Sloppy vs. Casual

Australians dress very casually.

So when I ran out of “going out” clothes I wondered if I might dress “casually” like the Australians, wearing my “home” clothes.

But when I looked at myself in the mirror, I realised wearing “home” clothes wasn’t being casual — it was just being sloppy, at the pretense of being casual.

Not in Love

I saw you standing in the hallway.
Looking all sexy and all that.
You were new here.
We went out and talked.
I really liked you.
I think you liked me too.
Afterwards, back in my room, I felt a pain
Somewhere between my stomach and heart.
“I must have fallen in love,” I thought.

It was late, so I went to bed.
Twisted and turned.
I couldn’t sleep.
The pain inside made me want to scream.
I kept thinking of you.
“I love you,” was all I could think about.
I wrote you a love poem.
Put it in an envelope.
Took it and went to your door.

As I was sliding it under,
My stomach growled.
I picked up the envelope.
Walked back to my room.
And had a snack.
The pain disappeared.
“Hey, hey,” thought I,
“Whadyaknow?”
It turns out I was just hungry.

And He Said, And He Said

I’m normally not critical of any Singaporean journalist’s writing. I know it’s a difficult job, and having to churn out article after article in ever shortening time periods is no mean feat.

In fact, I’m actually quite impressed with the way most articles are written.

However, today I came across an article about how non-Chinese spend the Chinese New Year holidays at the beach on ChannelNewAsia.com which stunned me with a sequence of “[name of speaker] said:” statements.

Hasnita said: “I must say that it is the cheapest way to spend time with your family and brings us closer and back to nature.”

Kannan said: “We make a point that every year we try to come here together with the family and just stay for two days and really enjoy!”

Sarimah said: “Easy access to the toilet, and it is cleaner down here than in Changi!”

Also joining in the fun were foreigners working in Singapore.

Rafael said: “Just having a family day today.”

Virgilio said: “We love nature and at the same time we feel we are still in Philippines.”

Ramon said: “We usually picnic outside at a beach or somewhere.”

And as if that wasn’t enough, four lines down the writer continued:

Rafael said: “I wish our economy booms so that everybody has a good job and good work like me!”

Prabakaran said: “I heard this pig has come after 60 years; if this is true, I am 58 now, I wish to see some good luck!”

Hasnita said: “Definitely peace and prosperity for Singapore and definitely more money for everyone.”

However, some who were wishing for more personal space, were disappointed to see such a big crowd.

Qamarul said: “I didn’t expect them to come here, I thought they are off overseas, across the Causeway, or something like that!”

Prabakaran said: “I thought they won’t be here because it is a Monday and everybody celebrated yesterday.”

Surely this is no way to write?

I’m gutted; disappointed; peeved; angry even, that such an article might actually be published — and on a website of a reputable news channel!

I would have given it more of a chance if the quotes were in the very least interesting, but they add almost nothing to the story.

It seems that every Tom, Dick, and Harry who was interviewed was featured. Was the reporter going for quantity and not quality over here? I suspect so.

And I was hoping that ChannelNewsAsia.com might be a good place to catch up with events back home. Apparently not.

Wait, there’s more

Already feeling a little queasy reading the last article, I moved on to another article on the same day regarding problem gambling during Chinese New Year. It too had writing issues.

While most people dabbled with social gambling, others could cross the line.

It’s “dabble”. And even then, the sentence itself sounds strange. I would rework the whole sentence.

But wait! There’s more! Here’s a classic scratch-your-head moment:

Unlike substance abusers like alcoholics and drug addicts, a problem gambler may not be easily spotted, especially when they manage to hide their addiction.

So, let’s see, if you manage to hide your addition, you won’t be easily spotted. You mean if managed to hide my addiction, I would still be spotted? Huh?

For Christ’s sake, give your readers some credit, ChannelNewsAsia.com — we’re not amateurs.

And poor Mildred Tan, quoted in the same article, didn’t have her grammatical errors removed!

Mildred Tan, Chairman, Public Education Sub-committee, NCPG , says: “In social gambling, people tend to have a lot of fun and laughter, and they teased each other, and I think we welcome the community bonding and social spirit that goes with these activities. I think where we would highlight is when an individual runs out of money at the table and starts borrowing, and that’s beginning of potential of problems.”

I have never studied journalism before, so I’m not quite sure about the issue about quoting people verbatim; but if a person had kindly allowed me to quote him or her, I’d probably have had the courtesy to make sure he or she didn’t sound so bad.

(Link gone? Don’t believe me? You can view the article on non-Chinese Chinese New Year celebrations in PDF format here, and Problem Gambling here)

In Australia

Just a quick note to say that I’m now in Perth, Australia. I’m residing in Currie Hall, a hostel just off campus.

I hate being the new kid on the block: periods of adaptation have always been looked upon by me with trepidation. Of course, I know it’s the inevitable, but that doesn’t make it any easier to accept.

Murderous Intent

I’ve made some friends in and around the hostel over the few days I’ve been here. They’re all Singaporean males, save for one who’s female and Malaysian.

After examine their faces a bit, I can safely say that all of them have the faces of potential murderers. One seems passive-aggressive, one plain aggressive, and one so cunningly quiet as to make me suspect he was dumb; as for the girl, is not the female of the species more deadly than the male?

And then there’s Martin, my roommate. Let’s just say that history teaches us that roommates are not exactly safe from murderous intent.

Hostel Rooms

I’ve got a couple of pictures of my hostel room for you to see for yourself:

Room #2 Room #1

It’s two standard rooms connected by a door (which cannot be locked). The one I’m sleeping in is the one in which the camera is taking the photographs from.

Running Area

Here’s a map of Kings Park, which is my main running area and situated right behind my hostel (fantastic!) I’ve tried running there only once so far, but I’m hooked. The image next to the map is a photograph of a section of a typical running route in Kings Park.

Kings Park Kings Park path

I tried walking to the city using this route yesterday, and after taking one shortcut too many (“Bushland”, the brochure says, “is not signposted. Keep to designated paths…”), got hopelessly lost.

After going on one trail after another, using my natural instinct of going against instinct (“take the path going left,” says instinct, so I take the right), I managed to find my way back —

And thank god for that. Don’t want Martin taking my stuff after I’m dead, no?

The Baby

I wrote the following poem in camp, inspired after I unthinkingly remarked that a friend’s “twenty minutes of fun created a lifetime of pain” when he talked about his illegitimate daughter:

He asked her for a kiss
On a night so very fine.
He asked her to be his
Over red roses and wine.

They had some fun that night,
Twenty minutes more or less,
In a room with dimmed-down light,
That’s how they liked it best.

Little did they know how fateful
That night was to be;
Something most describe as wonderful
They were going to see.

But little Jamie was to be born
Without hands and feet,
With a mouth crooked and torn
And a heart that oft-missed a beat.

Their twenty minutes of love
Turned into a lifetime of despair;
They created something
Even God could not repair.

For three months little Jamie cried,
For that was how long God on Earth kept.
Taking pity on the parents and child,
He let her aching heart set.

Today’s too Normal

I started today really early, having slept early the previous night. When I woke, I went along with my daily routine: shower, internet, breakfast, and a little television.

The day just flowed like any other day, nothing special, nothing out of the ordinary. It didn’t feel as if I was flying off for Australia tomorrow. It didn’t feel as if I might soon be gone for close to a year.

Looking at my family going about their own lives as if my going away wasn’t that big a deal worried me. Do they not feel the anxiety I am feeling? Do they not realise that there may not be a “next time” I’m seeing them?

Today simply played out like any other day. But it shouldn’t have.

Today shouldn’t be normal.

Today's too Normal

I started today really early, having slept early the previous night. When I woke, I went along with my daily routine: shower, internet, breakfast, and a little television.

The day just flowed like any other day, nothing special, nothing out of the ordinary. It didn’t feel as if I was flying off for Australia tomorrow. It didn’t feel as if I might soon be gone for close to a year.

Looking at my family going about their own lives as if my going away wasn’t that big a deal worried me. Do they not feel the anxiety I am feeling? Do they not realise that there may not be a “next time” I’m seeing them?

Today simply played out like any other day. But it shouldn’t have.

Today shouldn’t be normal.

Rediscovering Writings

As I laboured over which bag I was going to be bringing to Australia, I suddenly thought of my trusty old “camp bag”, so-called because it was the bag I used to bring in to my army camp.

It’s a great size, and I liked it quite a lot — only thing that was putting me off was that it was a little dirty.

The Bag

I took it out, dusted it a little, and realised I hadn’t taken anything out since I completed my NSF (National Service (full-time)) stint. Besides the more usual “army stuff” like black string and blue sticky tape, there were knives, coins, beetle carcasses, as well as an old notebook.

The Notebook

I had used this notebook all the time in the army to jot down notes during lessons and meetings. But as with all the notebooks I have ever owned while in the army, there were more personal writings in this than “professional” ones, such as, “what the fark am I doing in here? I should be outside. enjoying myself. yet here i am pretending to take notes. bah.”

I then came across a poem I don’t ever remembering writing. Apparently it was written while I was doing duty in camp. I had always thought of girls (and the topic of love) while in camp, and this just bellied that.

I found the poem amusing, though the sudden turning of emotion in the last part took me a little by surprise:

[Page 1]
Tired. I am tired.
But a duty has got to be done.
Thinking. I am thinking.
How do I make duty more fun?

I think of landscapes,
Grass so green and fresh.
With mountains; blue skies;
Think only of the best.

A certain girl comes to mind.
Her smile a million watts strong.
A girl so unlike her kind,
But I wish that I was wrong.

At this point, the poem appears to end. But I turn to the next page, and I find this:

[Page 2]
I like her so much;
I wish she were less;
I wish she were nobody;
I wish she wasn’t the best.
I want to cry,
But cry I cannot.
My love for her
Is less than what’d I said I got.

Love poem

I do not remember if I had written both pages in one sitting. Based on the poem itself, “page 2” didn’t seem to deviate from the theme, lending me to believe that it was a continuation. However, the writing was different. The strokes used were lighter on the second page, and the paragraphing was different as well.

It brought back memories — I remember being vexed that she didn’t love me the way I loved her, then realising that I didn’t love her as much as I claimed I did. It was confusing, to say the least; yet somehow, I preferred it that way…