Sunday, April 30, 2006

And So It Is

“Atheism, in its broadest sense, is an absence of belief in the existence of gods. This definition includes both those who assert that there are no gods, and those who make no claim about whether gods exist or not.”

“Agnosticism is the philosophicl
view that the truth values of certain claims—particularly theological claims regarding the existence of God, gods
, or deities—are unknown, inherently unknowable, or incoherent, and therefore, (some agnostics may go as far to say) irrelevant to life.” --Wikipedia

We learn in psychology that categories and schemas help people to recognise and understand the world around them more conveniently, that it saves them the trouble of having to think too much and use cognitive resources easily.

And in truth, we have named everything in this world. We name people by their religion, Christians, Muslims, Hindus. We name people even when they do not claim to have a religion, atheist, agnostic. What happens to the people who fall through the cracks then? The people who like standing between the lines and blurring the boundaries? How is it possible to define them for the sake of convenience and put them into a random clade of humanity?

I once said that I didn’t like feminism because whether its supporters and theorists like it or not, it immediately defines them as female. And in defining something so clearly, in putting it in a box, something is always left out. One cannot live a completely human, fulfilled life as a “woman” alone. Or as an “athiest” or as an “Indian”. It detracts so much from the complexity and confusion of real humanity.

How is it possible, for example, to define one as a solipsist and yet realise that they are concerned about the feelings, experiences and thoughts of people, even as they believe that they must not exist? How can we say that someone is just a “woman” or a “man” when we cannot fully understand the ways in which they act, some of which defy the unspoken rules of that gender?

Naming is just a way to keep things boxed in, to prevent the grey edges and gaping holes that humans so abhor. But in being named, some freedom is lost. When Adam named all the animals once they were created in the Bible, they became creatures with a referent, with a maker and an origin. They became fixed.

Even God has been named and in doing so, people have made Him a referent of themselves. What then is so wrong in choosing not to name or define God? Why do people who have named God condemn those who haven’t simply because they choose not to make Him, Her, It or They something solid and fixed?

I don’t believe there is anything wrong with religion at all. In fact, I believe that people who have religions are the truly lucky ones for they have realised the purpose in their lives. I don’t however, understand how people can classify those who see God as a blurred line or something that is not boxed in into a stipulated definition as without redemption or simply atheist, cynical and without any wonder or awe at all. Don’t they deserve some kind of understanding too? One that does not have to belong to some kind of name or category?

And more than just speaking in abstracts, this phobia of being pinned down and forced into a classification becomes personal too. People ask me about things like my sexuality and I am hard pressed to answer. To say “I don’t know” is something cowardly, something that is treated with derision and disgust because they assume that I am too yellow-bellied to have come to terms with it. Because I must be in denial.

I wonder, sometimes, if they are not the ones in denial because they cannot understand and must turn to a world of definitions and fixed answers to hold onto because the ground will tilt if they don’t.

I’m not saying I don’t fall prey to definitions all the time. I do. I stereotype, posit explanations for things I cannot understand and form definite opinions with the best of them.

But now and then, I’m treated to a glimpse of a frightening, uncontrollable world without borders, without definition where people can behave anyway they like without being classified as insane or hedonist, where people who cannot always explain themselves away are accepted.

Where I can flow like liquid glass, filling infinite corners.

I know that the world with categories and concepts is always the safe world, the right world in some sense because without them, we would surely go mad. Nothing we did would make sense without constants. To try to live without them would be like holding your breath –sooner or later you have to come spinning back down into breathable air.

Sometimes though, I would like to be a little more than my definitions. A little more than a girl, a little more than a student, a little more than just me. Because I’ve realised that when you clear your mind of all the definitions and boundaries and stop naming the things you do and the ways you feel, it’s like standing on the edge of the Universe and looking down into its bottomless, star-filled pits. It’s like transcending all time and all light, all music and all space.

Most of all, it’s a feeling words cannot explain because the poor, sparse words we create can only try to define things all over again. I suppose as best as I can put it, it’s like being immortal.

If only for a little while.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Just Because

A night out on the tiles, full of mad laughter, a table groaning under the weight of hot dishes and rapid fire conversation. Charades, madly waving hands and guess-words so filled with gasping that they can barely be heard. The insane pleasure of giggling helplessly behind cushions and hyperactive mass dancing all over the living room.

Ice-cream, Indonesian princesses and just a little bit of magic. And you’ll never believe just how funny the word “disappear” can be.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

All Things Said and Done...

Her: “But he gave you an F!”

Me: “Yep.”

Her: “What did you get overall in the end?”

Me: “B+”

Her: “That’s insane. From an F to a B+?! How do you do that?”

Me: “I don’t know! It’s almost as if I was sleeping with him.”

Her: “Wait a minute, you don’t mean to say you were actually…”

Me: “Puh-leese. If I was sleeping with him, I would’ve gotten an A.”

Her: (one eyebrow raised) “You REALLY think you deserve an A in bed?”

Me: “Oh, no. But if I did sleep with him, he’d sure as hell better give me one anyway.”

Erm… it’s really not like I would actually sleep with my professor! I’m just saying. If you’re going to do something that drastic, you might as well make sure you... uh... get your money’s worth, if you get my drift.

You know it’s true.

Number of exams tomorrow: 2
Number of exams I’m completely unprepared for: 2
Number of exams I will thus do badly for having no time left to sleep with the professor because one of them is too old and one of them is a woman anyway: 2

Tuesday, April 25, 2006


The heat is oppressive, the stifling calm before the proverbial storm. Outside, the flies grow dazed, flicker and die. Inside this room, all is life.

We lie, elbows touching, faces grey in the watery flourescence that filters in from the corridor and bandy terms about.

“The Kuleshov Effect.”

“Intellectual Montage.”

“Yes. And the Paramount Decision.”

There is a heady scent in the room, the earth rising from the ground like loam, the faint whiff of wood, the dance of wet, heavy air curling between us. The fans spin lazily, whirring without effect. The sheets bunch and rumple under our skin, sucking all coolness away. The hamster rustles in her sleep. I brush the damp hair that sticks to my forehead and exhale.

Still we continue, to talk and reassure, our words building bridges of knowing between us, bolstering us for what is yet to come. We make lists of factors and genres, picking up where we leave off, finishing each other’s sentences to keep the words flowing. We walk together through Russia, Germany, the Wild West, each step a promise that things will be okay.

It’s not glamourous or romantic. It’s warm, discomfiting and breathless. But I know that despite everything, while the flies die outside, inside this room, it really is love, after all.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Flaming Pie

“Well, personally, he’s the alphabet to me. He’s like a language, you know what I mean? He’s the reason why I put a foot forward than put a foot back, he’s the reason why I take a left than take a right.”

--- Liam Gallagher on John Lennon.

Well, c
ouldn’t have put it better meself. How is there any other way to describe a man whom to me, moves human emotion so elementally with just his hands, his voice and his eyes? Even 25 years on, the norwegian wood burns with an immutable brilliance.

M and I were discussing the various merits and detriments of laptops on the market today and began to express them in analogies to cars. I posit that the IBM is the Volvo of laptops, sturdy, boring and ugly as hell (of course, I take this back now that M has an IBM, they are not ugly as hell, only ugly as heck). And that a Mac is like the Volkswagen Beetle, really cute and everybody wants it, although no one is really sure why! And finally, the Toshiba is like the good old SBS bus… it’ll get you where you want to go eventually, but not without breaking down a few times along the way.

Okay, so I don’t really mean it about the IBM… they have gotten a lot sleeker along the way. All they have to do is work on their aesthetics, and you’ve got a shore winner! I still maintain my stand on the Volvo however…


And finally, it’s been a great pleasure and privilege to spend the evening chatting with the Fongster who looks wonderful and is, really, to all intents and purposes, the happiest girl in the world. It helps that she now has a veritable prince in her corner, and I’m really happy for her!

It’s going to be wonderful to have her home once more so that we can get up to our usual mischief all around school.

You have been warned.

Reading: Social Cognition: Making Sense of People
Number of Days till the Firing Squad: 2
Number of Volvo Officials who are going to be really unhappy if they stumble on this site: 13

Thursday, April 20, 2006

The Song of the Swooping Bustard

Talking to Chand today really cleared my head, because she's fun and chatting with her is such an eye-opening experience! Not only did I discover that a thorny devil is palm-sized and that a one-hamster-two-wheel setup is best aided by a platform, I also realised how lucky I am to have someone in my life who appreciates such a large part of me.

We discussed writing and the fears that seem to plague all authors who take their work personally and who believe in it as a facet of themselves, and I conceed that I am one of the few lucky people who has someone to read my work. Not just to read, mind you, but all that reading entails, the understanding, the support, the gentle presence. It is both fiendishly difficult and ineffably wonderful to share and receive the gift of being able to take part in someone’s artistic creation and for this priceless gift of being there, I thank you.

I thank you because you made it okay for me to read my work out in a wavering voice over the phone as you listened, patient and never belittling and I thank you more because you read it still. You will never know how many of these words are written with you in mind, with you in heart.

And for quietly putting up with my oftentimes incoherent mental state, sharing my soul and keeping it safe with love and laughter, I am forever in your debt.


On a different note, here’s the experiment I’ll be presenting as part of my final paper this Saturday. And praise me ‘kay, because I totally kicked Microsoft Paint’s collective ass and because it actually displays some fundamental (albeit flawed) depth perception! Hah.

Rest assured no animals (except hamsters) were harmed in the making of this… erm… thang.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006


I couldn’t help it. I really couldn’t. What with all these half-arsed songs on the radio nowadays, I decided to compile five of my favourite, all-time best song lyrics ever. Reading these just brings a tears to me eyes (be it of disgust or laughter) because, you know, Wordsworth wrote bulldoody. In no particular order:

1) Avril Lavigne, Sk8r Boi

I actually think this song is quite catchy, and yes, I sing it behind closed doors! But. As if that title weren’t spelt badly enough (because it’s just cool to spell boy as “boi” and cow as “kaaoow” and dog as “dawhuhg” and it’s actually going get you somewhere in life, like maybe the Nobel Prize for literature, for the first person ever to intelligibly incorporate numbers into a sentence. How much more l33tness can u hope 4? Oh wait, where was I?) she goes on to give everybody a lesson in sexing people. “He was a boy, she was a girl/ Can I make it anymore obvious?”. Wow. I’m really going to need some help here. Uh… no, Avril, why don’t you go on to tell us about just how different they were, puberty problems and all, in case we needed that extra little boost to help us figure it out?

No wait. Wait a minute. Maybe it’s not that obvious after all. What if he wasn’t a boy –uh… boi? And she wasn’t a girl? Oh my god. That would make them transvestites, wouldn’t it. And if he WAS a boi, and she WAS a girl, then they couldn’t have been transvestites, could they? So I get it now! Totally! Thanks Avril!

2) Meatloaf, I would do anything for love

And I quote, “I would do anything for love/ I would do anything for love/ I would do anything for love/ But I won’t do that, no I won’t do that.” For God’s sake, will someone please, please, please, tell me what that is before my head explodes from the anticipation of it all? Or better still, tell me why in hell he won’t do it?

It could be a million things, but right now, I’m gunning for three plausible options:
1) Adopting a baby with Angelina Jolie
2) Getting matching plastic surgery with Michael Jackson
3) Singing this horrid song to his significant other

Erm…okay you know what? Those three choices are pretty horrible right there. Maybe I really don’t want to know after all. Yeah. Scratch that.

Ignorance really is bliss.

3) Rent, Light My Candle

You know, the thing is I actually like this musical. A lot. Maybe I could even love it because I can completely relate to the themes, the sadness, the storyline. I think this to myself everytime I’m breezing through the soundtrack. And then I get to this song. And Adam Pascal tells sings to Rosario Dawson in dismay,“Oh the wax” to which she replies with the ingenious and inspired, “It’s dripping,” with nary a note out of tune. The first time I heard that in the theatre, I stared at my cousins who stared back, as deep in disbelief as if one of them was renouncing Islam and running off to Spain to marry a flamenco dancing prostitute with a baby on the way. The subsequent times, I just winced and ignored it as a passing flaw.

But you know, what really gets me is when Adam Pascal tells Rosario that she reminds him of someone and Rosario asks who. He sings, (without a hint of sadness in his voice), “She died, her name was April”.


4) Groove Armada, I See you Baby

Just in case we need people to tell us what we’re doing, Groove Armada steps up to the plate with this light-hearted number. I just couldn’t help it, I had to quote from the webpage, verbatim:

“Alright im chekin all ya this evening
a see ya sittin around
But were gonna have no of that this evening child
Thats right dont be lookin at me like that
See my names granma funky yal
Funky if ure nasty darlin
And uve got 2 stay nasty”

You know, this guy would be *perfect* for Avril Lavigne. I’m beginning to see certain creepy coincidences in the spelling. And just in case we haven’t got the idea, the chorus comes prancing in to trump everything with, “I see ya baby/ Shakin’ that ass/ Shakin’ that ass/ Shakin’ that ass/ I see ya baby/ Shakin’ that ass.”

Really. It’s worth chekin out.

5) Yin Yang Twins, Wait

This song is absolutely the best. I mean, I can completely understand why it was such a huge hit in the States. Just wait till you get a taste of the amazingly thoughtful, well crafted lyrics… and oh-so-subtle undertones. What, right now? Okay!

“Wait till you see my dick, bitch,
Wait till you see my dick,
I’mma beat that pussy up,
Ay bitch! Wait till you see my dick.”

Like B-AM, B-AM, B-AM, B-AM,
Beat da pussy up, Beat da pussy up,
Beat da pussy up, Beat da pussy up,
Beat da pussy up, Beat da pussy up.”

Well, of course, because nothing says “I love you” more than your mysogynistic boyfriend whispering into your ear about how he’s going to bruise your pussy black and blue with his "lovemeat".

Prepare to be romanced, girls.

God, that was almost too easy.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

A Vow of Silence

You know how now and then you stumble upon an epiphany or a sudden flashback that makes you realise what a sod you’ve been all this while? I get those damn things all the time. It doesn’t help that I like to conduct an involuntary rapid life-review every now and then just in case a near death experience doesn’t occur any time soon. It is then that all these memories start surfacing again, and all the mean things I’ve ever said, or done, or even thought come flooding back to me.

You wouldn’t think that one person could commit so many indiscretions in one lifetime, not even half over. I have done things to people that I have regretted and thought things that were less than gentlemanly on the spur of the moment, thanks to my lightning temper. But most of all, I feel sorry for the things I’ve said.

Dr Don told us something very important one day in Biosemiotics. He was talking about the usual theories and we had just discussed the importance of advertising, metaphor and television in shaping our perceptions, biosemiotically speaking, of course. He said that buying into culture and the stereotypes that we were fed was always a personal choice and a bottom-up process. If we chose not to buy into them, then culture wouldn’t happen. All the advertising in the world can’t start a fad.

Then he applied this to collapsing the wave function of probability. I’d always thought of this as a purely philosophical and scientific concept applicable only to quantum physics, but as always, he applied it to the most basic areas of life. “You can see someone behaving dorkily,” he had said, “And you can give off body signals that say that you think so, without moving at all. In doing so, you’re effectively collapsing all other positions. And that person’s going to feel it, because we’ve become so adept at reading signs. He’s going to go home and feel lousy about himself.”

“So you can choose to be nice,” he continued, “but the tough part about that is that you’re going have to collapse the probabilities every second, because then you have to keep remembering to be nice one second and the next and the next.”

Science aside, that made all the difference in the world to me. And it made perfect sense. The only way for one to change, is not just to make a decision, but to stick to it. And in this world of ubiquitous messages that irrevocably tell you to be a certain way and reject people who aren’t, it’s difficult to remember to be nice, to stay with what matters.

Capitalism, trends, stereotyping, discrimination, preferential treatment, the things we “need” to succeed in life. It’s that easy to fall into the trap of ridiculing someone and saying things that you don’t mean.

So I’m going to try something a little different. I’m going to choose silence. I don’t mean stopping talking, because baby, if you knew me, you’d know that was impossible! But in a choice between silence and repudiation, I’m going to attempt silence.

I say attempt because it’s going to be difficult to remember to make that choice for every second that I am a concious being. I am, however, going to try. I can’t promise that it’ll work, or that it’ll make me a nicer person in any way. But I am game to give anything a shot.

And anyway, when you’ve licked a laptop, nothing’s really off limits anymore.


In other news, I wore what might just be the only pair of rubber soled high heels in the world today. They squeaked alllll the way through the library. Don’t ask.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

A Pound of Flesh

In the midst of trying to cop a nap this afternoon, an old, long forgotten story wormed its way into my conciousness. A story that my father used to tell me a long time ago, along with all the other tales that he deemed fit for learning. I cannot remember it precisely, nor am I sure that I have the exact details right, but I’ll tell it in my own words, as I know it.

There was once a man who claimed to be the most pious and devoted man on Earth. He prayed night and day and constantly spoke to his God in his quest to get closer to him, asking, “How can I be a better servant to you?”

One day, his God finally replied his plea. He spoke to the man in a dream and said, “I want you to get me a pound of human flesh, to prove that you truly love me.”

The man woke from his dream and began a fervent search for anyone who would give him a pound of flesh to offer up to his God. Armed with a knife, he roamed the streets asking, “Who will give me a pound of his flesh?”

People thought he was crazy and avoided him and by the third day of search, the man was desperate. As he stood in an alleyway in an attempt to gain some respite, he heard a cracked old voice speak to him. “What’s the matter, sir?” The man looked down to see a beggar, homeless and weak, who had been watching him.

“I need a pound of flesh,” the man’s words tumbled over themselves. “I need a pound of human flesh to show God how much I love him.”

“All right.” The beggar said, “Give me your knife.”

Unable to believe his luck, the man handed over his knife and the beggar placed it with care on his thigh where his meagre flesh was meatiest. With some difficulty, he sliced off a large piece of his meat. “Here,” he gasped, handing it to the man.

The man took it, trembling with thanks, and was about to leave when the beggar stopped him. “Wait,” he called out. “How do you know God wants a pound of flesh from a thigh? Maybe he wants an arm.” And before the man could stop him, the beggar had sliced flesh from his upper arm. “And just in case, you’d better take some from my other arm.” By now, the beggar was bleeding so profusely, that there was no way to staunch the flow.

The man’s arms were full with all the flesh he was trying to gather, and in his haste, he ran back out into the streets and shouted to the sky, “I have your flesh, God!” And God appeared to greet him. But here, the man received a great shock because standing at God’s right hand, was the beggar, dead yet newly healed, and glowing with heavenly light.

“I have your flesh,” the man repeated. “Now will you believe how much I love you?”
But God shook his head and replied, “You deeply disappointed me, my son. For if you truly loved me, why wouldn’t you give me flesh that was your own? Instead, it is this man who sacrificed himself for me who truly loves me and it is he who will stay by my side forevermore.”

All right, admittedly that wasn’t the best retelling ever, but you get the general idea. This story is disturbing to me on so many levels. Firstly, it’s not exactly the kind of thing you want to tell your kid before she falls asleep! I mean, slicing off bits of your meat is not exactly the nicest and most soothing image to lie in the dark and contemplate and I think I had nightmares about it for awhile.

Secondly, who in his right mind would sit there cutting off not just one, but countless pieces of himself for a man he doesn’t know just for the heck of it?! I can only believe that the beggar must have been mad in some way, or just really, really out of it. Or, you know, schizophrenic. Yeah, definitely schizophrenic.

But at the highest level, I think it disturbed me so much because of this notion of “sacrifice”. Because when I think about it, I don’t believe that there is such a thing as sacrifice at all. Michelle Kwan, my favourite skater of all time was once asked how she felt about having to sacrifice all her time to train for her sport. Her reply was, very simply, that when you want something and you put aside other things to go for the thing that you want, you can’t really consider it a sacrifice at all. And I think that answer earned her more respect than her actual skating did.

Because at the heart of it, all humans are selfish. It’s a humbling thought, but to accept it is to accept one of the greatest universal truths, for in true human nature, the rejection of this idea is a selfishness in itself.

We all want to see ourselves as altruistic benefactors at some point in our lives and so we make these choices which we call “sacrifice” where we put something or someone else ahead of the thing we want.

Only, we’re not doing that at all.

In denying ourselves something in lieu of something else, that’s selfishness right there because we personally believe that the alternative will lead to better consequences, and ultimately, it is better consequences that we want. There is no “giving up” anything, because you get something in return with every choice you make. It’s Newton’s third law in practise all over again. You only ever give something up if you can have something better in return. Think about altruistic suicide and monks who have burned themselves to death because they believed that people would take notice and stand up for the cause that these very monks believed in.

Sure, I’ve made decisions in my life that have pained me, but only because I knew, or at least believed, that in the long run, the results would be better for me. You have to make choices to get what you want in life and this will always entail leaving something behind. So to me, there is no real sacrifice. There is only what you do or do not do. There is no such thing as holiness, only a choice to an end that will ultimately benefit you in some way, even if it’s just making someone else feel better so that the altruism reflects on you.

What then of the beggar? Admittedly, he didn’t know the man and he was still doing something to help him. Well, I can only conclude that this was because he believed that he was in dire straits and that he had nothing to lose. The alternative could only, in his eyes, be better than his situation at that point. And if you think about it, he did end up standing at God’s right hand, or wherever it is that they stand nowadays.

He, at least, made the right choice.

And sometimes, we don’t. We get it wrong and we end up regretting the choices that we make. There is no way to circumvent this because not all “sacrifice” pays off, not even those made in the greatest leaps of faith.

Instead, we can only hope with all our selfishness that after we have cleaved our flesh, splitting skin, incising bloody muscle and severing the arteries that are our lifeblood, we don’t stare in horror at the cold, truthful gleam of the white bone and decide that we want our pound of flesh back.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

The Beginning of Always

I’ve always wondered what makes a writer a good writer. Arguing with myself never seemed to bring the answer about and truth be told, I’m still not really sure. In fact, at one point in time, I wondered if I could even call myself a writer. Sure, I’ve been scribbling in diaries since I was twelve and have ploughed my way through at least nine books, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything in the scheme of things.

Sure, I love to write. I remember writing my first story when I was 10, crouched over a scrappy notebook with one of those 2B pencils that left smudges along the outside of the wrist, embarrassedly hoping that no one would catch me and ask me what I was doing. I hid that first book for the longest time and I’m still a little embarrassed about it now. I don’t even let my own parents read my material; there is something to be said about the deep shame that comes from producing a “child” that feels both illegitimate and unjustified. I suppose it is only this love that has kept me going at it for so long.
But in every so-called writer’s heart, there is also another dream, apart from the one that entails putting thoughts and feelings down on paper, apart from purging the soul in a process sometimes more painful than cathartic. We all want to be read. To be acknowledged for the hours that we have spent struggling over the carefully crafted sentences and the (not so) well-placed verbs and nouns. To be acknowledged for the idea.
So, I guess this blog is about the closest I’m going to come to being published in a long, long while, if at all. For nearly ten years, I’ve fought with the urge to stand on my soapbox and read my diaries aloud even with the knowledge of the consequences.
And finally, I’ve lost.

A very dear friend tells me that she approves of this new move, that she would like to know what goes on in my head. Supposing I disappoint her and fail her expectations? Where would one go from there? It’s a little like not making an audition, I suppose, that skill that you’ve been building up to all these years ends up being something you should never have invested in after all.
But that doesn’t mean you don’t try, either.
So I’m going to try to be a writer, the way I’ve always hoped I might be.
Sure, I’m really scared. But it has to be done sooner or later, before this last surge of Dutch courage deserts me. If it’s bad, at least no one will read it. And if it’s good… well, a girl can hope.

Besides, I figure blogging is a bit like singing in the shower. It won’t affect those who don’t hear it, and those who do hear it must be pretty durn close to you anyway.