Season of Wishing…

Hey, it’s that season again.  and really, I find myself not wanting anything this season.  Except the opportunity to wish you all these things…

Comfort on difficult days

Smiles when sadness intrudes

Rainbows to follow the clouds

Laughter to kiss your lips

Sunsets to warm your heart

Hugs when spirits sag

Beauty for your eyes to see

Friendships to brighten your being

Faith so that you can believe

Confidence for when you doubt

Courage to know yourself

Patience to accept the truth

Love to complete your life

-from an author unknown-

Have a joyful season of wishing and giving everyone!!


Don’t Work. Avoid Telling the Truth. Be Hated. Love Someone.

Excerpted from a Facebook Note and immortalizing in this blog.  Good reminders for living.

Written by Adrian Tan, author of The Teenage Textbook (1988), was the guest-of-honour at a recent NTU convocation ceremony. This was his speech to the graduating class of 2008.

I must say thank you to the faculty and staff of the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information for inviting me to give your convocation address. It’s a wonderful honour and a privilege for me to speak here for ten minutes without fear of contradiction, defamation or retaliation. I say this as a Singaporean and more so as a husband.

My wife is a wonderful person and perfect in every way except one. She is the editor of a magazine. She corrects people for a living. She has honed her expert skills over a quarter of a century, mostly by practising at home during conversations between her and me.

On the other hand, I am a litigator. Essentially, I spend my day telling people how wrong they are. I make my living being disagreeable.

Nevertheless, there is perfect harmony in our matrimonial home. That is because when an editor and a litigator have an argument, the one who triumphs is always the wife.

And so I want to start by giving one piece of advice to the men: when you’ve already won her heart, you don’t need to win every argument.

Marriage is considered one milestone of life. Some of you may already be married. Some of you may never be married. Some of you will be married. Some of you will enjoy the experience so much, you will be married many, many times. Good for you.

The next big milestone in your life is today: your graduation. The end of education. You’re done learning.

You’ve probably been told the big lie that “Learning is a lifelong process” and that therefore you will continue studying and taking masters’ degrees and doctorates and professorships and so on. You know the sort of people who tell you that? Teachers. Don’t you think there is some measure of conflict of interest? They are in the business of learning, after all. Where would they be without you? They need you to be repeat customers.

The good news is that they’re wrong.

The bad news is that you don’t need further education because your entire life is over. It is gone. That may come as a shock to some of you. You’re in your teens or early twenties. People may tell you that you will live to be 70, 80, 90 years old. That is your life expectancy.

I love that term: life expectancy. We all understand the term to mean the average life span of a group of people. But I’m here to talk about a bigger idea, which is what you expect from your life.

You may be very happy to know that Singapore is currently ranked as the country with the third highest life expectancy. We are behind Andorra and Japan, and tied with San Marino. It seems quite clear why people in those countries, and ours, live so long. We share one thing in common: our football teams are all hopeless. There’s very little danger of any of our citizens having their pulses raised by watching us play in the World Cup. Spectators are more likely to be lulled into a gentle and restful nap.

Singaporeans have a life expectancy of 81.8 years. Singapore men live to an average of 79.21 years, while Singapore women live more than five years longer, probably to take into account the additional time they need to spend in the bathroom.

So here you are, in your twenties, thinking that you’ll have another 40 years to go. Four decades in which to live long and prosper.

Bad news. Read the papers. There are people dropping dead when they’re 50, 40, 30 years old. Or quite possibly just after finishing their convocation. They would be very disappointed that they didn’t meet their life expectancy.

I’m here to tell you this. Forget about your life expectancy.

After all, it’s calculated based on an average. And you never, ever want to expect being average.

Revisit those expectations. You might be looking forward to working, falling in love, marrying, raising a family. You are told that, as graduates, you should expect to find a job paying so much, where your hours are so much, where your responsibilities are so much.

That is what is expected of you. And if you live up to it, it will be an awful waste.

If you expect that, you will be limiting yourself. You will be living your life according to boundaries set by average people. I have nothing against average people. But no one should aspire to be them. And you don’t need years of education by the best minds in Singapore to prepare you to be average.

What you should prepare for is mess. Life’s a mess. You are not entitled to expect anything from it. Life is not fair. Everything does not balance out in the end. Life happens, and you have no control over it. Good and bad things happen to you day by day, hour by hour, moment by moment. Your degree is a poor armour against fate.

Don’t expect anything. Erase all life expectancies. Just live. Your life is over as of today. At this point in time, you have grown as tall as you will ever be, you are physically the fittest you will ever be in your entire life and you are probably looking the best that you will ever look. This is as good as it gets. It is all downhill from here. Or up. No one knows.

What does this mean for you? It is good that your life is over.

Since your life is over, you are free. Let me tell you the many wonderful things that you can do when you are free.

The most important is this: do not work.

Work is anything that you are compelled to do. By its very nature, it is undesirable.

Work kills. The Japanese have a term “Karoshi”, which means death from overwork. That’s the most dramatic form of how work can kill. But it can also kill you in more subtle ways. If you work, then day by day, bit by bit, your soul is chipped away, disintegrating until there’s nothing left. A rock has been ground into sand and dust.

There’s a common misconception that work is necessary. You will meet people working at miserable jobs. They tell you they are “making a living”. No, they’re not. They’re dying, frittering away their fast-extinguishing lives doing things which are, at best, meaningless and, at worst, harmful.

People will tell you that work ennobles you, that work lends you a certain dignity. Work makes you free. The slogan “Arbeit macht frei” was placed at the entrances to a number of Nazi concentration camps. Utter nonsense.

Do not waste the vast majority of your life doing something you hate so that you can spend the small remainder sliver of your life in modest comfort. You may never reach that end anyway.

Resist the temptation to get a job. Instead, play. Find something you enjoy doing. Do it. Over and over again. You will become good at it for two reasons: you like it, and you do it often. Soon, that will have value in itself.

I like arguing, and I love language. So, I became a litigator. I enjoy it and I would do it for free. If I didn’t do that, I would’ve been in some other type of work that still involved writing fiction – probably a sports journalist.

So what should you do? You will find your own niche. I don’t imagine you will need to look very hard. By this time in your life, you will have a very good idea of what you will want to do. In fact, I’ll go further and say the ideal situation would be that you will not be able to stop yourself pursuing your passions. By this time you should know what your obsessions are. If you enjoy showing off your knowledge and feeling superior, you might become a teacher.

Find that pursuit that will energise you, consume you, become an obsession. Each day, you must rise with a restless enthusiasm. If you don’t, you are working.

Most of you will end up in activities which involve communication. To those of you I have a second message: be wary of the truth. I’m not asking you to speak it, or write it, for there are times when it is dangerous or impossible to do those things. The truth has a great capacity to offend and injure, and you will find that the closer you are to someone, the more care you must take to disguise or even conceal the truth. Often, there is great virtue in being evasive, or equivocating. There is also great skill. Any child can blurt out the truth, without thought to the consequences. It takes great maturity to appreciate the value of silence.

In order to be wary of the truth, you must first know it. That requires great frankness to yourself. Never fool the person in the mirror.

I have told you that your life is over, that you should not work, and that you should avoid telling the truth. I now say this to you: be hated.

It’s not as easy as it sounds. Do you know anyone who hates you? Yet every great figure who has contributed to the human race has been hated, not just by one person, but often by a great many. That hatred is so strong it has caused those great figures to be shunned, abused, murdered and in one famous instance, nailed to a cross.

One does not have to be evil to be hated. In fact, it’s often the case that one is hated precisely because one is trying to do right by one’s own convictions. It is far too easy to be liked, one merely has to be accommodating and hold no strong convictions. Then one will gravitate towards the centre and settle into the average. That cannot be your role. There are a great many bad people in the world, and if you are not offending them, you must be bad yourself. Popularity is a sure sign that you are doing something wrong.

The other side of the coin is this: fall in love.

I didn’t say “be loved”. That requires too much compromise. If one changes one’s looks, personality and values, one can be loved by anyone.

Rather, I exhort you to love another human being. It may seem odd for me to tell you this. You may expect it to happen naturally, without deliberation. That is false. Modern society is anti-love. We’ve taken a microscope to everyone to bring out their flaws and shortcomings. It far easier to find a reason not to love someone, than otherwise. Rejection requires only one reason. Love requires complete acceptance. It is hard work – the only kind of work that I find palatable.

Loving someone has great benefits. There is admiration, learning, attraction and something which, for the want of a better word, we call happiness. In loving someone, we become inspired to better ourselves in every way. We learn the truth worthlessness of material things. We celebrate being human. Loving is good for the soul.

Loving someone is therefore very important, and it is also important to choose the right person. Despite popular culture, love doesn’t happen by chance, at first sight, across a crowded dance floor. It grows slowly, sinking roots first before branching and blossoming. It is not a silly weed, but a mighty tree that weathers every storm.
You will find, that when you have someone to love, that the face is less important than the brain, and the body is less important than the heart.

You will also find that it is no great tragedy if your love is not reciprocated. You are not doing it to be loved back. Its value is to inspire you.

Finally, you will find that there is no half-measure when it comes to loving someone. You either don’t, or you do with every cell in your body, completely and utterly, without reservation or apology. It consumes you, and you are reborn, all the better for it.

Don’t work. Avoid telling the truth. Be hated. Love someone.

Life on a Whim

Lately, I’ve been doing many random things. I take the day and go with whatever it decides to inspire me with. I realize this should mean I have more to write about but as I am drifted through events I actually find less hours to actually write. That will change soon, I hope. As I am mesmerized with the beauty and vigor of life, I will force myself to write more so you may share in the whirlwinds that I flop myself into.

Last week, I took a trip out to greet a good friend on his birthday, after the many trips he’s taken out to see me on my birthdays and many other random days. It was a surprise visit that coincided with a business trip. And I will always cherish his amused face when he saw me at their office reception area supposedly to sign for his package. (I really should have worn a bow.) And within that same trip, I went to see Lady Gaga on a whim because she was playing at the arena near my hotel. Yes, I found tickets that were neither outrageous nor skyhigh. And I got Gaga-fied with a good friend. It was the first time for me to be amazed and disturbed at the same time.

And today, I bought tickets for a weekend in the streets of San Francisco — munching on nothing but awesome street food. It brings me pride that my country’s fares will be represented thanks to the adobohobo, sisig and hapasf trucks that will be there. It makes me excited to know that I will also get to try other cultures’ cuisine, in what I always say is the local way to enjoy things — streeting it. and all because twitter, email and everything else led me to it.

so in reverence to what i did earlier this year in trekking half the world over to fangirl in a foreign place, I present this side of me — the girl who is not scared to do things on a whim as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone or harm anything.

random is revived.

Learning Curves

Recently, I’ve been spending many sleepless nights trying to do something I’m not really familiar with. Unknown territory, if you may. But I feel the passion I have for it and I am reminded of summer days in my youth when I pursued different activities. Fueled by a purpose — to right a wrong and to pursue new ground, it makes me feel that the sleepless nights, the migraine, the weight loss may not be all worth it. But, my mind won’t rest until it is complete, and the learning curve is too steep.

But now that everything is slowly being accomplished, I look back at the events of the last two weeks. I am not sure if I have turned into a better me. I just know that I discovered new skills or talents I never knew existed. I am overwhelmed with the love of friends who have supported me in this endeavor or who have not demanded much from me when I tried to focus on this project. How I can always come back to their understanding and loving arms is still a concept I find difficult to grasp. So I stopped seeking to understand and just bask in gratitude that I have been blessed with such friendship. I feel somewhat guilty for feeling like I’ve neglected them over the last few weeks, and admittedly I yearn for my old life somewhat.

Armed with new skills, I know I cannot go back to who I was before the last two weeks. But I know I can rest now, the learning curve is beginning to smooth and the incline is becoming manageable. Maybe for one more day I will burn the midnight oil. But, with how things have shaped up to where they are, I have more reason to be proud of how far we’ve come. And that’s when I can close my eyes, breathe a sigh and think that everything will be just fine.


So, I’m officially back from a trip to Seoul and Tokyo. Back to the reality I call life. Was able to post my photos up on Facebook for some people and still scanning through some other photos that I probably will share later through this post.

Today, I went to lunch with my boss and a client and I realize how I missed home, San Francisco, too. It took a few glances to nearby tables and passersby on the street for me to realize that even though I’ve had loads of fun in the foreign places I visited, home still had my heart.

And I also realized that when I was faraway, although I had three cameras on me, the best part of my trip was not the ones I took a shot of, but rather montages frozen in time as my mom and I were on the subway, hailing a cab, crossing the street, figuring out where to eat and plain wondering where the road was leading.

One of my best memories of Tokyo was of the students in uniform, not yet in their teens and en route to home from school riding the Metro. I remember the innocence of childhood and was amazed at the early sense of responsibility and independence that these kids were being given.
And that of the young lady staff at our favorite breakfast nook, and how happily she went pointing out the fresh bread and trying to distinguish them for us in however little English she knew. I sensed that she was proud with what she was doing and was happy to see people appreciate her city or even just spend that little time in the early AM rush with her.

I remember also the lady by the cruise dock in Hakone, by the souvenir shop, how she neatly tucked away the goods we purchased and made sure that we had individual wrappers for them for gift-giving back home. She reminds me of my grandma, who was home at that time, the thoughtfulness and the simplicity by which it came just touches my heart. I can say the same about the young lady at the donut place in the train station, on how she offered a bigger bag so we can carry our other things together, even though we only bought a few donuts from her. Such generosity really leaves an impression on me.

These are memories I had hoped I took a photo of, but I am sure I captured in the camera in my heart.

In Seoul, a similar thing occurred. I tried to snap as many photos as I could but can only remember the story behind the photos. Like on our way to Garden 5, on the long train ride (tell me how I must trek 1 hour transferring train lines just to get to this complex), there were bits and pieces of memory I tucked safely. Of this older couple carrying bags, likely from a shopping trip. How Ahjumma (older lady) organized the bags Ahjussi (older man) carried so she can take them as Ahjussi gave her the only seat available. So Ahjussi can stand and hold on to the train handles comfortably. And this young couple who were looking at their mobile phones laughing like they had nary a care of people around them.
And I remember the concierge person on our first adventure out, how he took the subway map from my hands and doodled the easier route and the longer route and scribbled on the hotel business card and explained how I can call the hotel if we ever get lost.
Or the bus driver on the night line for the bus going down Mt Namsan, that’s while my mom was freaking out that we were officially stranded, who sweetly told me “De.” (Hangul for Yes) as I asked him if he was passing by our area in the little Hangul I knew. Ah, the sweet picture of safety.

And the taxi driver on our way to Myeongdong Cathedral and how he bravely navigated the crowded streets with a cool head — with confused pedestrians and drivers of other cars parked the wrong way littering his way.

Or the seller at the shop stall who actually did the bargaining for me when I told her, in slow English, the things I bought were selling for less at another shop. She pretended she didn’t understand, I pretended I gave up and didn’t care how much it will be. Only to the end she rings my purchase with a discount and a freebie. Such love. And such guilt on my part as I tried to compare her price with 3 other shops in the same vicinity and found out they were priced the same.

Or Kim, from the eyeglass shop, how can I forget her. My new chinggu-yah. How when we came back from our ATM hunt, and before I could hand her the money for our payment, she quietly takes my mom’s and my sunglasses away from our hands and takes them to the spectacle cleaner and cleaned them like they were her own.

As these memories form in my head, I feel like the heavens were sending me angels on this trip, to teach me something ordinary and see the extraordinary in them. And no matter how uncoordinated my memories are, I just want to immortalize it somewhere. Here. As I write from home, writing these memoirs from that East Asian summer. And all my frustrations of the humidity is lost and all I remember is love.

Fan Meetings

So, what’s a fangirl to do after being sick on a trip and after a fanmeeting? Well, what else, but blog!

It was my first time ever to fangirl half the world over and it was quite an interesting experience.  The Tokyo humidity was making it a rather very peculiar day and I can feel that everyone’s moods, the actors and audience, were dampening because of the heat and muggy clouds.  Well all that aside, I want to try and remember everything that happened but since I didn’t write notes I just want to write about the general feeling I had observing these two people – Jang Keun Seuk and Park Shin Hye.  After all, I understood neither Hangul or Nihonggo, so I was basing it all on body language.

So before I spazz, criticize, observe, analyze, I must first give credit where credit is due.  Many many thanks to Mee Xiong and the mods and admins of Park Shin Hye International Community for letting me and my mom take two of the tickets for the fanmeeting they had secured.  I’m sure there must be other people who would’ve wanted to watch both sessions but had to give it up for my mom and me.  So, for that I will be eternally grateful — for the chance to meet new friends and for the opportunity to experience this at least once in my lifetime.

And here are my observations —

– Park Shin Hye and Jang Keun Seuk were both beautiful people – inside and out.  As I’ve always observed with Shin Hye, she is a very transparent person – can easily radiate warmth, sweetness in the room around her.  I found Jang Keun Seuk to be jovial and does exhibit a certain leadership in his interactions with Shin Hye.

– Singing Still in the intro, Park Shin Hye came in with Jang Keun Seuk.  She was a bit shy at first but was trying her best to get out of her shell and mingle with the fans.  I felt there was something that happened in that 2 PM session or prior the 2 PM session that rendered Shin Hye out of her element.  She was not super perky but she did try very hard, and there were emotional vids that can bring her close enough to tears.

– Jang Keun Seuk was being a gentleman throughout the whole session.   It seemed as if they were close enough to each other that he knew and understood what she was going through and was helping hold her up to be at her best for this outing.  Keun Seuk can be transparent too as we all know, but he didn’t show any sign of being annoyed.  Very supportive. Every inch a leader.

– Was there distance between the two friends?  I didn’t feel it in this session.  It seems they have a very solid friendship where one can hold the other up as needed.  The sweet parts where Keun Seuk would tease Shin Hye  or when they would spazz together over videos of great scenes show me that there’s a unique bond between them.

There was a part after her dance number when she looked like she was saying that her long boots was making it difficult for her to dance.  And Keun Seuk was pointing out at her legs.  Since I don’t understand what he said, I took the body language to say that Keun Seuk was teasing her for being shy to show off her legs. That kind of banter really lit the room up.

-Did they reveal anything about what their relationship was exactly?  This is where I sensed the most tension.  The crowd in the auditorium was majority Jang Keun Seuk’s fans, and as I tweeted it felt like the crowd was 9:1 JKS fans vs. Shin Hye’s fans.  Maybe that’s an exaggeration but it did feel like that. Yet, even in the midst of Keun Seuk’s very loyal fans, he was looking out after Shin Hye.  Letting her speak first when the questions were directed at both of them.  Listening to her when she spoke and answered questions for her.  Played to the tune of the same music with her when they were watching the scenes, and at times even spazz confidently for the both of them, even if Shin Hye was being careful.

I think she had good reason to be careful since Keun Seuk is very adorable and definitely a ladies’ man.  Showing lots of affection towards each other was sure to attract the ire of some uncompromising Eels (term for Keun Seuk’s fans).  So, Shin Hye was trying to play safe.  Keun Seuk played along for the most part, but when appropriate stood up for the both of them to enjoy reminiscing memories from the drama or in shipper-language, to show the world where his heart belonged.  He provided her the necessary confidence boost whenever she looked “off” during the session.

-Singing “What Do I Do?” –  I had a feeling this was a very important song to sing for the perfectionist Jang Keun Seuk.  Coming on the heels of a rough attempt at this song from the Hong Kong FM last week, he wanted this particular version to be perfect.  He had reason to because they were made to re-enact the drama finale after his singing.  It was a delight for the fans – his coming off-stage to meet Shin Hye in the audience.

-Individual performances in the 2nd half.  I am proud of Park Shin Hye in her particular medley of performances.  She danced gracefully.  She sang like a nightingale.  She was glowing.  But I did see her eyes being a little nervous doing her performances.  But during her solo interview after singing Lovely Day, the confident Shin Hye was in the room.  She answered the questions in this warm, feminine way she always did in interviews while holding her head up as if she knew what she was all about.

-One thing I wanted to note is the choice of wardrobe for Park Shin Hye in the 1st and 2nd act.  I didn’t see Mi Nyu or Mi Nam for the most part, instead I saw Jang Keun Seuk’s ideal girl.  If you’ve been closely following this couple,  you would know what I mean.  Shin Hye was ever present as this renaissance-like, feminine, wavy haired girl that attracts Keun Seuk.  I thought that if wardrobes meant something for couples, this could be your confirmation.  The stylist made sure that in this outing the Keun Seuk-Shin Hye shipping crowd will remember that ideal picture.  And if they are not genuinely in a close relationship, I wouldn’t understand the need to do that.

-Keun Seuk’s swollen wrist and Shin Hye left to high-five the fans.  Although I do believe the Keun Seuk wrist thing, I also thought that it was good strategy for Shin Hye to interact with the crowd.  Although some rude uncompromising Keun Seuk fans left and opted to miss the opportunity to shake her hand (good riddance to them), I thought that Keun Seuk taking a backseat for this fan interaction was something only a great friend would have suggested.   In Shin Hye’s first international outing and with the disproportion in fans to consider, Keun Seuk took the high road by opting out.  It gave Shin Hye a chance to shine and be in touch with her fans and others who can be her fans.  And she did not disappoint, she was very pleasant high-fiving people and shaking her fans’ hands (myself included).  The “Thank You” in English she gave me as she shook my hand was a super treat.  It made all the humidity and the exhaustion and the trouble all worth it.

So, was Shin Hye sad?  Well, maybe photos I took were from the wrong angles, but her eyes do give away a little bit of that vibe in photos and videos.  Probably tired from Cyrano Agency shooting.  Probably not liking the humid weather (I can understand this!) But if there was a legitimate sadness about it, I would probably attribute it to the need to reminisce some memories she comfortably tucked away.  If you all remember, she had some cooling off period from her Go Mi Nam character early in the year.  Likely at that time, she didn’t know she would be asked to relive it somehow again six months later.  And perhaps the memory of that struggle dampened her mood.  Yet, she is quick to pick up on her feet as she felt secure around Jang Keun Seuk — like someone respected, adored, understood.

Overall, for a first fan meeting amid annoying weather in a foreign land with a foreign language, this has been a memorable experience worthy of 4 stars (I’d give it 5 if I didn’t have gripes, but I did and I don’t like to talk about gripes).

Will I do the same craziness again?  (As my mom’s eyes read as she saw me crazily spazzing right after my camera got whisked away for disobeying rules)

Without batting an eyelash, Yes.

After taking a few breaths to think straight, yes, but I must apply lessons learned for the next one.

Park Shin Hye and Jang Keun Seuk, for being beautiful, for doing beautifully to make this a worthwhile experience, kamsahamnida!

Tokyo, you’ve been rough, but not entirely forgettable.  You’ve taught me a lot. And for that, I’ll forever associate you with being a fan, being crazy, taking risks and going out of comfort zones. And if you know me, that’s not entirely a bad thing.

Sunshine Days

The sun was out today. I remembered to pack my camera before I went to work. For summer hours, instead of going home, I decided to take a walk at the marina nearby our office.

I can still hear the highway from here and the planes taking off from the nearby airport. I came across a few office workers taking a stroll, exchanged a smile or two. And just took pictures. Of weeds dancing in the wind. Of bees skipping over yellow flowers. Of ducks frolicking in the bay. Boats in harbor at a nearby dock.

Amid the highway still buzzing and my office building still in sight between tree branches, I find a tranquil spot. The world was temporarily at a standstill. With just me and my camera, I was able to refresh a fading heart. I will be back. Soon. Definitely.