HOLEYBALONEY

Me, and the World

You are who you are

No imitations found thus far

To social norms although you fold

Your true self you forever must hold

 

I am probably the last person to talk about individualism vs conformity, especially since I can’t seem to make up my mind. On one hand, I can be individualistic to the border of selfishness, yet at the next turn you find me the most rule obeying person ever to live on this earth. For that I blame my zodiac sign for a Gemini duality. #BornThisWay

Friends often admit that they find me confusing in the initial stages of our friendship, simply because they can’t seem to get a consistent read on me. How I react to similar situations could vary, and things they thought I would go crazy over would just get a derisive snort in return. That meant they felt I was intimidating, not because I’m fierce, but they couldn’t predict with 100% certainty how I would react. However, being around me is usually fun and entertaining, simply because I’m unpredictable, so they never know what I would say next. And I make links and comments to topics that are so off the charts that it’s hilarious, especially delivered most nonchalantly. That, and my constant resting bitch face.

It used to bother me, hearing my friends admit that they found me scary. For a while I used to go out of my way to be chirpy and always upbeat, finding things to talk about whenever there is a silence in the conversation. It was tiring, and unsustainable. I would go home from catching up with friends mentally exhausted and just wanting to avoid human interaction for a couple of days. I got more irritable at work and at home, and struggled even more to suppress that rising annoyance at every little thing. During the time, I was playing a Massive Multi-player Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG) and I started being mean to the players from opposing teams, saying nasty things to them, and generally being an online troll.

Then a couple of years ago I changed company and met a bunch of co-workers with whom I felt a great connection with. I realised that you can be yourself, and be loved for your individuality. They celebrated that I’m a little out-of-this-world and quirky. We can discuss a wide variety of topics from socio-politics, to the latest fashion trends. The variation of characters and personalities in the company is wide enough for me to find someone with common interests in almost every aspect, be in health and fitness, to weekend partying, and serious business discussions. They don’t just tolerate the weird part of me, but embrace it with a greater fervour than I’ve ever experienced. A couple of times I was taken aback, because sometimes they seem to understand me better than I do myself. Rarely do I find folks who can catch the random comments I make, and field them back, much less continue the same random conversation thread that keeps everyone else in stitches.

We all still play by the rules, and conform to conventional social norms, and behave. We are not radicals, forever out there fighting against the institution or against the rules. We might scoot awfully close to the edge, but always within, never crossing the border.

Despite that, we are our own person, in this current time and space. That, in my recent epiphany, is the only thing that we need to truly hold on to. Never should we give up our own true self to bend to any social norms or rules.

Be yourself, and the Universe will find you a place you belong.

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A Monumental Victory – For Love & Equality

There is only one thing I truly believe in – Equality.

I believe that we are all made equal in the eyes of the lord, no matter your religion. We are put on this earth for a reason and we each serve our own purpose. We inspire someone and make a difference to their lives. I do not believe in being prejudiced against someone simply because they are different.

Emotions such as love is, and should be, universal. Two willing parties fall in love and make the huge decision to want to spend the rest of their lives together, being the name that is written in the spouse section when filling out forms.Or even just to introduce their partner as their husband or wife, without having to feel guilty or judged. Everyone deserves to be treated the same in the eyes of the law, and nothing should get in the way of that.

We all deserve the right to love whoever we want. Nobody should have the right to take that away from us. Not especially if you are the majority. And I move to say that it is the responsibility of the stronger and more powerful majority to ensure that equal rights is something that is at the forefront of our minds. The majority needs to make the additional effort to understand and embrace the minority, because the minority has no choice but to assimilate. The majority is no more superior than the minority, the win is only in numbers.

We are who we are. It’s time for the majority to stop trying to change the minority to fit their idea of what is right. There is no right or wrong.

June 27th, 2015 – A day to remember, as we see the United States of America tell the rest of the world that they are still living the American Dream. Where everyone is free.

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Singaporeans vs Lee Kuan Yew

I’m shocked that there are so many people who lack empathy and basic decency, to actually wish that someone would ‘just die already’. You may not agree with his policies and actions, but it is impossible not to recognise that Lee Kuan Yew has dedicated his life to what he believes to be the best for Singapore.

At the most challenging of times, where we were in a state of flux, he made the hard decisions. We make many hard decisions in our life, and I guarantee that we have all questioned if we could not have done it better. However, we all made these decisions with the information we had, and to the best of our abilities. But the decisions that we make affect only us, and our immediate surroundings. The decisions that he has to make impacts the entire nation. The stress of that responsibility is not something that everyone has the strength to shoulder. And for that, I respect him deeply.

No government is perfect, and every government has idiots in power. We are no different. Housing is ridiculously expensive, standard of living continues to rise but not salaries, our police force is pretty much useless, among other things.

Where we have fared a million times better than other countries, is that our basic necessities in life has been well taken care of. And I’m not talking about the material stuff. Those are secondary. It is the intangibles that truly matter. Safety, health, family.

It is safe to walk on the streets at night, and we do not have to suffer the fear of being robbed at gunpoint, of being raped, murdered, or any of the horrible things that occur frequently in so many other countries. Air is fresh so I don’t worry about dying because I run or cycle outdoors often. We are small so I can work in the same city where my family is, instead of having to look for work in another state / country.

And we have all these things, because a certain someone made many decisions during his leadership. Because a certain someone took a dictatorial hand in national matters.

Do I think we need to change? Of course I do. We can have debates and discussions about the arts, about homosexual topics, and everything under the sun because we are at a stage where we have the basic foundations and can fight for topics that are not directly related to our survival. Our current administration should relax their hold a little and engage the people more. But that is because we, as a nation, is stable. Do you think we can have these discussions if our primal instinct for survival is engaged? Who cares about the arts and homosexuals, if the nation is in poverty and cannot even feed ourselves?

Even if you do not agree with his decisions or directions, he is critically ill, and may not make it. Can’t people just put the negativity aside and at least hope that he goes in peace and without pain? Don’t these people have even an ounce of empathy in them? Think of his family! How would you feel, if someone cursed your father and hope that he would just die? Seriously, people, seriously.

So many Singaporeans are like frogs in a well looking up and thinking that is all there is to the sky. We all need to stop looking inwards, and start actually seeing what we have already achieved, and how we can continue to move forward. The only way Singapore can advance, is if the entire nation is working towards their own personal betterment.

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L’arc-en-ciel: My 1.5 Decade Fandom

They say the music you listen to in your teens, will stay with you for life. When it comes to L’arc-en-ciel, I don’t think I can agree more.

  • 2000, first discovery when my classmates jammed to Driver’s High
  • 2004, SMILE was the first album I went searching around Singapore for
  • 2005 Asia Tour in Shanghai was the first time I flew to watch a concert
  • 2006, I shut myself in my room for almost 3 hours, spazzing over their 15 Anniversary concert
  • 2012, traveled again for their concert, this time to Taipei in 2012
  • 2012 in Singapore was a dream come true
  • 2014, live screening of documentary “Over the L’arc-en-ciel” in Singapore announced
  • 2015, I’m still waiting for the next World Tour

15 years later, my love for them still runs strong, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to ever stop. It may not run as deep and intense as that for X, laruku still counts as one of the bands that I truly truly love.

Seeing as how accomplished and well loved hyde is as a vocalist, it would probably surprise many people that he really didn’t want to be one when they first started the band. He didn’t think being the vocalist was cool, and wanted to be the lead guitarist. (REALLY? hyde. Really.) He is also one of those few that readily admit that he is a bit sick of playing and performing with the same band, at their first big concert in Madison Square Garden in NYC! I’ve always loved how brutally honest he was, very much unlike the celebrities now, all smiles and laughter, but full of scorn and arrogance the minute the cameras are turned off. I also really enjoy the fact that he doesn’t really care about what everyone thinks, because he went and got married in 2000, at the peak of their success. Not because of any baby in the wife’s tummy, but truly because he wanted to marry her, his idol. And the whole band went on hiatus almost immediately after that, in 2001! Imagine the shock of the fans! First their idol gets married, and then the band rests indefinitely!? I swear I could hear hearts breaking. And the intensity of his protectiveness towards his family is inspiring. He knows he gets crazy fans everywhere he goes, but his family has hardly (if ever) been photographed or harassed. Maybe because he got married at a time and age where the internet was only dial-up and there wasn’t the ease of information sharing available now, and the media was a lot more respectful.

And then, how can you not talk about a rock band without mentioning their mad skills. Rather, the mad skills of tetsuya, the bassist. Generally, for most rock band, the guitar is the shining star of the instruments. But no. Not for laruku. tetsuya’s bass lines are just pure magic. The bass line he creates, takes on a life of its own, with the additional ommph it brings to the song. Just listen to “Blurry Eyes”, “Honey”, “Stay Away” and you will hear what I mean. Bass guitars often take a back seat, playing the supporting role in the band, but laruku’s bass plays an equally (if not more) important role in the songs. And check out “Neo Universe”. He plays a 6-string.

Plus, they are in their mid-40s, yet are just as sexy as they were in their 30s. Japanese rockers. How the hell do they do it?

Oh, and did I mention that the Stay Away MV has the 4 members dancing in synchronicity, like boy bands? :p

L’arc-en-ciel – Stay Away

Therefore, in February, the month they started to get together, I remember why I love them so much!

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Wind Behind My Back

How-Start-Running

“I always loved running…it was something you could do by yourself, and under your own power. You could go in any direction, fast or slow as you wanted, fighting the wind if you felt like it, seeking out new sights just on the strength of your feet and the courage of your lungs.”
-Jesse Owens

Avid runner I definitely am not. Neither can I be considered seasoned nor elite. But in the recent times I have discovered running.

For many years I’ve hated running. It cramps my calves, causes shortness of breath and make my chest hurts. It is boring and way too easy for me to just give up. Running leaves me alone with my own thoughts, my pain, and my own weakness.

This year, the Gods conspired to change that, causing me to listen to a friend, and signing up for the Great Eastern Women’s Half Marathon. As the dates started getting closer, the reality began setting in. I wasn’t going to ever make it, unless I start working towards that. However, not changing my routine of running around my estate meant I continued to be bored and lacked the motivation to maintain any proper training plan. Instead of running at least twice a week, I ended up only doing a run a fortnight.

Probably exasperated at how stubbornly lazy I am, I was given another chance to really get into this, when my colleague signed me up for a company runner’s cup, where the team of 4 had to contribute calories to the team by running. Being someone highly susceptible to peer pressure and the need to be fair, I had to make sure I was not dragging the team down. So, I had to run. And run, I did.

It started with the usual road runs around my estate, and then I joined my colleague and her friends at their weekly MacRitchie Run. Slowly I realise that running can be challenging, if I can find the confidence to explore new areas and routes, it can even be interesting. My runs got longer. The first time I went for a 3 hour run simply because I decided I wanted to, I discovered I can run. I realised running can be calming, if I allowed myself to stop worrying about my pace, my speed, my distance, my timing and all that peripheral things that cripple myself mentally. Once I stopped looking inward, and started enjoying the scenery, everything improved. I am even beginning to learn to enjoy each and every run. Of course, being physically stronger helped shorten the recovery period, which definitely contributed. A lot. 🙂

So while I still do not run every day, or even 3 times a week, I enjoy every run I take. Even if it’s only a short 4 or 5km run around my estate.

I guess now I run, because I can.

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Blogging Ten

firstblogpost

Another anniversary today! 10 years since I’ve started blogging! I’ve changed so many blogging platforms over the past 10 years, bought my own domain, my posting frequency waxing and waning constantly…

Even though I don’t blog as much now as I used to, I can never let it go completely. It’s the first platform I used to put a little tiny blip on the World Wide Web, and it’s definitely not something I can easily give up, not when it is this meaningful.

So, here’s to another ten good years!

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X: Psychedelic Violence Crime of Visual Shock

I’ve been counting anniversaries a lot this year. 2014 is the 15th year since I’ve fallen in love with the band that changed my perspective, X-JAPAN.

Thinking back, there are many firsts that I can count that are related to X.

  • ‘Forever Love’ was the first song I downloaded from mIRC
  • First MV I searched for to watch was ‘Endless Rain’
  • First time I went to watch a movie (Windstruck) solely because of the ending song ‘Tears’
  • First celebrity that I researched online to find out about their history
  • First time I wrote to the radio station’s Japanese music program to request for a X special, and sending them all my research (I almost went on air as a guest, but I chickened out)
  • ‘Forever Love’ was the first song I tried to memorise the lyrics for by searching for the romanisation
  • Their ‘Perfect Best’ CD box set was also the first, and only, box set I have.

When I bought the ‘Perfect Best’ box set, I played it so often that I could memorise the order of the song, and I could recognize the song just from the opening few lines of music. The 2 CDs, together with Luna Sea’s compilation album, were always in my CD booklet that I carried around. I was always plugged into my Walkman and secretly hated meeting a classmate on the way to & from school, because I had to pause the music and socialize.

I’ve talked about X before, and even till now, I’m still impressed at the amount of strength & determination that is inside someone so seemingly vulnerable as yoshiki. Someone who is soft spoken, loves to giggle, and is so polite that he finds it hard to reject if you ask him more than once. Even when he gets mad, he’s adorable. But when it comes to music, the focus and the perfectionism shines through the roof. It was the most obvious when they were in the midst of their fifth, and what turned out to be the final, album “Dahlia”. The album took 3 years to write, record and produce, because yoshiki was tweaking it so much.

Enough about yoshiki. Even though yoshiki is definitely the soul of X, I love the band, not just him. Their creativity and songwriting skills were impressive, as well as their arrangement capabilities. I was 16 when I first listened to ‘Forever Love’ and toshi’s voice is nasal yet not annoyingly so, and the music was just enchanting. I was totally caught up in the melody, picturing it with the manga I was reading. X-1999 by CLAMP was what introduced me to X, if anyone really wants to know. It was the first time I realised how powerful music really is, the ability to pull you into a scenario and fire your imagination and emotions. It also struck me how important the vocalist / the voice really is. I didn’t understand the lyrics, didn’t know what it meant, but toshi’s voice matched the music so well, it’s like an instrument in itself, part of the entire arrangement. It was the first time that I realised that lyrics is not everything. You do not need lyrics to feel the emotions and message of a song, if it’s well written. This also set the foundation of my music taste till now.

The variety of music that they write is also another defining factor. Their styles range from various styles of metal, to classical, to acoustic, collaborations with philharmonic orchestras, purely piano ballads; it’s just simply amazing the range that they display. The tempo changes drastically mid-song in ‘Silent Jealousy’ and ‘Kurenai’; including even a short excerpt of ‘Swan Lake’ in ‘Silent Jealousy’.. They released a 30 min long single with one song, ‘Art of Life’, a song which brings you through various emotions

But what I really truly love about them, is that they are rebels. True rebels through and through. Why else would you persist in this pioneering road of visual kei in conservative Japan? KISS is acceptable, but only because they are gaijin, or foreigners. X is not. They are true blue Japanese. All that dressing up as Victorian chicks with long wavy hair and copious amounts of make-up was simply unfathomable to the Japanese, especially the media. But still, they sold albums. Amid all the hate, they sold tens of millions of albums, leaving those Japanese press with no choice but to grant them interviews. No major label wanted them, so they released their albums as an independent label. And they still sold albums. They write songs about sex and death and other taboo / unorthodox topics that were touchy in Japan. Yet they still sold albums.

I’m still waiting for the day I get to see them in Singapore. L’arc-en-ciel has been here. Luna Sea has been here. When will it be X? Every time I remember the Taiwan concert I went to, the emotions I felt when I was shouting WE ARE X!… I just wish I get to see them again, soon!

p/s. This post is posted today, because it is hide’s death anniversary today.

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7 years of Twittering

2014-02-20 21.40.26

On this day (and time), 7 long years ago, I signed up for a little application called Twitter. Social Media, social networking, microblogging were not terms that were popular in those days and it was Twitter’s explosion at SXSW in 2007 that caught my attention and made me decide to try it out. It was an odd thing to use, as it forced users to be much more succinct than blogging, and you were not essentially communicating to any specific person like SMS services.

I was here,

  • Less than 1 year after the official launch on July 2006.
  • Just a little over 1 year from their founding date of March 2006.
  • One month after their wild popularity at SXSW in March 2007.

My Very First Tweet! #notmymostintelligenttweetunfortunately

firsttweet

Tweeting now is a lot simpler, cheaper (to non US / UK residents) and more meaningful than it used to be back in the early days (for me, at least). As an early adopter of this service, I’ve seen how Twitter can impact our daily lives and our social interactions, especially how it changes the way we accept how information is shared with us.

  • SMS shorthand

Unfortunately, I’m going to start with one of the annoying things that I believe is in part correlated to how users adapt to Twitter formats. Many of the newer users may not be aware that the reason why you are restricted in the number of characters in each tweet really goes back to how it was during the early days. There were 2 ways to send a twitter (as it was called in those days), via the web / via SMS to a UK based cell phone number. The 140 character limit that Twitter has is largely due to the restriction of characters in SMS. It had to be short to be able to be sent via SMS. This brevity means that if you want to say something a little longer than 140 characters, you had to get creative. So ins8 o typin in eng, u typ in shrthd so u cn put mre in a twttr dan norm. n typ lol so u cn luff.

[rant/] I remember I spent quite a bit of moolah on Twitter then, as we had to pay (~S$0.60) to send a tweet as it could only be sent via SMS to a UK number! For folks living in US or UK it was cheap, as they had local numbers to send to, but for all overseas users, each tweet actually cost us physical dollars. Plus, you get an SMS every time someone you follow tweets. So if you follow 10 people, and each person tweets 5 times a day, you would get 50 SMSes a day! It was so annoying that I even remember tweeting something like “People who twitter 3 times in a row needs to have a life.”. Imagine how invasive Twitter used to be without these mobile apps. [/rant]

  • Popularising of URL shortening services

This is definitely a result of Twitter. Even though URL shortening services were already available (Remember TinyURL?), their use was very much limited to sharing on IRC or for easy remembering. With the character limits of Twitter, if anyone wants to share links, it will be impossible to comment, as some article links just take up the full character limit. Thus services such as TinyURL became extremely useful. Why I believe Twitter is a mover in the URL shortening service world is really because TinyURL was launched in 2002, many years before Twitter, and it monopolised the URL shortening service ‘industry’. It had no competition, because usage was low. Then Twitter came about and with the character limit, the need for such services grew so much that many more blossomed, each domain getting shorter (bit.ly) and shorter (t.co). This is basic economics of demand and supply. Without Twitter users’ demand, TinyURL could be the sole supplier for more than 5 years, until that product could no longer satisfy the users’ needs (TinyURL’s shortened URL is 25 characters, yet bit.ly is 14 characters).

  • Instant information

What I mean by this is that before Twitter, we got opinions from blogs, news sites, forums; we got social updates from friends by texts, emails, phone calls, and meetups. With Twitter, there is instant updates about every thing they are doing, from what they are eating, reading, or watching; where they are going to; how they feel about the last meal they had… In the beginning, we didn’t know what to do with Twitter, so we over-shared.  It became a platform for regular people to be ‘famous’ by shouting out to the world. Then regular folks started getting into conversations with people they followed. People started sharing news and information about the things that are happening around the world. 2009 was an incredible year for Twitter. Ashton Kutcher (@aplusk) realised the brand enhancing power of Twitter and ballooned to 1M followers. Barack Obama won the US Presidential Election. Michael Jackson died. These news were spreading like wildfire and for the first time since the launch, Twitter found itself a new path. Even the company realised it, and changed the question asked to “What’s happening?”, instead of the previous “What are you doing?”

Whatever the type, these are all information. News, gossip, sightings, tips, all information that we can get as soon as the incident happens. There is no waiting a day for the newspapers to write it up, or the bloggers to draft a post analysing the situation. Everyone can be a reporter, posting updates on the fly. If you didn’t read it on Twitter when it happened, you would be getting ‘old’ news, because everybody else would have (I’m exaggerating, of course). This is sometimes to the point if you hear a rumour on the streets, your best bet would be to search Twitter. If it’s word on the streets, you bet it was tweeted first.

 

In any case, with this Anniversary, I became curious about how Twitter has grown over the years and their major changes and milestones. I can’t say I’ve watched Twitter grow up, as the cost put me off a bit, till I got a smartphone & Twitter got an app; but then work piled up, and the excuses went on… Now that Twitter has grown to the mammoth it is right now, and I’m back more actively in various forms, I went back in time to see what everyone else is saying on the internet. 

Dr 4ward posted a really interesting infographic of Twitter since it officially launched. I’m a bit curious why his number of registered users state that it’s 1.3M registered users in March 2008, when my Twitter ID seems to be #3,189,741… I’ve assumed that the Twitter ID is allocated sequentially, but a variety of possibilities could account for Dr 4ward’s numbers, such as deleted / suspended accounts, engineering test accounts etc. Though I have to say, the numbers are quite massive. Possibly Twitter did a major account wipe-out of dead accounts?

Matthew Panzarino (@panzer) from The Next Web created a new Twitter account to look at Twitter from an entirely new light.. I absolutely agree with what he says about handles deviating from the person’s names. When we were first asked to create a handle, all we could think of was just using our names, or variations of our names.. There were a lot of @jack @crystal @mhofner around.. Nowadays, you get more complicated handles

Newsweek hits the nail on the head back in 2007, when the article discussed Twitter, the lure and the potential.

More history of Twitter infographics on Mashable (@mashable). I love infographics!

Ah.. the good old times…

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Blog more

I really need to blog more. It has always been cathartic, and helps me with my focus, and of course improving my writing skills in the process.

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