rays and bubbles.

"What's anti-gravity? Can I ever feel it?" whispers the Dying Tree as its branches become bare and everywhere starts to creak. 

Maybe it's impossible to experience that, but it's always possible to imagine...

The rays glide because they can and they are happy to.

A smattering of micro-organisms, possibly rabbitfishes, maybe even clownfishes.

A lonely mermaid sits, dreams then ponders.

And so, the tree exists in a world of its making, finite and infinite in different measures.


Poem For My Father

June 15, 2014 0 Comments

Poem for My Father

I'm writing this poem

because you always feed us your chicken wings,
because you work two jobs to buy bread and kaya,
because you were once shy and gave it up for us,

because you left a torn condom package
- "blackcurrant-flavoured" - nestled
in the car rags, next to one can of cola,

because you brought us to the zoo that day
and we had fun without Mum,
because that night, she threatened,

because you pretended not to know
when I stole your crumpled cash
to buy those chocolates on Mothers' Day,

because you made me a warm cup of Milo
and ordered me to sleep early
that midnight before my exam,

because you want me to get a
degree that you never had,
because you told me that I should have failed

my driving test for I would be safer,
because you still drip vile green vitamins
down our reluctant throats,

because you dreamt of being a painter
and told us to study business,
because you deliver goods in the day

and sell those green vitamins at night,
because you still work two jobs
and tell us not to be like you.

Because you had – because you wanted –
because you want – because, because –
because you're my father.


How To Produce Coffee Powder

June 15, 2014 0 Comments

Life as a tour coordinator can bring expected benefits and unexpected abuses. Such a job entails preparing for transport transitions, going on trips to Malaysia and soaking up complaints.

Perks include being able to travel to places and experience events often taken for granted. It was at a coffee factory that one could finally understand how a rich brown cuppa comes about.  

There are, in general, three types of coffee beans - Arabica, Liberica and Robusta. Prior to processing, these beans look so-so, feel hard and appear similar to the untrained eyes. They seem like green beans or red beans, only skin-coloured.

1) Roasting
First and foremost, the beans are roasted, tumbling in a furnace to ensure even heating.
2) Heating with sugar and margarine
Then, the roasted beans are caramelized with sugar and margarine. The fragrance flutters about, like a burst of butterflies, delightful and delicious.
3) Cooling
The substrate are collected and left to cool on large metallic planks. At this point, they resemble chunks of charcoal, black and unwieldy. Nothing like the fine powder that comes in packets or the cups of soothing Starbucks latte.
4) Breaking apart
These stiff black chunks are shoveled into a machine, which in turn spits out little pebbles of hardened coffee beans.
5) Grinding
These beans are ground into powder before being packed into tins. 

At least, now we know how coffee goes,
what heat it endures before it can flow.
Treasure each sip of this brown liquid,
it's a cup of hard-earned fluid.


Ikansingapura: The Myth of the Lion Fish

May 31, 2014 0 Comments

Have you ever seen this sea creature before? This cat-fish organism that mews while swimming?

Scientists have described it as such:

Common name: Lion Fish
Scientific name: Pterois Leo

Habitat: Unknown
Conservation status: Unknown
Behavior: Unknown

Although not much is known about this highly elusive species, local fishermen have imagined several myths associated with this creature. One is particularly memorable:

Once upon a time, there lived Sang Nila Utama, a handsome and kind prince.

He ruled wisely and were respected by his soldiers. Villagers adored him. Even trees willingly offer their most succulent fruits to him.

One day, he ventured overseas, to find a place suitable for a new city. However, he was caught in a great storm.

Trapped by the churning froth, the sailors threw everything heavy into the sea to prevent their ship from sinking. There was nothing left to discard but water was still leaking in.

To soothe the sea gods, Sang Nila Utama threw his crown into the sea. Immediately, the storm stopped.

On board, there was a curious mewing. The waves had stranded a school of sea creatures - each half-cat and half-fish - that were now struggling on the wooden floorboards.

Sang Nila Utama believed that these creatures foretold great things. Henceforth, the prince decided that the city was to be named 'Ikan-singa-pura' (Malay for "The Land of Lion-Fishes").

However, the name was too long and the local people referred to the place more fondly as 'Singapura'.

Here's how the drawing developed, in reverse order:

Thanks for reading :]