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the simple life

"One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words." Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Sunday, March 19, 2006


I've moved to Wordpress:


Blogger has more features but I loved the categories option in Wordpress.

Its also a good way to learn more html.

I did mention before I went to China (on my birthday really) that:

"I have a strange feeling that things are going to change after my trip to China. I hope it's a good change."

It is good. Nothing dramatic but more of a strong desire to step up and grab a bigger chunk of life.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Far Cleverer isn't too far away

I'm not clever enough.

If you feel the same way, let' s comfort one another and read this together.

I've tried showering with my eyes closed and brushing my teeth with the "wrong" hand.

I feel cleverer already. But all it really means is that I have a long way to go before I catch up with the rest of the normal folks.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

We are all Chinese

At the Forbidden City, my Chinese guide told us about how some of the treasures were moved to Taiwan where they reside in the National Palace Museum in Taipei.

He added that he wished the treaures would return to Beijing when China and Taiwan reunite.

"We are all Chinese", were his last words.

It was said with gentleness, longing and humilty that I can't help but to be moved.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Pixar University

TED conferences sound amazing and I've put it down as one of the conferences I want to attend before I die.

One of the speakers at TED is Ken Robinson, who is described as an education guru.

He talks about Pixar University here, as an example of a company that fosters creativity:

"On the corporate level, Pixar is a good example. The company has something called Pixar University, that runs classes, events, workshops and stuff throughout the day. Every employee is entitled to spend four hours a week at Pixar University, and they are encouraged to not take anything job-related. That keeps peoples' minds alive. "

Wouldn't you love it if you bosses think the same way?

Monday, February 27, 2006


I feel ashamed to speak Mandarin so poorly.

And to know so little of my culture.

Of my country.

My English isn't that hot either.

I like to say I speak the language of love but I'm afraid that's the worst of the lot.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Chicken in China

There's something about the cold weather that makes me want to bite into hot delicious chicken.

So I ventured into zero degrees cold and took 15 minutes to find the nearest KFC. I stepped up confidently to order the 2 piece meal that we have back home.


No such luck. They seemed to have only hot wings and something else, but nothing like what we have in Singapore. Struggling with immense disappointment, hunger, cold and Chinese, I ordered some wings instead.

What a let down! I looked around and no one seem to be eating what I really wanted to eat.

There's something about the cold weather that makes you do strange wonderful things - like reach for comfort, love and tenderness.

But this is not one of them.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Getting old

I must be getting old.

I booked 2 tours today - 1 for the Great Wall in Badaling and Ming Tombs, the other for Forbidden city, Tian'amen Square and the Temple of Heaven.

I have only done 1 tour in my life and that was because my mom was around. But I decided all the figuring out, traveling and endless walking wasn't really worth the trouble this time round.

But the tours was for tomorrow and Saturday.

Today, I did walk a lot, but I wised up by returning to the hotel before 6. In the old days, I would be back much later than that.

Not a good sign.

This morning, I visited Yonghegong, a Tibetan Buddhist temple. One of the highlights was seeing a prayer ceremony with a group of monks. They were seated on cushions with low tables in front of them. The tables had little lamps to help the monks read scripture, I presume. The head honcho (abbot?) was seated opposite the Buddha in an elevated chair with gold fabric wrapped all around him. 2 ladies came up to him, went past his entourage and he put his palms on their heads forcefully. No, nothing dramatic happened afterwards.

After the temple, found myself at Qianmen, determined to find some Beijing duck. They say Quan Ju De is the place to be. And indeed I found myself there, thanks to a great sense of determination. It was ok, too oily for me really and I wouldn't mind not having it for the next 5 years. But there were a lot of people and even a long queue outside for the takeaway.

I wanted to pay my respects to Chairman Mao but apparently so did thousands of patriotic Chinese. They was such a long queue and such a massive sea of people that I felt intimidated. What if I failed to bow at the correct time or weep with great emotion at the sight of his casket. No, I was not going to incur the wrath of so many fervent devotees.

I tried to do some shopping before heading back to the hotel. I ended up buying a Starbucks Frappucino, a Breadtalk loaf and a $15 box of tea leaves.

And ended up in the hotel watching American Idol.


Sunday, February 19, 2006

Going to China

I'm leaving for China tomorrow. Back on March the 2nd. And then I leave for Phuket on the 4th.

For work mostly and hopefully a bit of pleasure.

I'm not particularly looking forward to the trip. But I'll get to see Guangzhou (a day), Beijing (5 days) and Tsingtao (2 days). It's also good to get out of the heat.

I might miss some of Liverpool's games, especially the Champs League match against Benfica. I'm still enjoying yesterday's win against the Mancs.

I'm so proud of my mother. She saw the Wigan-Spurs match just now and ask me whether Danny Murphy was the same guy who played for Liverpool. She mentioned the exodus from the team, saying many people have including the "black guy" (Heskey). Amazing! Next, I just have to teach her to hate the scums.

I have a strange feeling that things are going to change after my trip to China. I hope it's a good change.

Friday, February 17, 2006


If the day comes I become a film reviewer, I will have begin my review with: "Don't watch this if you're..."

For example, to review Hidden, a film I watched last night, I will say:

Don't watch this if you're tired, lack sleep, want a romantic night with your partner, hate lack of resolutions, hate slow films and just want pure entertainment without having to think much.

It's sometimes hard to determine what you want. It could be easier to determine what you don't want.

Hidden is an open work. It says something, not enough to be SOMETHING but strong enough to say some things. What some of these things are depend on you and me and all who watch - what things we bring to the film.

I brought nothing to the film except for my ticket and a spirit of openness built solely upon the reputation of the filmmaker and the strength of reviews I briefly perused.

openness is crucial in a film where meaning and motives are hidden. I have to remind myself not to try and understand what the film is saying. Rather, I think of what I'm adding to the film. But it's so tempting to want to resolve it, to tie up the loose ends and to make sense of it all.

I try to resist that.

Not having to make sense of everything makes sense to me.

But away from all these philosophical meandering. The performance of Juliette Binoche, in the scene when she screams at her husband for not telling everything he knows was breathtaking. It seemed like she was screaming at me - "This is trust?"

For that scene alone, I would watch this again.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Brokeback Mountain

Hours ago, I was sitting in the cinema, eagerly waiting for Brokeback Mountain to begin.

(It's best to clarify the above. No, it doesn't bring me any joy to see guys on guys. I wanted to see a good film, judging from the reviews- this was one. If you however insist on a more carnal motive, I must confess that seeing Anne Hathaway naked, even briefly, was a good reason as any. Yes, it's Miss Princess Diaries herself. I bet if you are straight and do not object to see naked women on "art films", you too will say a silent amen and maybe a word of thanks, followed by a petition for forgiveness.)

Anyhow, instead of Brokeback Mountain, they mistakenly screened "Fun with Dick and Jane" starring the very funny and periodically suicidal Jim Carey. You can imagine how strange this felt. I thought I was there to watch "Fun with Dick" or perhaps "Fun with Dick and Dick". But "Fun with Dick and Jane", with all the hype and the anticipation, really didn't sound that appealing at all.

Fortunately, they did resolve the problem and we saw many Dicks and Janes having fun.

A happy (for lack of a better word) ending for one and all.

(Watch out for the "Rojak" Total Defence video, playing in cinemas. It's probably the context of the viewing but Mr. You Tiao and Mr. Cucumber looked very queer indeed.)

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Valentine's Day

I found a bunch of mp3s on my hard disk. Almost a year ago, I ripped it in San Francisco. My colleague had brought a whole pile of cds after she found out my weakness for jazz.

I should have told her about my weakness for women and maybe I have a pile of them on my hard disk.

Among this pristine collection is Chet Baker's My Funny Valentine. Once upon a time, I had this album twice. Twice, it went missing.

Apart from the title track, I love I Fall in Love Too Easily (listen here).

I fall in love too easily
I fall in love too fast
I fall in love too terribly hard
For love to ever last
My heart should be well-schooled
'Cause I been fooled in the past
But still I fall in love too easily
I fall in love too fast

There was a time when I fell in love too easily. But it's been years since I've fallen in love and that's actually quite sad.

I think about my past relationships and I think I miss the falling in love part more than I miss the people - the guessing, the tension, the romance, the sweetness.

That's a horrible thought.

Yes, but I am a horrible person.

Poor Milou

Poor Milou lost his valentine's this year- also his very first.

Just 2 days ago, Miss Watson's became BER (beyond economic repair) thanks to Milou biting her eye out and dragging a mouthful of cotton from where her socket used to be.

Yesterday I bought him a $7.90 toy and within half an hour, cotton was again flowing out.

I grief for Miss Watson's. She lasted an amazing 5 months which is really a long relationship by Milou's standards.

Milou's got to start treating his women right or he will end up like his brother.

Monday, February 13, 2006


The words of the very honorable and wise N.T. Wright:

"In these initiatives, ‘tolerance’ is not the point. My Lords, I can ‘tolerate’ someone standing on the other side of the street. I don’t need to engage with them. ‘Tolerance’ all too easily supposes that all religions are basically the same, and that all of them can be discounted for the purposes of public life. No, my Lords: ‘tolerance’ is a parody of something deeper, richer and more costly, for which we must work: a genuine and reciprocal freedom, a freedom properly contextualised within a wise responsibility, freedom not to be gratuitously rude or offensive, especially to those who are already in danger on the margins of society, but to speak the truth as we see it while simultaneously listening to the truth as others see it, and to work forwards from there. This is so in matters of religion; it is so in matters of public policy; it is so in matters of sexual morality; and it is so in areas where all those issues, and others, rightly overlap and interlock. And, my Lords, it is precisely that sort of wise, responsible freedom which is at risk if you’re afraid that honestly held beliefs, clearly and respectfully expressed, are likely to get you into trouble with the law. My Lords, we must learn fresh wisdom, before the moral climate changes irreversibly, and the sea rises to engulf the moral lowlands where we presently live."

In a multi-cultural society, we talk a lot about tolerance.

It's a nasty word. You don't tolerate something nice. It's always bad.

Engagement is better - people talk, they exchange ideas, they communicate. As long as the engagement is peaceful and gracious.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Treat your staff better

May you find courage to do the same!

Thanks: http://www.beyondrobson.com/


Thanks to Tom Peters, I got to know this quote from Captain Kirk himself, William Shatner:

"We meet aliens every day who have something to give us. They come in the form of people with different opinions."

There are friends - people who read Murakami/Hornby/Ishiguro and there are aliens.

My understanding of aliens is best explained by giving you a real example.

The Tank, frankly drives me mad, sometimes. Her thinking/logic/tastes is so alien to me that the words "evil twin" and "doppleganger" come to mind.

But you need people like that in your life - to stop you from taking yourself too seriously, to question your actions and motives, as an alternative to exercise for cardiovascular benefits.

You get the idea.

I think aliens are good to have in your life. But like real ones (???), meeting them too often is simply asking for over radiation, insanity and a short life.

Saturday, February 11, 2006


You will know, by now, faithful reader, that I am boring.

So when it comes to meeting people for the first time, I don't talk about cool things, being uncool myself.

I talk about books.

What do your read? Like Borders or Kinokuniya? Favourite book/author?

That kind of thing.

Unfortunately, many people ('tis unfair since I make like 3 new friends a year) don't read and when they tell you that, your aspirations for everlasting friendship and brotherly/sisterly love are somewhat diminished.

Many who read, you get excited at first and then you ask them whether they read Murakami/Hornby/Ishiguro.

Specifically Wind-up Bird/High Fidelity/The Remains of the Day.

If they heard of those names but have not read them, sure, they can be friends but hey, friends don't last forever.

If they read them, I almost immediately expect an unyielding torrent of praise, adoration and really the Hallelujah chorus. If this doesn't happen, I start thinking whether I want friends with such poor judgment and no soul whatsoever to speak of.

So there you have it. Now you know why I make 3 friends and drop 20 every year.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

David Funnyman's take on Brokeback Mountain

Top Ten Signs You're A Gay Cowboy

10. "Your saddle is Versace"

9. "Instead of 'Home On The Range', you sing 'It's Raining Men'"

8. "You enjoy ridin', ropin', and redecoratin'"

7. "Sold your livestock to buy tickets to 'Mamma Mia'"

6. "After watching reruns of 'Gunsmoke', you have to take a cold shower"

5. "Native Americans refer to you as 'Dances With Men'"

4. "You've been lassoed more times than most steers"

3. "You're wearing chaps, yet your 'ranch' is in Chelsea"

2. "Instead of a saloon you prefer a salon"

1. "You love riding, but you don't have a horse"

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

without thinking

While trying to heed the words of James (see previous post), I was Googling a charity's name.

Without thinking, I typed "Habitat without Humanity".

Surprisingly, that got me where I wanted to go.

But what a thought, really.

That would mean world peace and all things good.

Monday, February 06, 2006


At the end of his clemency speech before leaving office, Governor George Ryan quoted Abe Lincoln who said:

"I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice".

The Bible echoes:

"Mercy triumphs over judgment"

I agree.

People of a religious persuasion, who believe in God and Judgment Day, should therefore be more inclined to mercy.

So it's disappointing to see Muslims burning down embassies, Christians torching abortion clinics and religious people misbehaving in violent, vicious ways.

There is so much to do: food for the hungry, water for the thirsty, help for the helpless. But yet we exert so much energy, effort and emotion for the unimportant things.

What's important then?

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." (James 1:27)

Sunday, February 05, 2006


Deadline has a great subject for a documentary - the death penalty.

The creators are definitely against the death penalty. If you watch this, you might too.

I'm glad that the death penalty (can't say issue, can't say debate) isn't politicized so much in Singapore. But it is such a pity that the recent hanging of Aussie drug-smuggler Tuong Van Nguyen did not contribute to a vigorous debate.

That is, if the public even give a damm.

I don't know about you but forgetting and not giving a damm are some of my greatest sins.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

The Postman Always Ring Twice

Since the Postman always ring twice, here' another gem, courtesy of our friend and Forsaken Pessimist- Mr. Tan.

Allow me to set the context. Postman encourages us to think about the downsides and disadvantages of technology and information. Instead of creating solutions, technology may create even more problems.

"Here is what Henry David Thoreau told us: "All our inventions are but improved means to an unimproved end." Here is what Goethe told us: "One should, each day, try to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if it is possible, speak a few reasonable words." And here is what Socrates told us: "The unexamined life is not worth living." And here is what the prophet Micah told us: "What does the Lord require of thee but to do justly, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with thy God?" And I can tell you -- if I had the time (although you all know it well enough) -- what Confucius, Isaiah, Jesus, Mohammed, the Buddha, Spinoza and Shakespeare told us. It is all the same: There is no escaping from ourselves. The human dilemma is as it has always been, and we solve nothing fundamental by cloaking ourselves in technological glory.

Even the humblest cartoon character knows this, and I shall close by quoting the wise old possum named Pogo, created by the cartoonist, Walt Kelley. I commend his words to all the technological utopians and messiahs present. "We have met the enemy," Pogo said, "and he is us."


I like what Neil Postman has to say about postmodernism:

"If postmodernism is simply skepticism elevated to the highest degree, we may give it muted applause. The applause must be muted because even skepticism requires nuance and balance. To say that all reality is a social construction is interesting, indeed provocative, but requires, nonetheless, that distinctions be made between what is an unprovable opinion and a testable fact. And if one wants to say that “a testable fact” is, itself, a social construction, a mere linguistic illusion, one is moving dangerously close to a kind of Zeno’s paradox. One can use a thousand words, in French or any other language, to show that a belief is a product of habits of language — and graduate students by the carload can join in the fun — but blood still circulates through the body and the AIDS virus still makes people sick and the moon is not made of green cheese."

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Forget Great Expectations

In the Polysyllabic Spree, Nick Hornby, being a big fan of Great Expectations, recommends the novel to his friend.

But he struggles to remember why he likes it so much.

"But when I tried to recall anything about it other than its excellence, I falied. Maybe there was something about a peculiar stepfather? Or was that This Boy's Life? And I realized that, as this is true just about every book I consumed between the ages of say, fifteen and forty, I haven't even read the books I think I've read. I can't tell you how depressing this is. What's the fucking point?"

Indeed, what's the point of reading something when we forget so easily?

Hornby, in another entry, compares Dickens with Coetzee.

"You can’t read a review of, say, a Coetzee book without coming across the word “spare,” used invariably with approval; I just Googled “J. M. Coetzee + spare” and got 907 hits, almost all of them different. “Coetzee’s spare but multi-layered language,” “detached in tone and spare in style,” “layer upon layer of spare, exquisite sentences,” “Coetzee’s great gift—and it is a gift he extends to us—is in his spare and yet beautiful language,” “spare and powerful language,” “a chilling, spare book,” “paradoxically both spare and richly textured,” “spare, steely beauty.” Get it? Spare is good. "

As for Dickens, you will know how elaborate his novels are; Hornby says he is believed to have created 13,000 characters.


In a year when I am reading Russian literature, I will, for the love of life and everything sane, lean towards Coetzee.