"The happiest place on earth"

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Saturday, November 30, 2002

Gizmo was the good Mogwai. Stripe was the evil one.

[Ed: There was an evil one?!

Drawing on my powers to add parasitic appendages:

What the hell is this?!

"I told you before, didn't I? You must use soya sauce with fried eggs!"

"hailing from the Soya Bean star ..."

"his finishing move is the Kikko-punch!"]
Ah. Parents out of town this weekend; another weekend of privacy and brooding! Such blessing makes my cilia all a-quiver with delight. In the meantime, I realise that it's coming nigh onto a full year since I came back home. More of my friends are becoming productive economic biomass for the capitalist grinder (ie. graduating). And still more are coming home for their holidays. The wheel turns.

Cousins coming back and we're heading out later tonight for a drink or two. It'll be good to meet up - I have some techincal PC issues I need some help with, and this cousin's a LAN-god from Perth.

And in the meantime, guess who's gonna be givin' Saddam a whuppin'?

Inspector's Resignation Rejected by U.N.'s Blix

"Chief United Nations weapons inspector Hans Blix rejected yesterday a resignation offer tendered by one of his Iraq-bound inspectors after reports appeared that the Virginia man lacked a specialized degree and has played a leadership role in sadomasochistic sex clubs.

McGeorge founded, and has been an officer in, several sadomasochistic sex groups, through which he has taught courses on "sex slaves" and various techniques involving knives, ropes and choking devices. He had said that he would offer his resignation if The Washington Post wrote about his S&M background. On Thursday, the Post reported that McGeorge is a co-founder of Black Rose, a Washington-area S&M club, and a former officer in the Leather Leadership Conference Inc."

Yeh bought $45 of CDs yesterday at Jurong East - finally a reliable shop at a reasonably close location!

Parents leave for Beijing tomorrow and return next Saturday night. I'm off on Monday, Thursday's a rumoured off, Friday's Hari Raya and Saturday's a long weekend.

Mmm. I'll start on Age of Wonders 2 soon.


AOW2 *really* reminds me of Master of Magic - even more so than AOW the original.
Word of the day: "rodomontadic."

Another weekend wasted at work. And it transpires that the proxy server now blocks out this blog AND www.blogger.com. The indignity! Ah well, I guess this means that my blogging activity will be severely curtailed from now on. Today was quite unpleasant; had to stay in until 4pm when everyone had left by noon. Month-end reporting duties; as well as catching up with all the shit I'd been malingering off over the weekdays. I realised ironically that I'd have been better off doing all that work during the working days as opposed to delaying it until the weekend; but oddly enough I'm really more productive on a Saturday when no one else is around. I have a feeling it's to do with the attire; I was wearing a t-shirt and slacks, as opposed to the usual stifling office shirt and tie.

I realise I still have yet to finish my long-winded chronology, two weeks after the events transpired. I'm hurrying as fast as I can, because a lot of interesting things happened on Sunday, but I keep procrastinating and stoning at home/work. And now, it seems I will have to type in Notepad or Word at work before mailing it home to post. Irritating, but maybe it'll breed better proof-reading habits.

In the meantime, comments squared. (Comments on the comments)

a) Someone should compile a page of blogs rated by pretension. Criterion would include amount of Javascript, number of different hues, numbers of frames, length of journal entry titles, and angst-o-meter.

b) Mozilla has slow load times, compared to Internet Explorer. And besides, I prefer functional; AND being able to use enter key after entering passwords into forms instead of having to use tab or click on "enter" buttons.

c) I'm actually quite irritated at the amount of detail I miss out in my blogs. But then again, I concentrate on different things. I don't write about what's going on at work around me - like how we're moving to a new office and it all resembles a warzone and the elaborate trials of locating the water dispenser through the maze of cubicles and desks and wiring as the partitions around our old workspace are being torn down and re-aligned.

d) God bless the British. They gave us Monty Python, Fawlty Towers, Rowan Atkinson, Red Dwarf, Men Behaving Badly, The New Statesman, Yes Prime Minister, Mind Your Language, Goodness Gracious Me, and ALI G! British comedy rocks! Hm. Except for Benny Hill.

e) On honesty: "In courtships, one pretends to be something one is not until your partner loves you for whom you really are." Or, as Lenin put it. "Truth is a rare and precious commodity. Thus, we must be sparing in its use." I can safely say though, that neither treacherous deceit nor brutal honesty have worked out well for me. I'd try decency, but the concept's a bit beyond me.

f) Re: Mogwai - see below:

For some Mogwai context, check this out.

Thursday, November 28, 2002

Word of the day: "scaphism". (*Unbelievably* cool word I came across while browsing through a biography of Saladin.)

Today I don't feel like blogging much, because my bipolar mood orbit is at its perigee - ie. closest to gravitational center. As *grounded* as I ever get.

Had a flurry of work today; not the intense, unrelenting focus on one huge task as it was the last few days, but multiple strands and stages of different projects happened to intersect at various points; resulting in a massive splintering of consciousness from one little challenge to another, every minute. Amidst this chaos, however, as I moved orthogonally within the complex world of tenure limits and parametric VaRs and counterparty lines of credit and PDS sector reclassifications and vol calc. backtests and BIS regulations and liquidity management, as more shrill emails flooded in from my boss and other colleagues demanding information, action, and reports.. amidst all this, I came to a startling conclusion - I was enjoying myself.

I've never actually believed it was possible to enjoy wage drudgery; I was holding on to the belief that it was a good trianing ground, good wages, something to do as a career foundation, a stepping stone to "greater things". But now, I realise, I *like* my job, on the whole. I enjoy what I do. I enjoy the challenge of being good at my job; I enjoy the learning opportunities it provides - and I enjoy the people I work with. I mean, there's always the sian bits; the dull bits, the irritating, flooded-by-work-what-the-fuck-am-I-doing-here-being-a-wage-serf feelings, of course - but by and large, I like my work, and I've just realised that I'm not consoling myself or biding my time or swallowing it down.

It's.. strange. When this kind of pure, limpid, *normal* happiness happens, and you take so damn long to recognize it because you don't remember what it feels like anymore.

Of course, it will fade, and wither, and the despair, as intimate as any lover, will return. It always does. But give me this moment, please?

And today, the conversation was about the ethics of cloning, cryonics, and Mogwai placentas. I mean, how cool is it to work in a place where you can spend half an hour chatting to colleagues about Mogwai placenta?

"See, there's this place in South America, where you have these things that look those.. erm.. those movie buggers. Mogthings that become monsters if you dip them in water -"


" - you mean Gremlins? Mogwai?"

"Yup. Gremlins. Now, anyway, they were showing on National Geographic or one of those documentaries how these Mogwais were banging; and then it showed a female Mogwai giving birth in the trees, and right after a bunch of baby Mogwai popped out, the placenta just oooozed out! And apparently these Amazon people collect it, and it helps keem them young. They say the PM injects some extract of Mogwai placenta everyday to keep himself healthy. A friend of mine also said that in Czechoslovakia, they use a similar extract from some other source that costs about RM25K a jab, but apparently makes you feel 20 years younger..."

"Do these guys look like gremlins or mogwai leh?"

"Hard to tell - they're furry, like Mogwai, but they're bad-tempered vicious little bastards."

"Something like my son lah."
One of my degenerate friends just emailed this to me:

"You need to stop sabotaging your chances with the opposite sex by constantly revealing your psychosis potential and your lack of embarrassment to having an extensive psychiatric history."

More sites for your edification, vox populi, vox Dei.

Great news from around the world.

And man, I really need to upgrade my PC to one of these.

Top Ten Great Britons poll.

I can understand the obvious winner - Winston Churchill. But number 2 was a freaking total surprise! I mean - Isambard Brunel??? Ahead of Diana????? In a PUBLIC British poll?

But I'm not surprised in a bad way - I'm surprised in an *elated* way. Isambard Brunel wouldn't have been my choice, in all honesty, but it proves that there IS hope for the human race after all if people can put civil engineering genius ahead of an aristocratic whore with a sleek fashion sense on the cover of too many magazines.

THIS is what a country needs to rake in a few more medals:

"It is inconceivable that a national Olympic committee that maintains its own prison and torture chambers could remain a member in good standing of the Olympic movement."

Intermezzo Entry:

Today was a good day, because I spent most of it in conversation. About lots of things, with colleagues. One thing I love about my current job, unashamedly; the people I'm around like to talk as well. About all manner of topics. Yesterday we were actually discussing the psychology of Hitler (because I caught the clerk reading Mein Kampf); today it was random disjoint convo about A Brief History of Time, and seguing into some enthusiastic ranting about Gregorian cantos and Basel II regulations. Talk. Talking, chitter, rant, gripe, bitch. It's the shit I *live* for.

Among the topics of discussion was on the moral ethos of success; one of my colleagues has this game-theory inspired idea that people are basically evil. His assertion is thus - if everyone worked together, and obeyed a rational moral code, the world and everyone in it would be much better off. MUCH. (Think Kantian categorical imperative) But, if only a *few* people did all the fucked up, manipulative, and evil things that humans do, at the expense of everyone else, those *few* would benefit greatly while the rest suffered terribly.

If humans were basically good, we'd have worked together to overcome these difficulties for the greater good of all. Our capacity to cooperate for the greater good is evident - witness the formation of governments, religions, institutions, societies.

But because humans are basically evil, everyone tries to get ahead at the expense of everyone else. Massive log-jam. Think Prisoners' Dilemma, or the brief depiction of game theory in A Beautiful Mind where the guys bump into one another. As a result, the world becomes a confused, brutish mess, with knots of self-interest and self-organization in the pursuit of short-term goals.

It occurs to me that if one were to be terribly, really successful, ie. tycoon successful, that meant that you'd have to have trod on a trail of suffering - whether it's the employees you squeezed, the consumers you gulled, or the resources you raped. No one's hands are clean.

So could I do it? Could I live with myself, as a politician, or as a mogul, knowing that the peons working hours and being paid peanuts contribute directly to my neo-Impressionist art collection, the maintenance of my TVR Vanquish, the renovation of my million-dollar bungalow, or the price of sending my children to Eton?

But then again, one of my friends said, "Take care of your family, and don't screw your friends. And don't get caught. That's all you need to live with yourself." Very Godfather:)

"At the end of the day, I think I do more good than harm. What other standard have I got to judge by?"

And I come to the somewhat dry conclusion that I don't mind being corrupt, or parasitic, or screwing over the world for my own immediate gratification. Why bother pretending otherwise by making some huge tax-exempt philantropic donation or mouthing the moral platitudes? But of course, I'm not entirely devoid of moral character. *limpid smile* I mean, I'd still drop a coin in a beggar's bowl now and again. Better to squeeze and exploit; than to be squeezed and exploited. There is only black, or gray. There are only degrees of sinning.
(Not like I'd run a pedophilia ring or smuggle nukes. Maybe AK-47s though)

Other isolated thoughts:

a) George Bush is either a total moron, or the most cunning dictator in recent history. Either he's a gung-ho redneck totin' his nukerler shotgun - or he's effectively emasculated his opposition, imposed an embryonic Gestapo on the American public ("Homeland Security"), and being given an excuse to pillage and reshape the world in an image that promotes the interests of the American cultural and corporate elite whom he cosies up to. Although some of the Bush conspiracy theorists are majorly paranoid and contradictory; the fact is that the Bush family is filthy rich, with money that traces back to the WW2 years and the Thyssen industrial group's laundering of Nazi loot. And that Bush himself and his old man have had lots of corporate skeletons and vested bigwig interests - including direct links to the old BCCI bosses and their backers in the Saud royal family. These same backers who may be an indirect source of funding for various Islamic fundamentalist groups through charitable fronts.

b) Coming from an American university has this rather strange advantage - chances are the numbers of your fellow native countrymen will be reasonably small. Say, 50-60 a year, for a really popular but not exceptionally elite one? (This number can be considerably larger if the uni has a twinning or correspondent course, of course). This means that you can actually get to know almost all of them; it forms a pretty tight core of acquaintances and alumni you can draw on. Whereas in Melbourne, this number was in the *thousands*. One ends up shying away, sticking to a small circle of close friends. There's no real feeling of being.. part of a community.

c) The New Guy at work is an old family friend of mine from years past. We went out for dinner with one of the MDs of the group i work for. (not the merchant bank, the commercial arm). It was an interesting event.. the New Guy happens to be on quite good terms with him. Turns out this guy's application to the merchant bank was handed in through the MD - apparently the bigwig's son studied in the same uni as New Guy. This MD likes to surround himself with young people - mostly his sons' friends. My friend says it's partly because of personality and partly because he's been quite lonely since his wife died of cancer a few years' back and his sons are both still abroad. He was a very nice chap who talked to us as equals. (although not so westernised as to ask us to call him by first name:). Somewhat bizarre; given that top banking executives aren't normally given to hanging out with guys in their twenties, but it was an interesting experience nonetheless.

d) Just how much value-add does coming from a top-tier Ivy League or Oxbridge university provide one anyway? An acquaintance of mine from Duke University is now still unemployed; while another guy from Georgetown is working as a shipping clerk. But I suppose that's a symptom of present economic straitening. Still, someone I know made an interesting observation that coming from an elite university is not just an investment, but it's a self-fulfilling prophecy - the confidence and self-assurance it engenders in you as being part of an elite are what helps you go a long way, more than any real quality differential in education. And of course, the potential for networking, and the increased career options because the good MNCs all recruit straight off the top-tier campuses. Finally, it's also more of an achievement for an international student to get in - I think they need to stand out more 'gainst the Americans who have contextual home-ground advantage. The international students who can play the testimonial/ECA/academic games well enough to get in are the ones with the kind of diligence and quality to excel in the working world anyway, regardless of their educational pedigree. Or, in the case of Malaysia, without a scholarship caste, it means that you're wealthy enough - and the opportunities that an expensive, exclusive education provides is one of the ways which wealth and power is self-perpetuating.

e) I wouldn't mind being a corrupt politician; because all politicians are corrupt, in one way or another, but I think I could do a *better* job with a slightly lowered level of corruption.

f) I'm taking an awfully long time to do a lot of things at work these days. Urge to productivity seems to have slowed down. Nevermind; as long as the boss doesn't notice. But the world is such a grim place these days, that one can read the news for hours, fixated by the insanity (like the Nigerian Miss World riots), the absurdity (http://www.miami.com/mld/miami/news/weird_news/4609175.htm), or just the evil (http://www.pjstar.com/news/luciano/g137071a.html.

Wednesday, November 27, 2002

(Blogger cut me off in mid-rant. Just fucking great; it's bad enough when everyone I know does it to me; now even the machines have turned on me. This is projacient from the previous entry - I'm not being more incoherent than usual.)

Mustered sufficient coherence to proceed to interview. The building was a gargantuan edifice to the free flow of global capital; I was struck by how much the interior matched precisely how I always imagined Howard Roark's designs to be like. It's all the brutal, neoliberal economic certainty; the imposing, faux-Gothic sweep of rigid, efficient, corporate aesthetic. "Socialist realism", I think it's called. And there's a lot of the kind of marble/granite/bronze corporate art that's just waiting for a Tyler Durden to smash over.

There was a direct transit elevator on a mezzanine above the lobby with only two buttons -"2" and "37". Inside the elevator was fine-grained teak; usual burnished metal framings, and, charmingly, a television set to the Bloomberg channel. I suppose a few million dollars could be made in the seconds it takes to get from one floor to another; the bigwigs responsbile for billions of OPM ("Other People's Money") take their informational needs seriously. Although the growing ubiquity of television screens *everywhere* in Singapore is a bit weird. Maybe it's anoter mind control trick by the government; doesn't even have to be as outlandish as subliminal radio messages (although those are there, yes indeedy they are, quick wrap your head in aluminium foil! Gladwrap is your saviour as well!) - it could simply be that a tired population, sitting on public transport, staring slack-jawed at moving pictures on a screen is kept too mentally stupefied to fulminate unrest.

Anyway, arrived at the 37th floor, where the ceiling was cunningly arched somewhat akin to the proportions of Westminster Abbey. Directly down the corridor leading off the lift were stairs vaulting to Empyrean heights (thanks to a trick of curvature in the walls that made a corridor with steps take on the dimensions of the Parthenon), a massive portico framed in black marble, and a huge wooden monstrosity which seemed to span the horizon that served as a reception desk. Above this was an elaborate overhanging tapestry/frieze of some sort with the corporate insignia emblazoned on it.

They appeared to be quite taken with the Hellenic tradition, as one of the Erinyes served as their receptionist. Or so it seemed, only instead of a whip and torch, she was holding a pen and clipboard, and had a rather stylish woollen gray jumper/garment thingie in lieu of a tunic of flayed skins. And the serpentine hair was held firmly in place by a massive ivory clip. I did discern an ermine, demonic gleam in her eyes though. Or maybe that was because, after emerging from the muted, halogen lighting of the lift, I was blinded by the wall of sheer plate glass behind the reception, letting in the quotidian sunlight almost unfiltered. Probably to highlight the already imposing effect of the reception and hallway; thus forcing a supplicant for investment funds to drop his gaze in blinded reverence.

Anyway, Alecto addressed abruptly (alliteration is like binging on burgers; "going down, it's good, coming back up, it's not so good.") "What can I do for you, sir?"

After undergoing the whole presenting of credentials ritual: "Ah yes, Mr XXX is exPECTing you. (heavy emphasis on the middle syllable - a rather bizarre MittelEuropean accent I couldn't place) Would you laaahk a moment to freshen yourself up? (Less than subtle hint that my hair was a tad dishevelled by all the hand rubbing through it in the wake of losing cheque)."

The toilet was one of the more grandiose, six-star hotel marble, mahogany and glazed porcelain affairs with complicated faucets and eerily ostentatious IR sensors blinking rapidly over every urinal.

Was guided to another bank of lifts, and this time transported up to an ergonomically well-designed workspace, without the ostentation of the facade downstairs. Unfortunately, I only passed one set of glass security doors, and was immediately steered to a very compact meeting room. It would have been interesting to see what cubicles at a first tier investment banking outfit were like. A wireless hub was positioned in the middle of the desk; somehow I had a feeling this wasn't a company that scrimped on issuing wireless LAN adapters to every single staff member. Not to mention a superb view of the Golden Shoe skyline.

There was a whiteboard on a wall. Most whiteboards have a little metal shelf for the markers. These whiteboards (at least this specimen) have these strangely carved wooden, curling shelf thing, like an embouchure sucking on the edge of a metal sheet.

Was greeted by the Vice-President for Human Resources; an impressive title at first, until I later learned that the corporate career structure is Associate -> Junior Vice President -> Senior Vice President.

She was this rather cute chick, in a highly articulate yet vacant manner. The kind who uses the same breathy tone to enthuse about stuffed toys and/or the power of Kafka's prose to capture the poisoned, modern human condition. (I would be treated to both, over the conversational span that followed.)

Now, in order to crush all suspense, the ultimate outcome of this interview was made clear when I learned this fact after 20 minutes - 1 position, approx. 500 applicants.

Having made clear the futility of the situation, I shall now proceed.

Basically the first 45 minutes was the real serious stuff; describing my resume, qualifications, job experience, working life, a few practiced opportunities where I artfully slipped in some of the pre-memorised crap one vomits out at interviews, "yes, I'm highly fasincated by REITs, and I'm aware that you're is a very active player in the American mezzanine debt market..." "oh, I'd be perfectly willing to work in any capacity that you see fit because I believe that an organization like yours will provide excellent opportunities to learn and build my career on..." "oh and i'd lick your cunt too, repeatedly, if you'd hire me. That includes your harpy of a receptionist as well."

Anyway, the remaining two hours of our time together was spent making lots of bloody small talk. I suppose it's an effective interviewing tactic; in order to know more about a person, you lower their defenses, engage them in conversation, get afeel for their personality. Still, it was made very clear to me early on that my chances were effectively snowball + Hell, Gabriel + tact, irc + grammar, GEPpers + intelligence, me + sanity kind of odds. Was consequently not very eager to stick around and prolong the agony of having to be neat, presentable, well-heeled, and maintaining rigid control over a variety of bodily fluids and sounds.

However, the verdammt perky HR chick went ON and ON about a variety of topics too picayune to describe here. Some highlights however:

"Oh I'm really passionate about Australian universities! I used to cover Australian universities for the Min. of Manpower! And I think they really produce great education at an affordable cost for Asian students!"

"I like modernist stuff like T.S Eliot, that sort of thing!"

"I was from NUS Arts! Eng. Lit and Soci!"

"Oh, there's always some tension at work, but we're a great crew and everyone's really nice!"

(and my personal favourite)

"I really really really (yes, she said 'really' 3 times) hate it when people think we're a snooty employer! It's like, I get really annoyed when people come up to me and say, "oh, we probably won't get hired because we're not from Ivy League or Oxbridge". That's not true! Often employers like to look for so-called second-tier university students because they haven't go much ego issues and have less inflated expectations! (an element of truth here, I must admit) We even have senior VPs from not-so-prestigious universities like Macquarie! Everyone has a chance!"

(Note: the senior VP from Macquarie University, whom I've met before, had about 15 years work experience before joining)

I'm torn between wondering if she's that fucking na�ve, or if she thinks I'm that fucking stupid. Either way, at that point in time, it took great zanshin to be able to hold back my insane, octave-climbing peals of laughter. If nothing else, the rabid flecks of saliva spewing from my convulsing, hysterical lips would have caused her mascara to run.

I might add that I've seen some of their people in action, and if I recall, the least qualified fresh graduate on the team was a Masters holder from Princeton. Structural engineering. AND I've had some rather amusing encounters with their scholars before. ("Oh, we just heard there was a party with lots of scholars. Who's the birthday girl ah?" Really. I kid you not.)

After this farce, I languished around outside the building by some fountains, idly lazing and people-watching, frenziedly trying to finish my cigarettes. At this juncture, I had nowhere to go, at least until the lat evening. As I lay nearly supine on a branch, watching the trail of ashes, tie off and shirt rumpled, it occurred to me, really, that there are moments like this worth fighting for. Moments where the bleak, cryptic emptiness of life and boredom become so intimately familiar that it's almost exactly like a moment of perfect peace.

I threw some keropok to a few pigeons I saw alight in front of me, but none of them took the bait.

Eventually, I bestirred myself to take a cab back to my friend's place. This was inspired by my fifteenth phone call to Comfort only to be told: "Noone'sreportedinanything yete'reverysorrythankyouforcallingoodbye" - and a fervent hope that Singaporean rubbish collectors weren't as efficient as they were supposed to be.

Back at the Serangoon Gardens roundabout, I scoured the pavements more out of desperation that with any real hope for success. However as they say, it is darkest just before the dawn - for lying in a gutter just next to where I had a caught a cab that morning... I found it! - the envelope in which the cheque was contained! Joy!

This joy quickly turned to horror when I realised it was half submerged in filthy rainwater, and I quickly fished it out and delicately peeled off the rotting, water-ravaged envelope. It was an "Oh Lord; if there is a Lord - save my soul; if I have a soul to save."-moment.

As I hoped, the envelope had provided SOME protection - most of the cheque was still relatively dry and undamaged, apart from looking a little crumpled. BUT right along the MICR (the little row of computer-printed numbers at the bottom that identify the bank, branch and account number) a tiny chunk of paper had been macerated away - with about two digits of the account number. ARGH. Still, at least I had *something* to work with, and could avoid having to lie about how I got robbed and sodomised by Bangala construction workers with a bill-of-exchange fetish.

I stumped off dejectedly back to friend's house, hung up cheque to dry on some clothes pegs, and tried to read some trashy Anne Rice novel to take mind off things. When friend came home, he gazed at the cheque hanging off a jury-rigged clothesline strung from the cupboard to the desk, and deigned to comment.

At 9pm, I grabbed my sling bag, and headed out to my next saprophytic haven; another poor bastard who wasn't working on Saturday. Thanking my current host and his parents profusely, I made my way over to One Fullerton where I was supposed to meet up for drinks at Embargo. Obviously, my next victim was late, as my associates always are (should start imposing punctuality requirements when making new friends, grumble grumble), and I spent some time sitting quietly reading on the steps just outside Centro. I received a few quizzical looks from the assorted party butterflies, lians, and yuppies - clearly literacy was not a prized quality in that social context.

Noted that the new Arts Center at the Esplanade did not resemble a durian as it did a.. jackfruit.

Friend showed up, finally, sporting, much to my amusement, a tattoo on right arm. Once again, my familiars fall prey to moral turpitude. Am I doomed to be the last bastion of moral righteousness in a sea of iniquity? Maybe I should consider entering the clergy. Although it was quite a nice motif; a stylized black sun with appropriately elaborate corona.

We sat around, talking. Ah, talk. Sometimes I swear I would rather die than lose the opportunity for conversation. "I like talking. But I hate socialising." Chitterchatter, chitterchatter - the garbage rattling out of my mouth; or the weirdnesses I let filter into my head - anything's better than sitting listening to silences echo inside my own skull. Made some barbed comments about how bitchy all female lawyers look (a group of young corporate lawyers were at the next table).

"I swear, sometimes I think Lee and Lee imports these bitches by the cartload straight from NUS Law."

The last thing I remember that night was a rather expensive cocktail called Frustration. It was similar to a Flaming Lamborghini; the bartender ignites a shot glass of Baccardi 151 (76.5% alcohol! I've seen websites suggesting it as a bathtub cleaner.) and drops it into a huge glass comprising of "every liquor on the shelf plus a shot of Stella Artois." A pity, because we were having the usual flimflammery of good chatter up til then, and usual bitchy observations of the people and world around us, before everything became a gray haze.

As to what happened next - well. I'll get onto Saturday's long and convoluted rant soon enough.
Word of the day: "stylite"

Last weekend was spent the way the special occasion was supposed to be spent - primarily alone, consuming my neurons in an igneous ardour of writing, reading, and computer-game-playing. Finally completed Mechwarrior: Mercenaries; what is it about 100-tonne walking tanks that so stimulates the male imagination?:) Was actually inspired enough to dig up old Battletech sourcebooks and whip through a few hours of the original PC game Crescent Hawks' Inception - ah. I remember when, in primary school, before Ral Partha took over the model franchise and FASA becamse another Microsoft whore, there was only one guy in my class who actually had Battletech figurines. It was incredibly fun moving those classic mechs: Commando, Locust, Chameleon, Phoenix Hawk - through their paces. Nowadays everyone knows what a Mad Cat is, but who remembers the good old Catapult? In any case - yeah. DFA!

Christ almighty, more example of human degeneracy.

*raves* No matter how much sick, whack, twisted, shit there is out there, no matter how many times I tell myself that nothing on the Net fazes me anymore, not the scheisse videos, the refluxophiliacs, the Satanic pedophilia, the incest stories, tentacle-fucking anime, but THIS -!

Someday I will re-post the link to the Smurf porn websites, and, if I can find it again, Enid Blyton gay fanfiction. The latter is not for the faint of heart, because it involves multiple-partners (most of Toyland), inter-racial (golliwog + everyone else), and prosthetics (Noddy is *wooden* for good reason..).

Books read this weekend

Mao Zedong's little treatise on guerilla warfare written during the Yenan period. (an odd buy I had forgotten all about in Australia and excavated only a month ago). Translated by Edgar Snow, of course - for that appropriately sycopanthic effect.
Stephen King - Different Seasons (purely for trashy uplift)
Scott Adams - God's Debris (for some reason it was listed in Borders under "metaphysical studies")
Elizabeth Wurtzel - Prozac Nation (believe it or not, never read cover-to-cover prior to this date)
JS MiIl - On Liberty (again, first time cover-to-cover, as opposed to cribbing notes and passages for essay/hao lian purposes)

*studies the above list* Hm. Trashy, light reads, mostly. These days I have very little appetite for embarrassingly difficult books - which is why even, to my horror, I find myself shying away from a new Umberto Eco or even the temptation to finish up Crying of Lot 49. It's easier to read the likes of Nick Hornby or Don DeLillo or Zadie Smith - it's the way they feed you pop profundity in pithy one-liners which can be uploaded for cerebral processing at whim.

Bipolar manifestation of quotes:

At 11:15am on Saturday, was simultaneously reading and exulting over Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption:

"I find I'm so excited, I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it the excitement only a free man can feel, a free man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain. I hope I can make it across the border. I hope to see my friend, and shake his hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams. I hope"

Half an hour later, was reading:

"I had invented the monster and now it was overtaking me. This was what I'd come to. This was what I'd be for the rest of my life. Things were bad now and would get worse later. They would. I had not heard the word depression yet, and would not for some time after that, but I felt something very wrong going on. I felt that I was wrong - my hair was wrong, my face was wrong, my personality was wrong - my God, my choice of flavors at the Haagan Dazs shop after school was wrong! How could I walk around with such pasty white skin, such dark, doleful eyes, such straight anemic hair, such round hips and such a small clinched waist? How could I let anybody see me this way? How could I expose other people to my person, to this bane to the world? I was one big mistake.

I did not, you see, want to kill myself. Not at that time, anyway. But I wanted to know that if need be, if the desperation got so terribly bad, I could inflict harm on my body. And I could. Knowing this gave me a sense of peace and power, so I started cutting up my legs all the time. Hiding the scars from my mother became a sport of its own. I collected razor blades, I bought a Swiss Army knife, I became fascinated with different kinds of sharp edges and the different cutting sensations they produced. I tried out different shapes - squares, triangles, pentagons, even an awkwardly carved heart, with a stab wound at its center, wanting to see if it hurt the way a real broken heart could hurt. I was amazed and pleased to find that it didn't."


Had another horrible lunch/encounter with paterfamilias. But parental whinging is one of the most common - and banally - archetypical content of blogs. But so is giving away vague hints and then refusing to go into further detail out of some coy discretion! Argh! A Hobson's Choice of bad taste in blogging!

Aunts on the distaff side gave me a bottle of cheap vodka as a birthday present, along with a hipflask of some really weird 60%-alc. content Chinese liquor. (Note: My primary drinking partners here in Malaysia are my maternal aunts and uncles; there's some primogenital context which would be too sian to relate.) Took a couple of my cousins from up north for a little libation - although in hindsight pouring that much vodka into a 13 year old may not have been the wisest course of action. Washed down these spirits with a good deal of Ribena, and had a generally merry time, for a change (as opposed to the usual fits of melancholic stupor my friends accuse me of falling into when drinking). Much exchange of personal ribaldries.

Sunday continued the gameplaying binge - am halfway through Mafia; completed Medieval: Total War; and finished off Europa Universalis 2 and aforementioned MW: Mercenaries. Ah, the joys of unrestrained gaming, sans food, sans the usual depressive fits, sans contact with the outside world... I really must devote less time to the Internet, and more time to single-player gaming affairs. The computer; the books - now those are faithful friends. They talk to you when you need them. They fill the mind with pretty images and concepts and ideas that dance in your head and set your mind aflame with imagination. And they can be put away, but never too far; so when one lies in bed, one can be transported, as if by anagoge, to a world, a piece of Utopia inside your frontal lobe where no one and nothing outside can touch you....

If only the computer at work had a better graphics card... and a soundcard, for that matter.

Mafia's soundtrack consists mainly of Django Reinhardt's swingy piano jazz pieces! Freaking cool!

Other than that, it's a great game - although the superficial comparisons to Grand Theft Auto 3 will no doubt be made; the only thing both games really have in common is that you drive through a 3d city in pursuit of criminal objectives and can steal cars. In terms of gameplay, linearity, even atmosphere, they're worlds apart. But I have to confess, there is something.. oddly appealing, for a while, in jacking a Cadillac V16.. oops, I meant a Lassiter V16 (in a fit of licensing paranoia, the cars are all genuine 30s models, but the names have been changed) The Bugatti / Carozella is particularly striking, and the cars all have lovely reflective surfaces. Somehow though, I need a rocket launcher or a chaingun; the tommy gun doesn't quite cut it. And the storyline, despite being a straight lift of every Scorsese or Coppola movie ever made, still shines through
because gangster rise-and-fall type storylines are immortal:)

In comparision with Need For Speed, though, the physics engine does mean that racing two Ford Model Ts doesn't have the.. visceral kick.. of racing two Diablos.

After watching Road to Perdition, the country drive bits in a Chevrolet Six really hit home though:)

Mechwarrior 4: Mercenaries left me oddly unsatisfied; although it's a good tie-in with the conclusion of the FedComm Civil War as chronicled in the various Twilight of the Clans and Mechwarrior novels which affocionados of the Battletech Universe will have been following for the last.. six or seven years now. (Final novel - Endgame - chronicling the Pyrrhic victory of Hans Steiner-Davion was released just in August). MW4: Mercs has three endings that all tie in very elegantly to various events of the above novel; although I have to admit that these tie-ins are a bit 'insider' - either you get their relevance and nod, or you won't.

But when your lance of Atlases and Templars are blowing apart a few enemy Daishis, who cares??? ER-PPC effects rule! But somehow.. there's a lot of wasted potential - the graphics engine has been updated but slightly and is showing its age; the missions aren't really that original or inspiring; the storyline doesn't have the very tight, focused premise that Mechwarrior 3 did (along with the brilliant idea of having briefings WHILE the map was loading), and , the perennial bane of Mechwarrior - the assault/heavy mechs will wipe out anything in their path (although they did at least fix the horrible "laser snipe leg" issue with MW3)

What someone once quoted to me: "Come in, and try not to ruin everything by being you."

From the same source:

"OK, we all have these terrible stories to get over, but.."
"It's not true. Some have great stories, pretty stories that take place at lakes with boats and friends and noodle salad. Just no one in this car. But, a lot of people, that's their story. Good times, noodle salad. What makes it so hard is not that you had it bad... but that you're that pissed that so many others had it good."

Movies watched:

8 Mile - Hm. I'm an Eminem fan, for all the wrong reasons; because his pithy, commodified, marketable, paradoxically anti-social and raw and anti-pop and yet utterly mainstream at the same time - this kind of celebrity bigotry is fun to indulge in, particularly when it masquerades behind the cover of irony. "yeah, it's all a joke, we all get it, elton john hugged slim shady at the grammys". But in the movie, the nearly incomprehensible battle rap sequences speak a lot about a way of life, a way of thinking and of directing working-class anger that is the true root of the gangsta school and mindset. The glamorous money-hos-and-bitchas homeboy attitudes we see from the big success stories like 2Pac and Snoop Doggy only make reference to these roots; while coasting on platinum-sales figures from the kinds of teenyboppers and middle-class adolescents they're supposed to be gunning down in drive-bys.

Nonetheless, if you watch 8 Mile, you should watch it purely because in it, Eminem doesn't really have to act - he just has to be himself, with his pissed off smouldering glare and his abusive boozehound mother and all.. and because Detroit seriously resembles Hell on Earth in this movie.

Double Vision - hallucinogens, Dadaist grotesqueries, Tony Leung, and David Morse, the latter clearly slumming it. The double-iris effect is pretty damned eerie though.

Harry Potter part deux - Erm. As always, the book was better. (and that's not saying much.) I must confess, it's certainly getting grimmer - not entirely convinced that children should be treated to scene with a ghost who, as an abused girl sought refuge in a toilet, was slain by supernatural forces, and was condemned to an eternity as a spirit infesting septic tanks and toilet plumbing. Not to mention the line: "I was sitting on the toilet as usual, thinking about death." (sic)

However, the books are progressively getting darker, and so the movies should. I believe as of Harry Potter IV, he had lost a finger in ritualistic sacrifice, become an unwilling participant in the resurrection of demonic forces, *and* is developing into adolescence. Horror of horrors.

Didn't have time to watch Knockaround Guys. Pity.

Raging Bull - Considered by many critics to be one of the greatest films of the 80s; and most De Niro affocionados rank this with Taxi Driver as his greatest performances. Now, I can't really describe this show - but I can tell you that, as a male, the sheer.. psychological insecurity and fragility that manifests in explosive, shocking violence is nothing new, as a plotline. But in the context of the Italian ghetto in New York; in the context of a twisted relationship with a Lolita-like figure whom De Niro feels too abused to deserve and yet unable to love except in the most brutal of ways.... ah well. Enough pompous movie-critic talk. Go watch it. Go watch how De Niro lost 20 pounds in sheer method acting and reportedly went boxing in Bronx rooms to prepare for the role. (The real-life character on which this movie is based, who actually trained De Niro personally, has stated that De Niro was one of the best middleweight boxers he'd ever known).

Must.. finish.. Morrowind! And now with Tribunal installed.. the gaming... power.. overwhelming!

Sigh. On one hand, there's responsibility, and on the other, there's obligation. Nevermind. Shall continue fixated pursuit and working my ass off in order to secure a decent passive income in 5 years' time. (passive = no work.) Impossible? Certum est quia impossibile est. Besides, as Pascal would have it, what have I to lose?

Or, in the words of Adam Young - "Come and see."


a) Like most things in Malaysia; there are halal segregations. Obviously the luncheon meat served at a rest stop would not be halal, but the curry chicken would be. And just what is it with you and the whole halal issue anyway?

b) Backpackers taking the bus.

c) I said I didn't smuggle pirated stuff in for *other people*. I do so for my own purposes. (In this case, the reason was ridiculously contrived - I had bought the CDs the afternoon at work; and didn't want to leave them in the office over the weekend, so I had to bring them to Singapore and back.

d) I agree with you that it's ridiculous that a half-glimpsed auroelae of some celebrity on an FHM cover is legal, while the fully revealed thing isn't. But as a matter of note, a scantily-clad person is often more sexually titillating than the ecdysiastic full monty.

e) I use a very few freeware applications, like IrfanView and Properties Plus, but generally, I'm not an open source proponent per se. I understand some of their intellectual arguments, and rational advantages, but the ratio ultima regum is this - most games are written for Windows. I'm not going to wait until Freelancer for Linux gets released.

f) The only reason the bloody 3d graphics in AOM look "good" is because 2d sprites that size are so bloody small and blurry anyway (even on higher resolutions) that who the hell can tell the difference? Not like we're talking Chaos Gate or Fallout sprites here (the latter having some of the best sprite death animations - blow the head off a Super Mutant and you'll see..)

g) I maintain my theory that Satan's Pariahs Beasts Terrorists is a secret code for something more ominous. A means of communication between conspiracies? Stranger things have happened.

h) What were you expecting? Love?

i) Maybe people are just tired of reading the rants. Much better that way, don't you think? More comfortable to know that no one is reading and/or absorbing what you say - you can be less restrained in your blogging. No longer an audience to pander to.

Onto interrupted chronological rant from last week. Organization? PAH!


Woke up the next morning, surrounded by usual feeling of disorientation. It was 11:30am; my scheduled interview was at 2:30 in Capital Tower on Robinson Road (the receptionist's helpful words were: "Just tell the taxi driver to look for the revolving balls opposite the CPF building.."). After some prolonged internal agonizing, I prevailed upon my friend's maid to borrow an iron - the aforementioned sling bag had proven to be of no use in preserving the shirt from the ravages of rumpling. My host and friend had gone out to camp much earlier in the morning; one of the very few people I know actually comfortable enough to let someone stay in their house after they and their parents have gone out for the day.

Did some hasty print-out of the actual address, floor, and person-designate-to-meet from hotmail (ah, the few brief moments of joy at being on broadband again). My friend's computer is on the seriously creaky, over-used, underoptimised precipice - the system tray contains enough programs to occupy two-thirds the width of the monitor. A quick visit to Run -> MSCONFIG increased start-up times by at least 350%. Geekdom has its benefits!

Also spent an hour or so doing last minute research. Now, I'm not entirely sure just how much value being able to spew relevant bullshit about an organization at an interview is. However, I've been assured by people in the know that many top-tier investment banking firms look favourably on candidates who take the time to thoroughly spew statistics and make favourable commentary of their latest mega-deals. So I did the same thing - after all, I figured the competition would be heavy, and every little edge helps.

Plan was to take a cab to Raffles Place, bank in a cheque for my mother at approx 1:45pm (fast cheque deposit - no queuing), then head on down for my interview. Usually, my trips to Singapore are punctuated with errands for my family. Headed out of the house, with sling bag (after all, at the time, I had no idea where to stay that night, as per standard modus operandi)

When I reached the Raffles Place area, I was caught by the instant smell of yuppiedom. The women in their Chanel, power suits, decent hemlines, and high but not stiletto heels. The styles range from the homely-receptionist, to the executive-bitch-from-hell, to the (horribly common) "I'm not quite over adolescence yet but I have to make some genuflection towards workplace etiquette"(characterised by shoulder-revealing, slightly more garish type of clothing, and either pants a shade too tight or skirts a tad too high. Occasionally an Ally Macbeal-esque scarf/ribbon around the neck. Multiple ear-piercings. That sort of thing.) The men were dressed the far more uniformly boring shirts and ties; with a few polo shirts scattered amidst the population. Some guys did display remarkable boldness of character; I spotted more than one Looney Tunes tie.

Basking amidst the flux of middle-class professionaldom, I suddenly had a horrible realisation that there was an vacuum in my pocket where the envelope containing parents' cheque should've been. After confirming irrevocably that, once again, I was a walking waste of oxygen, I sat down in a dull, vacant haze in front of OCBC for about 20 minutes smoking restlessly and watching people pass by with their happy, happy lives. Fortunately, someone I was talking to on the phone suggested the rational solution - "don't freak out, call Comfort Taxi Lost & Found to see if you dropped it in the cab, and if that fails, go back to the place you took the cab from."

Sweet pragmatism! If only I was capable of summoning it more often in extremis. Comfort Taxi L&F reassured me that they would get back to me after assigning me a report number.

Mustered sufficient coherence to proceed to interview. The building was a gargantuan edifice to the free flow of global capital; I was struck by how much the interior matched precisely how I always imagined Howard Roark's designs to be like. It's all the brutal, neoliberal economic certainty; the imposing, faux-Gothic sweep of rigid, efficient, corporate aesthetic. "Socialist realism", I think it's called. And there's a lot of the kind of marble/granite/bronze corporate art that's just waiting for a Tyler Durden to smash over.

Tuesday, November 26, 2002

A Canadian is drinking in a New York bar when he gets a call on his cell phone. He hangs up, grinning from ear to ear, and orders a round of drinks for everybody in the bar because, he announces, his wife has just produced a typical Canadian baby boy weighing 25 ounds.

Nobody can believe that any new baby can weigh in at 25 pounds, but the Canuck just shrugs, "That's about average up North, folks... Like I said, my boy's a typical Canadian baby boy."

Congratulations showered him from all around, and many exclamations of "WOW!" were heard. One woman actually fainted due to sympathy pains.

Two weeks later the Canadian returns to the bar. The bartender says, "Say, you're the father of that typical Canadian baby that weighed 25 pounds at birth, aren't you? Everybody's been making bets about how big he'd be in two weeks. We were gonna call you.... So how much does he weigh now?"

The proud father answers, "Seventeen pounds." The bartender is puzzled, and concerned. "What happened? He already weighed 25 pounds the day he was born."

The Canadian father takes a slow swig from his Molson beer, wipes his lips on his shirt sleeves leans into the bartender and proudly says, "Had the little guy circumcised."

Sunday, November 24, 2002

This looks promising:

Bayesian Mathematical Analysis in Spam Prevention

Mozilla has this on the 1.3 branch ;)

"I have this odd habit to click on recently updated blogs to invade other people's private lives. And it's unbelievably easy to pick out a singaporean's blog because the blog titles are unbelievably lame. If you see a lame title it's either a Singaporean blog or a really bimbotic ditzy american teenage girl's one. The same applies for imood's email address. You come out with stuff like "a new beginning" or "starlite starbrite" or "friends r 4eva" or "wish upon a star" and if you see anything "z" replacing "s" it's also a singaporean's blog. Blogspotting! "

Something Fall-From-Grace... oops, that nick fell out of favour a long time ago ; dysgrace might conceivably be amused by:

NotWriting.com: Stuff one writer does when he should be writing
Went out with 3 BMT section mates. Ken wants to downgrade for moderate/gross obesity too :)

We watched Returner [NB: No IMDB information available at the present].

For once, the "teen" was a real teen, at 15 years of age. Not like all those faux schoolgirls. The guy was also one of those typical long haired, stubbly ones :)

The typically Japanese elements - the humour, the twists, ironies and paradoxes - were there, of course, this being a Japanese movie, but they weren't so strong as to be irritating. The audience enjoyed them, though, with people laughing uproariously at parts and some clapping at some of the more exceptional scenes.

I'm still wondering how a teen girl with a gunshot wound at her shoulder could run about and carry bundles in swaddling and what not with such deft grace, why an alien race would start a war ending with the annihilation of the human race for just one of their kind. And why we're still using Harriers in 2084 :)

I went out to check out the trailer. Not very impressive, but that might've been because I didn't understand the Japanese.

Wilfred the Waiter, Junxian the now big-built, Zhongyong and Yaoxian the Pioneer Photographer were watching the show too. En Leung was with them before the show, with a very shaggy mane. He actually sold his soul to the Air Force. I'm ashamed, really.

After the show, I tagged along with the first 4, and Tay Weeyang who appeared on Level 1 (and who's finally returned me the money I lent him for SAT I!) as they walked here and there.

Walking along the path outside Cineleisure, I offered Dennis the 42 Driver a perfunctory greeting. What a small world it is. But then he probably came from helping his mother at her pastry shop, so.

Weiyang is E1L3 (temporary) now. And he housekeeps the I-net room for Reservists in Maju (which is near his house), and doesn't do any form of Maju. Oh, and he's stay out too. GAH.

I followed them all the way to Mambo Billiard in Lucky Plaza. It's the first time I've actually been in a joint such as that, really, but after observing people whacking balls, I still think it's a poser game :) There was another bevy of people in there - Waiyi taking pictures of people playing pool with a digital camera (How come she always goes out with the ex-4K guys? Seems like she's the only non ex-4K-er who tags along so regularly), Ben Kang, Ivan, Eugene Huang, Qiying fingering Magic cards, Zhiming and a few others. I couldn't recognise 2 of them. I'm quite ashamed really, but I put it down to the haircuts - sparse hair does make one look different.

The joint supposedly doesn't allow people in shorts and/or slippers to enter, but a good fourth at least of the patrons had bare legs.

After that a few of us holed up along the corridor leading to Long John Silvers and drank from the bottomless cup of mystery drink mixed by Wilfred from the KFC/Taco Bell/Pizza Hut outlet and pondered riddles about weighing Gnomes :)

LOL - Revolution

"During the first third of the game, you play as a janitor employed by a futuristic megacorporation... it's an opportunity for you to spend four or five hours in what amounts to a miserably accurate simulation of actually having a boring job...

This may or may not be a major plot spoiler, but your megacorporation employer is actually up to no good. In fact, you'll know it long before your character does. One clue is that the corporation's logo appears to be a big, evil-looking winged skull. The covertly sinister corporation has also plastered the entire city with totalitarian propaganda, such as threatening billboards that simply read, "Power and Control." In keeping with the game's theme of not making much sense, the corporation has also stamped lots of things with the nonsensical slogan, "We Are the Sun of Your New Life." It's only vaguely threatening, but it is printed in a scary authoritarian font. And in a shocking turn of events, the corporation is called "The Corporation," and it's being opposed by a resistance movement that calls itself, of all things, "the resistance."...

Instead of any interesting intelligence, enemies display an ability to strafe from side to side at an inhumanly fast speed. Your own movement isn't any more realistic--you glide across every surface as if it were covered in oil... The people doing the talking are obviously native speakers of English, yet they apparently read the broken English lines they were given without attempting to fix them. Could it be that the voice-acting industry is so draconian that you immediately get fired if you make any suggestions about your lines? That might be a good setting for the sequel to Revolution.

We won't spoil Revolution's ending for you. Not because we wouldn't like to, but because after playing the final level three times, we're still not clear on what happened. Revolution's story problems, generic visuals, and tedious single-player game may not matter, though, because you can play deathmatch, team deathmatch, or capture the flag over the Internet--at least theoretically. A few weeks after its release, there isn't even one server running Revolution."

"As a rule of thumb, the more qualifiers there are before the name of a country, the more corrupt the rulers. A country called The Socialist People's Democratic Republic of X is probably the last place in the world you'd want to live." - HAHA

It seems few are leaving comments nowadays. Maybe it's my YACCS box's submit button's text :)
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