I Have Just Said

I have just said
ridiculous to you
and in response,

your glorious laughter.
These are the days
the sun
is swimming back

to the east
and the light on the water
as never, it seems, before. 

I can't remember
every spring,
I can't remember

so many years!
Are the morning kisses
the sweetest
or the evenings

or the inbetweens?
All I know
is that "thank you" should appear

So, just in case
I can't find
the perfect place--
"Thank you, thank you."

—Mary Oliver


Being with my self

There is a slow realisation in me that this time off, as frustrating and scary as it is, is beginning to do some good.

Two weeks after my last post when I fretted about the delay with NYC. I'm still fretting but I think I've lived with it long enough now to not let it get to me too much.

It's three months since I came back. It took me this time to get over the 'being back' honeymoon and really settle in. Perhaps the whole thing about coming back here for a much needed sabbatical from Shanghai was something I've been telling myself without believing it. No that's not true. I knew I needed to do this, but perhaps I had thought that the moment I left Shanghai geographically, I left Shanghai behind me.

I had a lot of aggression in me when I returned. Not at anyone, but just short tempered and flaring up easily, usually when I'm driving. I had thought maybe it was the gym sessions. But the aggression seems to have calmed down in the past few weeks. And generally I'm noticing a difference in me. Maybe I'm a bit calmer or a bit more centred, maybe because I now know NYC is not happening anytime soon and I'm not doing anything, I have less expectations and less urgency.

Whatever it is, this is good. I just wished I can express it better.

I wished I could verbalise to someone. Well verbalising these days is a huge stumbling block. Over the years, over the hurt, I've stopped talking and internalised everything. I'm only vocal about non-personal stuff like work.

This probably sounds 1) silly 2) sad 3) pathetic, but I wished I had someone I could try to talk to, to get this stuff out of me, to give them words and to let them go. To learn how to connect with inside me again and to resonate with the centre.

I never thought I'd say this because all these years I've soldiered on and told myself, this is me stronger, this is me growing up, this is what adults are like.

Maybe it's because I was reading Sandman recently, and tonight I read Vagabond, and these are deeply internal, philosophical narratives. I remembered reading Sandman and the feeling came upon me again, the seeming simplicity of putting words together and letting them dance. I remembered Sandman being so much a part of my life that it did inspire me to write and in turn, made me consider the possibility of writing as a career.

I digress. I never thought to think this but … I'm tired of being strong. Tired of trying to be an adult. I almost, almost because I'm afraid of going back, but I almost wished I could be weak and emotional, to feel and to know myself instead of whom I ought to be.

But this too is a good thing because I haven't thought like this for years and years. This is good because I'm remembering and I'm wondering and I'm wanting … something that is not work, that is not love, that is not something that can be bought, but something that has to be felt and re-learnt.

And this is why I think I'm finally letting go of Shanghai, maybe NYC, advertising, everything. I know it sounds incredibly selfish or self-centred but I don't think I've been with my self for a while. So I hope this sabbatical is finally … blooming.
  • Current Music
    The Lab 03 CD 2 - Seth Troxler

Circling on the fringe

So New York won't happen till next year, something to do with the books and bonuses in Spring. I was warned about this by another friend so I half expected it. Still majorly bummed though.

Most people in advertising have a love-hate relationship with it. I don't, I actually love it. But during this time I've conspicuously stayed away from anything advertising-related, and the distance of course puts it in perspective. And I have to admit, advertising is a pretty ridiculous industry.

I'm sure every vocation is a world unto itself but advertising can be particularly microscopic, all of us toiling away, arguing, crafting, over these stuff that might last anywhere from three to 60 seconds. And for what? It's not doing the world any good, it's not changing anything. No, it's feeding the capitalist machine and … this was one of the huge issues I had to deal with working in Shanghai.

Despite the distance, knowing New York won't happen till next year is freaking the hell out of me. Before, it was an enforced leave from advertising, now it's feeling like I've circling on the fringe, waiting to be called back into the game.

It's not a nice feeling, coupled with not doing anything, it's not good at all.

Sigh, definitely not a good feeling seeing as I'm still up and now feel like a cigarette.
  • Current Music
    Downtown ( oct 2011 ) - Ribbario

We're still here

Listening to M83's Hurry Up We're Dreaming. I love how a French ambient band has now reinvented 'pop' though some or most would argue it isn't really pop. Maybe not specifically the latest album, but their last one, Saturday=Youth definitely had a lot of pop synths in it. The first time hearing it, I imagined this must be how contemporary pop sounds if the Japanese studied it exhaustively, obsessively as they're prone to, and created their idea of 80's pop. There's something so unrestrained and celebratory in the music and drums. This is as uplifting as it gets without being cheesy.

It's 10 to 2 and I really ought to sleep but I'm not sleepy. I thought maybe I ought to write something because the urge is there in the finger tips and as I type now, my fingers are frenetic like they're getting ahead of my thoughts before I can organise them, like I'm bursting. Maybe it's the intermittent fasting I'm doing, or the new supplements I took this morning for gym.

Parents. Mine. I used to think they were forever, illogical as that is. For the greater part of my youth, they were just there and it seemed they never changed. Till I hit my late 20s, and probably because I only saw them once a year, or perhaps I was coming into my own mortality. The physicality of time abrading their faces, their bodies. All of a sudden they were old and older, and they were real.

It was then that I experienced a radical shift. When my parents sent me overseas, they set off a chain reaction that they could never have foreseen. 10 years of resentment and guilt trip. My relationship with them was never the best even in my teens in Singapore. It deteriorated drastically after. We argued, we fought, everyone was stubborn and righteous and wronged. I don't believe my grandparents knew how to talk to their children because my dad didn't know how to talk to us. He commanded, we were expected to obey. My mum was the good cop, laying on the guilt and the risks of my father's health.

But in my late 20s, I stopped fighting. Maybe it was the cumulative effects of LSD and MDMA, ha. Or like I said, it was my own mortality, or maybe it was really a matter of time. Or ... this just occurred to me as I type ... maybe I'm growing into them, what a dreadful fearful notion. But suddenly like a light bulb coming on, I saw. I'll never forgive them for that 10 years, but I could see it from their points of view, and I cannot deny where or who I am now, so in a way, I came to terms with those years.

And all the fighting now seem meaningless. After all the tears and shouts and anger and hurt and guilt—we're still here. We made it. Have we arrived? I'd like to think we've arrived somewhere, at least, presumably, my parents mission to do all the things they did for me in the name of parental love and duty.

But they can still get on my nerves big time.



Did some cardio at the gym. Weighted chins, ended up pulling my neck, fingers crossed I can gym tomorrow.

Finished Sanderson’s Mistborn Trilogy. My Twitter summary was something like: Very good plot, fascinating magic system, insipid writing. Seriously nobody bothers to write anymore. The new writers are strong on ideas and plots, but barely string words together to deliver the package. Which actually sounds a lot like advertising writing.

Looked around for something new to read, might start on Reynold’s House of Suns.

Came across an app called Byword which I’m trying now. I do like the typography in this app. Someone claims it works with MarsEdit as an external editor—it doesn’t.

And incidental to my discovery of Byword, is Markdown, a new … marking language/syntax that uses symbols to denote styles like bold and italics in plain text writing. This is turning on the geek in me.

Craved for ramen, which shall hopefully be rectified tomorrow.

That is all.

Cest le slack

So I've wandered back. Back geographically, back virtually, back metaphorically, back. To a much needed sabbatical from Shanghai.

It's been a pretty good break so far, doing fuck all but gym, swim, read, hanging out—avoiding anything to do with advertising (which is hard due to my irrational fears). Giving the mind space to unwind and hang loose, trying to meditate (unsuccessfully).

But something must be unworking and is building up to this point where I find myself wanting to speak and write something down. This will be random and rambling, it's been a while.

Sporadic visits here are always odd and disconcerting, the gaps in the posts, life unspoken, words like the familiar strangeness of accidentally hearing a playback of my voice.

Doing nothing is … difficult. Of course the implication being, doing nothing productive. Unless we're in a coma, we're generally doing something: Lazing in bed with the laptop like right now, listening to music, reading comics, going out for a teh, catching a movie, showering, daydreaming, napping, petting the dog—they're all not nothing.

Until you meet people and they ask 'what's new, what have you been doing,' and you're stumped trying to dredge something out of the mind's diary: Nothing. Nothing worth mentioning like First Contact or a transdimensional hole ripping open in the ceiling as I lay in bed and crystalline arms reaching down.

But it seems like, when you're not working and using the time in-between to do something that isn't work, to denote nights or weekends well spent not working, life is full of, nothings. I wonder if this is what they mean by Slow Living—slowing it down to the inconsequential moments of nothing.

And of course there's an irrational part, the productive part, of me that feels guilty twinges for answering nothing. Like bringing home a report card from school with a D or 'could do better.' And of course I have to wonder if this is a product of society today, the working automatons we are (or wage slaves as Carl puts it).

Well, worrying more on this will be counter productive to the sabbatical. Cest le slack.

I've been reading till 5am because I can. That's not helping with the voices in my head when I go to bed. The voices, which already sound like scripts, are only exacerbated by reading more words. I'm surprisingly hooked on Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn Trilogy. There is not a lot of craft or style to the writing, but Sanderson works well with the varied characters and the plot. Maybe that's the intent—the easy writing makes it easy to blaze through the books; unlike Erikson whose Crippled God I've not made any headway with.

I think I'm going to post this now and go back to reading.

A tan, shopping, nostalgia, and insomnia to show

Insomnia, solely my fault this time thanks to telling myself I deserve to indulge and enjoy late nights to myself on this break. Of course I'm gonna pay for it on the flight back to Shanghai tomorrow and the day at work.

This has been a somewhat satisfying trip home. Spent a fair bit of time at home, napping mostly, swam and tanned a bit, caught up with some friends who also returned home for the Chinese New Year.

Probably because I'm in a new environment and have to work in a new culture with new people again, so I was especially appreciative of hanging out with old friends in Singapore.

During one Saturday lunch when I was too hungover to contribute to anything or appreciate the food, there was a conflicting sense of detachment and nostalgia—sitting at the odd seat of the table due to my tardiness further accentuated the detachment. There I was, thinking how far I've travelled and how removed I feel from most of them, and yet feeling comforted that I could, be myself without care of what that self might be. And no matter the distance or the detachment, I will always be the same person in their eyes.

In most cases when I've felt this way, I usually feel trapped by the past but in this instance, it was reassuring: A new work environment and new people always put my own identity into flux while I work out who I should be.

I dreamt of work twice, that's the kind of impact Shanghai has on me and the stress I'm feeling. All the scrambling and late nights and non-stop working has taken its toll and I've tried to avoid doing any work over the break even though a job is hanging over my head. I just need to decompress for a bit before I go nuts.

But I think, for a change, at the age of 33, I can say I'm really challenging myself and doing something completely out of my comfort zone, that this is a good thing and I'm glad I did it. Catching up with Pok Yih tonight sorta confirmed it when he said he was almost envious of the 'adventures' I'm having, and Sharon telling me she's proud of me was so unexpected (and she slipped that in between mouthfuls of chicken rice at Margaret Drive) and, plain decent and nice.

Chinese New Year involved visiting, I met up with some secondary school mates who're mostly married and one of them with a kid. Looking at them made it very clear that I wasn't ready to settle down, at least not in the manner of the Singaporean getting-married-and-buying-an-apartment dream. I'd like to think I have heaps of time ahead of me for that, just not right now. Of course this is the kinda stuff that make up famous last words.

And I squeezed in a few swims and tans which was relaxing and a painful reminder of how out of shape I am. There's a long to-do list in my head for when I get back, but finding a gym has to be a priority and when summer arrives, a pool I can swim in.

The lifeguards at the pool remembered me and asked where the hell I've been, and we caught up, me about working in Australia and Shanghai, them about the government. Tonight catching up with Pok Yih at Adam Road hawker centre, I had a drink stall aunty commenting I haven't been around for a long time.

Inconsequential moments that will never amount to anything more the simple exchanges that they are, with no ties nor emotional investment, just plain human decency because we crossed each other's paths so tangentially, make all the difference.
  • Current Music
    Ripperton - Kiss 100 FM 210210 Pt 2

And gone

Woke up to the sounds of construction, the smell of linen, and cold. The morning sky is a watery grey and as I import pictures into Lightroom, becomes a very soft diffused yellow, kinda like dipping yellow into a pot of murky paint water.

The stopover in Singapore was hot, humid, and good. Met up with Shawn and Danny at the Macpherson Kway Chap stall, hanging out like I'm not going to Shanghai, digging into the food, seated amongst these folks having their Tsingtao beers in the middle of the day and chatting away in Hokkien. Very native and comforting amidst the massive change, it didn't feel as much as a stopover as a refreshing catchup despite the humidity.

I actually begun to enjoy flying this trip, sleeping the six hours from Sydney to Singapore, reading and watching movies from Singapore to Shanghai. And I'm looking forward to returning for Chinese New Year even if I have to pay my own way. It's strange, Singapore is always home no matter how removed I am from the place or how far away I've lived, or even how foreign my mindset has become. Or maybe it's really the luxury of not living there, and being able to visit for nostalgia and comfort that now endears Singapore to me, because I certainly wouldn't be feeling this way if I was still living there.

Arrived in Shanghai on time, walked through customs with nothing to declare (fingers crossed), met Amanda who picked me up. She's the relocation/real estate agent that works with the company to find apartments for people like me. I guess picking up jet lagged spaced out expats are part of her job description. I was surprised, I think I kinda expected ... a driver or cabbie, certainly wasn't expecting someone with her job description. Which made me feel guilty if this wasn't in her job description, but I don't know what they do here so there's no point worrying.

Conversing after 17 hours of travel is difficult. I wasn't tired, I found myself looking out of the windows as any tourist would, but having to keep up the small talk about apartments and stuff with a stranger wasn't exactly what I wanted to do at the end of a journey.

We stopped by a hole-in-the-wall selling cigarettes and pre-paid SIMs, the poor lady got up when we approached, she had been swathed in blankets sleeping on the floor. After some back-and-forth,Amanda worked out which SIM to get me, I paid for it ... and discovered my mobile is locked to Optus. Yup, so I have a SIM and a non-working mobile.

I also realised belatedly back at the airport when I turned on the phone, that Optus didn't have roaming in China. Seriously, what kind of world am I in? I can't quite work out if it's Optus' oversight, or China. Surely there're heaps of travelling business folks who auto-roam in China. I can only assume Optus never saw the need to lay down any such infrastructure for their pre-paid users.

Reached the service apartment, got my room sorted easily, couldn't get hold of Shu, so I went to bed. Woke up a few times freezing my ass off, slightly freaking out that I'm not prepared for the weather.

And here I am trying to figure out Lightroom while thinking I should have breakfast.
  • Current Music
    Joel Mull - Snowslaid ride into the white desert 0110

Going, going (still)

Woke up early today, went to the Chinese Visa Processing Centre. The Chinese Consulate has outsourced the visa processing and application, presumably due to the high-ish volume of people visiting China.

The place was surprisingly quiet at 9:45 am in the morning. I was buzzed through to a counter the second I took a queue ticket, it does pay to make a prior appointment for these things after all. I thought it was nice they had a photocopying machine in the corner, free of charge. Everything was submitted and I was out of the building by 10am.

Spent the next two hours walking around Pitt St Mall. Walked into Glue to check out some Super sunnies, I'm gonna get a pair when I reach Shanghai, because I'm such a sad hipster.

Hopped into Galaxy books and picked up Charles Stross' The Jennifer Morgue, did consider briefly if I wanted to pick up his Wireless but decided to pass. Figured I can always order my books from Amazon ... I hope.

Then I remembered I've been wanting to get a case for my camera and there was a Built case I've been wanting to try but never had my camera on me. Might have to do that tomorrow.

Yes, I'm doing the leaving thing. Going around trying to relive all the places, the last week of soaking up Sydney and saying bye.

Might pick up some Moleskines. I'm not sure why though. I have a fascination with notebooks—Moleskines aren't the only ones—and pens even though I never use them. I love the idea of filling them up with scratchy writings and drawings, but I hate the idea of marring their emptiness and I hate the idea of finite space and wasting that space with ... ramblings like this that I don't think about because they're invisible ones and zeroes in the cloud. A paradox.

Have to keep sorting, movers are coming tomorrow.
  • Current Music
    John Digweed - Kiss 100 FM 170110

Going, going

Everything is sold, still throwing stuff out.

As the apartment clears out, I see shards of my life on the floor, broken into tiny tiny pieces that catch the light, glitter and refract, sharp as memories piercing the soles of my feet. I wear rubber thongs.

Movers coming on Tuesday, sofa bed and bed gets picked up by Wednesday morning, cleaners in the arvo, keys returned on Thursday.

Does that sound right? It'll have to do.

Flight is booked for next Saturday morning. A direct flight would take ten hours, but flying Singapore Air means at least an hour's stopover in Singapore. So I arranged for a four-hour stop which gives me a bit of time to sneak out, catch up, and makan.
  • Current Music
    Silinder - Back To Mine