From the AOT archives: Every breath you take

Every Breath You Take
31 March 2003

I guess there is no mass hysteria yet, for I am happy to report that I saw a total of zero person(s) wearing a facial mask on the bus and at every bus stop we passed by. However, I must add that whilst walking on the grounds of a big hospital, I noticed two people wearing facial masks.

This may sound very rude but I am now allowing myself this little bit of pleasure daily by counting the number of people I see wearing facial masks.

Not that I am not worried. Although this may be a long shot, I am not proud to say that I am somewhat near the epicentre of the whole issue. I saw how things started to snowball from day one. I witnessed the many politicking going around even in the midst of a “crisis”. I spoke with people whose social lives came to a definite halt in the name of the greater interest. I conversed with a mother of two who only got to see her kids for less than one hour every night. I listened to the worried voices on the line, looking for an answer and seeking some form of assurance.

I may not be standing on the top of the mountain, but from where I am, I certainly am able to get some form of understanding of what have been going on.

At the end of the day, I do not see the need to wear a mask. Like what that Caucasian man said on TeeVee news the other night, a person is more likely to get hit by a bus than die from the disease. Unless I am near the hotspot (the place near Novena MRT station), I will carry on with my life as normal and the last thing I want is to plonk something on my face, which under the conditions here and my hyperactive sweat glands, the mask will be soaked in no time.

And a mask soaked with your perspiration is not going to be very effective against the tiny bastard.

Still, all I can say is that we have yet to reach the peak of the entire crisis and many people are working against time to at least sort things out and bring some sense of normalcy to all of us. Of course, this will be the last thing those little ones want because it will mean that schools will be open again.

Then again, shouldn’t they be happy that they have a chance to go to the Golden Arches and not face the four walls and the pile of assessment books everyday? (Like in the recent TeeVee ad where the boy who failed his maths, was grounded at home by his mother after he told her that he was going to the Golden Arches to study)

Anyway, I am not surprised that during this very trying time, a lot of the bloggers here have plonked their thoughts on this “crisis” online. Here are some of the related links of good sites you can surf to:

(a) It is a Zoo Out There – a blog by a lass who is facing the warzone (definitely a better read than AOT) (link via Andrea)

(b) Areya‘s great blog entry which makes a lot of sense (despite the author claiming that she was “sleep deprived”)

(c) Yahoo!’s coverage of the *ahem* *cough* *cough* outbreak

I guess every breath of air you inhale is a risk you take and the alternative is not to stop doing it.

***

After-note: 31 March 2009

It happened six years ago. Took this part of the world by storm and changed the course of many lives (including mine) forever. It didn’t end until months later. Today, the world is more worried about the effects of a much larger health threat – the flu pandemic.

His old man and his trip to Manchester

“This is a certificate signed by Alex Ferguson.”

His old man gushed with a smile on his face. It brought to his attention the week-old stubble – bristles of black and white facial hair — on his chin, which suggested that he hadn’t shaved for as long as he had been away.

There was a sense of warmth to see his old man beaming and gushing (almost)like a five-year-old kid on Christmas morning. He knew that the ex-sarong kebaya girl’s decision to send them off to the United Kingdom for a week’s tour might have been a priceless one, at least in the eyes of his old man – a big fan of the Red Devils.

He held up the certificate and gently placed it in his hands, encouraging him to examine it. The famous club logo was emblazoned at the top of the certificate. It was the real stuff. However, what wasn’t real was the signature which looked as though it was printed rather than hand-signed by Sir Alex.

He smiled back at his old man in acknowledgement of the priced possession. Even if the signature was printed by a machine somewhere, not many people at his age would have dreamt of walking on the “hallowed” turf of Old Trafford.

Later that afternoon, he spotted his old man looking through the other memorabilia – a watch, a cap and a keychain – that he bought from the club store. He had no doubt that the images of that famous stadium were still etched in his old man’s mind and perhaps when he would watch his favourite team play at home on the telly, it would conjure up moments of when he stood on the turf – the same one that his favourite player – a certain Eric Cantona stepped (or even spitted on).

In return for her efforts in planning this trip, the ex-sarong kebaya girl was given a black sleeveless blouse which came with red, yellow and orange sequins that made up the Manchester United logo

“That’s 11 pounds. Way too expensive,” his mother complained.

It was nice to see his old man acting much younger than his 67 years of age. The image of his old man gleaming while looking through the memorabilia that he bought would be something that he would never forget. For the sake of sentimentality, the plastic bags – which held the watch, keychain and cap – were neatly folded, pressed and placed on his old man’s bed stand.

This was his old man’s first trip to Europe. It was undoubtedly, a happy one.

From the AOT archives: Career Suicide

Career Suicide
30 March 2005

Something interesting has happened and I think the event will further crystalise my future, or rather, our future. It is one thing to still be mulling over the decision but it has become another thing when people have assumed and made that decision for you, just because you happened to be there.

Sure, it was awkward. Sure, I must have blushed brighter than a red tomato. Sure, it made me the centre of attention for that few moments. Yet, there was something about it that strangely warmed and sedated me.

I guess the end of a long age is at hand.

***

I find it interesting when I examine the dynamics of other people’s extended families and compare them with my own. Through my eyes, she was well-loved by certain members of her extended family and it was not surprising to me why they loved her that much. From there, I had an inkling of how much of an effect her grandmother’s demise had on her and it was confirmed when I observed those swollen and red pair of eyes on her face as I sat down beside her. Though I was doted upon by my late paternal grandmother, I never really felt close to any one of my grandparents and during their wakes, I did not feel a thing when their coffins were pushed into the furnace. To see the sadness on her face, the loss of her loved one must have been immense. I might have never experienced this pain but I understood where it was coming from.

All I hope is that an end can be a beginning of sorts for her and sometimes, an end to something may not be that depressing after all.

***

So I was at the table and chatting with her ex-boss (a middle-aged lady) about scholars and the immense pressure heaped especially on Christians living in Singapore. Despite all the misgivings I have with the system (which are too sensitive for me to discuss about the issues here and publish them), I tried to be objective when talking about the age-old scholar issue. It is tempting to be bitter about how you have not been given more than a chance at proving your abilities, which may not be as inferior as those who aced their ways to academic excellence. It is tempting to go all sour grapes on how you face the same things all over again at work just because you attained your qualifications at some third-rate university and not those high-flying Ivy-League institutions.

One to two decades ago, I would openly voice my displeasure at how going to neighbourhood schools for all my life meant I would never have access to the best “state-of-the-art” facilities and the latest educational gizmos that those in the elite schools were privy to. I would pin the reason for their brilliance in results on the fact that they were given the best and therefore, the best became better and the not-so-good became more average. I would wear a scowl on my face whenever February and March roll along and the papers would be filled with articles after articles lauding those who attained 10 A1s.

Nowadays, I only lament to myself when I come across such articles. I could have been one of them if I had spent all the waking hours of my life poring over textbooks, ten-year series and assessment books. If ten years can really determine the fate of one’s life in totality, wouldn’t one be wise enough to invest everything and anything into the first decade?

Of course, I belong to the category where a proper childhood was more important than books and grades. That was what I believed and this is where
I am at – now only a piece of plankton drifting aimlessly at the wrong end of a long food chain.

***

Sometimes I wonder really if this world makes any sense at all. Sometimes I wonder how the brightest and smartest people can make the stupidest mistakes one can imagine. Is that really what life is about?

***

When he casually described his soon-to-be former superior as a “good friend but bad boss”, immediately the image of a two-faced, fire breathing dragon came to mind. Later when he clarified that he (or rather his career) actually suffered for two years because this boss was too nice and therefore, had little resolve to fight for the rights of those below her, I was stunned for a second two. Instantly, my mind questioned this man’s use of the adjective “bad” to describe his soon-to-be former superior. If she was bad, then how about those “beasts” I have to face and manage every fecking second I find myself caged up in my cell?

Career suicide is not suffering for two years under a boss who treats her sub-ordinates with some form of dignity albeit the fact that she does not fight hard enough for them. Career suicide is finding yourself caged up in a situation where almost no escape routes can be found while facing the prospect of being tortured up by “beasts” with humongous egos almost all the days of your working life (including Saturdays, Sundays and Public Holidays).

And they have the gall to say “Life is great?”

***

After-note: 30 March 2009

Other than the fact that the title is pretty apt in describing an issue I am currently dealing with, this entry proves that some seemingly unimportant events that would have been long forgotten if I didn’t pen my observations on this site.

This is a case in point:

“To see the sadness on her face, the loss of her loved one must have been immense.”

While reading that, I was reminded of her tear-streaked face. The image would have slipped away from my memory otherwise.

Perhaps I should write again. If only for the sake and prospect of brief reminiscences in the future.

From the AOT archives: Peggy, ABS and Last night

Peggy, ABS and last night
27 March 2002

It is weird, and I am pretty fascinated by the fact that it took someone who is not a Chinese to indirectly introduce to me a brilliant Chinese female singer-songwriter.

As a sidenote, all it takes for me to be attracted to a female singer-songwriter would be the vocals and the rare ability to churn out wonderful tunes as well as meaningful lyrics. If anyone meets all of the above criteria, be very sure that I will be a fan.

Thanks to Kristen‘s entry, I fell in love with Peggy, a 20-year-old Taiwanese singer-songwriter. Tempted by the sampling of the title track off her debut album, Balloon, I bought the CD today and even as I am typing this entry, I am recording the entire album into my MD.

Anyway, I watched A Beautiful Mind today. According to my movie mate, it was a very sweet film. I cannot say that I liked it. Maybe it’s because the couple sitting next to us was commentating to each other on the movie half the time. Maybe it’s because the flashes of yellowish-green or blue light that distracted me when some very considerate movie-goers toyed with their mobile films periodically. Guess I was too distracted to appreciate the show. Crowe’s performance was fine, although I must give him credit for his effort in portraying a schizophrenic patient and a brilliant mathematician at the same time. However, what caught my eye was definitely Connelly’s flawless performance as Nash’s long-suffering wife. She really deserved her Os.

Maybe I did enjoy the show after all, since I had the impression that the movie was too short even though it was two and a half hours long.

Before I end this entry, special mention must be made about the very interesting evening out I had with her, her, her and him. I kinda invited myself to their gathering and being the quiet sort when I meet up with people for the first time, I listened more than I talked. Still, they were a hearty bunch and it was a good night out.

***

After-note: (27 March 2009)

(a) “Peggy” – Following her debut “Balloon” album, Peggy Hsu’s second album “Wish Box” was released only in 2008. If I am not mistaken, her second effort was not as successful commercially as “Balloon”. Perhaps it is because of the radical shift in style in “Wish Box”. However, there are still bits and pieces of Peggy’s unique music style in the second.

(b) “ABS” – John Forbes Nash (played by Russell Crowe in the film) wasn’t the only mathematician who had to deal with the internal demons of his life. While surfing mindlessly yesterday, I came across another brilliant mathematician — Georg Cantor — whose curse was depression.

(c) “Last Night” – It’s funny how it has been seven years since I met the three ladies and the bloke. I have since lost touch with one of them, but met the rest in December 2008 (including a memorable dinner on Christmas eve reminiscing about another Christmas eve dinner we had). How time flies.

Things that make you go “Hmm…” #01

In the latest instalment of the bailout-bonus saga involving a multinational insurance company, a bloke from the said company wrote a letter to explain his resignation and sent it to a major news daily.

Reactions from the mainstream and social media went both ways.

So, while reading this, I came across the following comment:

Recommended Financial Meltdown Portfolio: Equal parts AIG, GE, Bank of America, Citigroup, and GM. If the government won’t let ‘em fail by wiping out the shareholders, there’s really not much downside risk and a whole lot of upside potential!

Anyone for blue chip penny stocks? It’s for the long haul.