Well I really don’t know. To be perfectly honest with all of you. I never really given the whole idea of university the philosophical breadth of thought it probably deserved. To me it was really just a ‘right of passage,’ something that I was always expected to step right into. If I really had to sum up my thoughts during the moment of my youth concerning the whole idea of higher education, it would probably be couched in terms of blasé…..blissful ambivalence.

That’s probably because when one is busy degreeing. The only thing in one’s mind is how to impress girls to get a date. Or trying to figure out how to reuse a condom. Along with figuring ever more inventive ways of getting drunk on cheap subsidized student union beer.

Besides what will eventually become valuable or worthless during the long course of ones life journey doesn’t always reveal itself in the very beginning.
Sure you can probably approximate and perhaps even make an informed guess on whether pursuing this or that degree or not degreeing may take you further in life in ten or twenty years somewhere down the future etc etc. But my point is YOU WILL NEVER EVER KNOW FOR CERTAIN. And anyone who tells you otherwise is a liar…all you can do is take a chance on your gut feel….and that’s really all you can do. Anymore and you probably need a time machine or be a descendant of Nostradamus.

As the chastening passage of time is forever transforming the world even as we speak. So when we speak about whether this or that is worth doing – it’s really at best a stab in the dark. Since it’s predicated on the vagaries of so many unfolding social, economic, political and cultural trends that will culminate somewhere down some timeline in the distant future. For example what was valuable….timeless….or even worthwhile during my age looks possibly shambolic these days. Mechanical typewriters. Pagers. Cars with no airbags. High cholesterol food. Shoulder pads. Oily hair cream. Book shops. The list goes on and on.

Then again with the benefit of hindsight. Some things have simply not changed at all. The demand for people who can solve problems hasn’t diminished at all. The demand for people who can convey their thoughts professionally, coherently and confidently without coming across as charlatans who have no idea of what they’re talking about has in fact increased. Sure, those people may have once read Geography, Classics, Theatre or Foreign Relations in university. They may even be now invested in vocations and trades which have absolutely nothing to do with what they once pursued their degree on…..but that doesn’t mean it’s all gone to waste!

As what will always remain timeless and have the capacity to endure unchanged through the ages is one’s ability to compare, contrast, distinguish and synthesize a train of thoughts that you can truly call your own and can credibly defend when challenged.

Those skills will always be in demand. They’re ever greens. Only understand this! Those skill sets can only be had by pursuing degree course. There is no way of short cutting this in life. It doesn’t matter whether it is from an Ivy League or a tin pot university – they all without exception have to abide by this rigorous format of managing knowledge in a seemingly intelligent way. And since university throws out a ton of mental choices at its students. How best should they manage their time? What excuses should they come up with not get disqualified when they hand up their papers late? How long can I smile at that pretty girl in a cafeteria without coming across as a craze stalker? Along with how to dabble in a spot of gambling by spotting what question are likeliest to come out in the final exams? Will I still go for that rave party,get pissed and still wake up sober for an exam at 9 o’clock on Monday morning? How to make homemade beer in students accommodation without blowing up the whole building?

Of course, I understand all these examples might come across as rather infantile and trivial. But do bear with me. I guess what I am really trying to say is as humans, we are constantly learning, bettering our lot, problem solving. At times, we have to do all this without any roadmaps, guidebooks and without the benefit of experiential knowledge.

But if we are going to do these things confidently. We need to be trust our minds 100%. We can’t trust the idea government to deliver the good life. As often what’s good for the country may not necessarily be good for the individual. If we really want to get to the other side and earn the right to say, ‘phew that was close!’ Then I believe nothing even comes close to the rigor of intellectual training one goes thru to earn a degree. A degree to me will always be the best insurance against stupidity. If I had to put a name to only one thing that’s going to put wings on you to believe nothing is impossible…it’s a degree. As when push comes to shove in any situation in life – doesn’t matter whether you’re a farmer whose trying to maximize yield under conditions of drought or a middle manager who is just trying to get a decent return on investment in a business environment of resource scarcity. At the end of the day, the only thing that can keep you out from the proverbial shit pot, win the day, allow you to past from the realm of theory to reality with room to spare is going to be your ability to reliably call the right shots by making thoughtful decisions!

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‘When we talk about farming in the context of the cool factor. It’s currently located somewhere at the very bottom in the sauna uncool quadrant. But all that is going to change not very long from now. Mind you, when I use that sobriquet term of endearment, ‘one day,’ I am not referring to some distant future when we would all be driven by robots or holidaying in Mars. I am not even talking about a timeline of ten years! But possibly less than even five years, when the whole idea of driving a tractor will be cooler than a Ferrari.

Granted that notion may seem a tad preposterous to you. As whenever we think about farming. The imagery it so often conjures is provincial….parochial…insular…and downright backward. But when one begins to ask strategic questions like: how is the world going to feed 9.1 billion people in 2050? How can yield be sustainably increased on a same given hectarage without environmental degradation? How is it even possible to have a intelligent conversation on food security in an age of unprecedented environmental change?

Then what begins to emerge is the very kernel of an idea that farming will require massive intellectual firepower, if it is to stand a chance of reliably delivering the goodies.

I read recently URA is experimenting on driverless car technology. But the first commercially produced autonomous robots that can navigate via GPS. I bet you will not be driverless cars. But mundane robots programmed to perform repetitive work on a farm!

Drone technology is now just used to take pics where one can upload in youtube so that everyone who watches it can post ‘wow!’ But I bet you my last dollar once they sort out the teething problems of having to live with superglue, duct tape, lousy code and gps clinches – the first commercial drones will be performing aerial surveys in farms to facilitate precision farming. Short cake Khaw boon Wang has absolutely no idea how to gainfully make use of so many empty car parks in HDB these days – because at the helium rate COE’s are going both Sengkang Sally and Buangkok Beng can no longer afford to buy cars. But I bet you. Someday all these car parks will be turned into highly productive modular farms growing everything from blue mountain coffee beans to Provence Carpenthes truffles. Even Pinot noire will be grown in Singapore. Along with near extinct Caspian Beluga Sturgeons swimming in computer controlled tanks in some skyscraper or some industrial park.

My point gentlemen is farming cannot stay the same. There is only finite arable land. The supply chain can only stretch so far. Perishability can only be mitigated to a point. Beyond that and it’s no longer a viable business case. Those are the constraints. But the constants remain more needs to be come out from less.

So what we have here gentlemen is the creation of a tipping point. In the parlance of the Laanstrad, a decision nexus.

This means the time is just about right for a precipitous shift in how we have always viewed farming. The condition that makes this highly probable is already there – the mathematics of necessity or ‘no choice’. And when that day comes a new breed of farmer will have step into the field to produce more out of less.

It doesn’t take a lot to trigger this perceptive shift. Not at all. You have no possible idea how fickle people really are. How fast trends can suddenly tack and change. All it takes is a few cool guys to come right in and do their thing like what the Koreans once did for staid soap operas and pop music that no one was willing to vote with their wallets….and wham…bang. It will all change in a blink of an eye!

That’s all it takes based on the understanding of the art of cool. But never underestimate what will make this paradigm shift possible – never deny the engine that will make this whole idea possible – it will not be hard work. Or even the fait accompli of a degree is nice but not necessary if you want to succeed in life – that to me is just rhetoric. If anything, the catalyst to set into motion this revolution, cannot in my opinion run away from the doctrine of precedent that once set into motion all other revolutions such as the industrial, space, financial or digital. It cannot.

It will be raw intellectual firepower. To put it another way, the ability for one to manage information intelligently by comparing, contrasting, distinguishing and drawing nuanced schools of thoughts to permit for experimentation thru innovation. It will be a game of cerebral fitness gentlemen. So if some stupid people who you came across in TV tells you, they can do all this without the benefit of a degree then all I can say is good luck to them lah…..as that’s all they can ever hope to have.’

They came during the half moon. Orpuk has a way of climbing over the high wire fence without stirring the dogs. He is the only man I know who can do this. Many villagers don’t consider Orpuk and his kind humans – they call them, the Orang Bunyan…..as they have the power of invisibility.

To me. Orpuk has always been flesh and bone. Whenever he visits. He just squats on the bonnet of my land cruiser for hours. Never says a word. Never makes a sound. He just squats there quietly…contently with his shadow. Together they make the alphabet L in the cast of the moon beam. When I see him. Orpuk breaks out in a smile and hands me a bunch of leafs from the great mother of trees deep in the jungle. I put one beneath my tongue. It stays there as my second tongue.

Soon I feel a buzz. He puts another leaf in my mouth. This the tribesmen believe will reveal my true spirit – the magic leafs will give me strength, thoughts will acquire speed and my spirit will soar like an eagle.

I get into my “kip.” Its just a string underwear made out of hide with a flap of leather to cover my dick. When I enter the courtyard the rest of the braves are decked in my Manchester United T shirts. That’s how it is with tribesmen – they don’t have any concept of ownership….they take whatever they want. I don’t mind. One of them is wearing my football shorts over his head.

A tall brave approaches me, he spits on each side of my cheek and smears beetroot paste creating a menacing V shaped mask. The others chant moving with wavering palms like serpents around me. They’re weaving a spell to make me invisible like them – when they’re done. The leader lets out a shriek and without a word….. the pack is off.

I take my position behind Orpuk and his son, Noon. We run in single file to hide our numbers. Each man armed with a spear and bow and a fist full of poisoned tipped arrows. The younger ones as spotter with their mini blowpipes sweeping way ahead.

From time to time, the pack will stop….. suddenly Orpuk will stand erect and sniff the night air, his eyes say, ‘they are nearby by the river’– we are off again. No one ever says a word. Like birds flying in formation. Everyone seems to instinctively know their place in the pack. This is the killing time….the quickening.

Someone hisses like cobra. The pack begins to fan out in a tight crescent shape. We’re walking through tall reeds. I can feel the grass tips stinging me, they’re sharp as needles. Their edges cutting my flesh like razors. I push the pain out of my mind. The air smells of musk. The boars must be nearby.

Orpuk mimics a cry of an owl. The braves throw down their spears and bow and take out their daggers. One of them lunges towards a boar that’s just broken away in a clearing and wrestles him down. A dance of glints as the blades catch the half moonlight. One blink. Maybe two. They’re all dead.

Orpuk flashes a smile at me as he begins to skin the hogs. He’s done it so many times, he doesn’t even need to look at his hands. It’s as if his hands have a mind of their own. Soon we are off again – each man hauling a leaf wrapped slab of meat tied with reed roots. We are in single file again running alongside the riverbank towards the half moon.

I can’t carry it and run at the same time. Orpuk signals the braves to free me of the load – I can just about keep up.

Soon the tribe arrives. The rest of the tribe have been expecting them – The shaman had foretold their arrival on the half moon. A fire burns with lashings of hypnotic Kdu leafs. He hands Orpuk a vessel fashioned from coconut halves flavored with star aniseed – its a white liquid that taste like liqourie and stale 100 plus. When it’s my turn. I take two gulps. Orpuk puts three more leafs in my mouth – I chew slowly and soon one of the braves begin to go beat his chest with a flapping action. The rest start to follow. They all jump up and down thrusting their spears in the night sky. The shadows they create remind me of light sliced into ribbons. Some of the braves leap over the pyre. As they emerge from the flames. They writhe in pain mixed with ecstasy rolling their smoking bodies in the cool of the mud. Most prefer to dance around the fire. Like moths, being licked by a savage tongue of light and when they can no longer bear it any longer – they break away with a deep “uuuuuuuumhhh!” While the rest laugh. While the women thrust their breast out with each break out to acknowledge their bravery. Another brave dances to the fire. Another breaks out. And through the night this gyre would turn without end.

Everything seems almost to be slaved to this hypnotic ryhthm of the night – the younger girls in the tribe beat bamboo staves together, they add nuance to the rhythm of the night – they stand in the shadows alongside old toothless women who guard over them like old foxes. They can never come near the fire. It’s forbidden.

I see. But I see beyond. Time and shapes seem fluid. They seem congealed…compressed as I sink deeper….deeper and deeper into a thick resonance like amber moving ever so slowly that it’s still – this hypnotic rhythm bears so deep within me that I find myself wondering whether it’s even me. Or something imagined. Then Shaman comes over. He chants into my ears. Before he disappears. He blows a powdery substance into my face. The throbbing now begins to get more violent. I begin to cough violently as an indescribable fire begins to consume me from within. The braves seize my arms and legs. They tie me down with vines. One of them puts a stick in my mouth to stop me from biting my tongue – whole jungle is swirling around me. My eyes turn white as I begin to convulse. They chant A-mak, A-mak, A-mak.

Suddenly silence….I now see the world through night vision goggles. The perspective is low, as if I am crawling on the ground.

I have been reincarnated into the mythical albino monitor lizard.

A-MAK……hoi….A-MAK….the whole tribe is an a frenzy as they make a circle around me….after that the world switches off. All I remember is the perpetual swaying to the sound of this hypnotic ryhthm as it courses relentlessly through my being; the mysterious flicker of the fire; the languorous shadows that seem always to have a life of its own….the heat of the flames as they lick bare flesh.

And all through this layered thickness of primal consciousness. I am falling…falling like some rock cast into a cavern….sinking deeper and deeper across the ocean of time. Across the many layers of sights and sounds that all seems so alien….yet strangely familiar.

A-mak, A-mak, A-mak, A-mak.

I wake up somewhere in the Western terraces of my plantation. I am caked in mud. There is blood running down by knee caps. I remember nothing. Not even my name. And then it comes to me very slowly. Its a brand new day.

I am a man again…..I am a man again.

I wonder how I got here. I look frantically for any sign of my footprints. There are none….except the prints of a giant monitor lizard.

It is the beginning of the rainy season. This is usually the period when game is most plentiful in the jungle. It’s also the time when my gentle friends will come down from the mountains and pay me a visit.

They seem to be the only ones who can sneak up on me as if appearing from nowhere. Usually when they appear. They are either perching on a tree or I suddenly find them sitting in a row on the gate. Smiling with their deadly blowpipes. They do not seem to fear the dogs. Neither do the dogs bark. It’s as if they both know – they are all cut from the same cloth….kindred spirits who belong to the bosom of the wild.

Tribesmen shy from villagers. They much prefer to keep to themselves. It is taboo for them to form an association with anyone from ‘the edge of the world.’ Their tribal elders warn them from a young age – if they get too close…their souls will be stolen. So they hide. And since they all have the exceptional power of invisibility. No can ever see them…..absolutely no one.

Except me. I know their ways intimately like the lines on my palm. I can even speak their tongue fluently. As I often wander deep in the jungle to hunt and spend so much time in the floating world chugging down jungle moonshine – there I am known to all as A-MAK. The mythical albino monitor lizard. To the tribesmen the human form that I assume now is not the real me. They believe I am really one of them….a kindred spirit…. and this is just an elaborate disguise. A ‘haih!’ – spirit form. As I am really a spy sent to the edge of the world to intermingle freely with the living dead. This is how they see us – dead people who are just pretending to live. To them I will always be the mythical albino monitor lizard. A revered being who appears from time to time to their council of elders to warn them of impending misfortune and shifts. From time to time, one of them would turn to me and ask in a childlike manner, ‘when will you return home to us A-MAK……’ Then they will all huddle together and begin to weep, ‘you must be suffering here….there is no monkey brain paste to go with your yam……no game to hunt…..and you are so alone without your tribe.’

Working with tribesmen is not easy. It requires a lot of patience and understanding. As to them our ways will always be incomprehensible and peculiar. Since there is no concept of ownership in their community, it is not unusual for them to take whatever tickles their fancy. They can also get confused like children and it is not unusual for there to be plenty of miscommunication. For example, when I ask for the wheelbarrow – it is not unusual for them to all assume, it is because I want to be wheeled around like a tribal chieftain (as in the video). When I ask them to carry a thing, it is also not unusual for them to keep on carrying this thing and walking beyond the boundaries of my land, if I do not stop them.

To manage them. I use hunting language known to them as ‘unshar’ – this is when the lead huntsman says, ‘you go here….as for you, stay seven paces behind him….as for you keep us within thirty paces…..we will only communicate with hand signals….and bird sounds. All this is done with only grunts and hand signals. It is the most economic method of communication.

When the chieftain scrawls these hunting instructions down on dirt. Everyone is dead serious and the work is as good as done. It is a scene as old as the hills itself and goes back to an ancient time when our ancestors were roaming around the jungle in just skins.

As for the villagers they can never see my gentle friends…..to be honest, I don’t think you can either. Not even if they were just sitting around in the jungle beside you…..they’re literally invisible. That to me is not such a bad thing. As some things I never ever want the grubby hands of the world to ever spoil. As for A-MAK. One day when he finally grows sick and tired of living in the world where the dead pretends to live. He might just decide to make the epic return journey…..home….someday…..but for now the whole idea of home seems so far like a distant faraway star….so very very far.

 

 

 

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Four times a year my field office looks like a fertilizer wholesale. This is just a fraction of what is usually required for one round of manuring.

Farming commercially is really just about one thing – maximizing opportunity cost to produce high yielding crops at the lowest possible price. To reliably accomplish this goal. The clever use of fertilizer is jugular.

Judgement is key. As since every season presents it’s own unique set of challenges. No two seasons are ever the same. This year I have tweaked the fertilization regime to take stock of the expected prolonged drought along with rainfall deficit. There are many things I had to throw out of the window. As the freaky weather really rubbishes many time honored practices that one would usually deploy to manage a plantation.

So far by and large. I’ve cut all the right moves. My yield is still way above the industry median average. But at times I feel as if I am like a solitary pilot flying blind as a bat. I don’t even know whether I can trust many of my calculations. As since many of my methods this year is really a polyglot of retrofits ranging from how the Israelites would grow Jaffa oranges to whatever I have managed to cobble together. I am just not sure as all my methods thus far can at best be described in terms of a ‘great experiment.’

if I get it right. I stand to reap a bountiful harvest despite the looming threat of El Niño. And even if she hits with all her fury somewhere around the end of the year. The survivability of my crops is assured. But if I get it all wrong. Then I will just have to roll with the punches the best I can. In my mind there is no other way and it all just comes down to one spin of the roulette wheel.

So far I’ve cut all the right moves and I often tell myself – you’re good to go. But I remind myself – if I did slip thru that sliver of opportunity not so long and breathe a sigh of relief….luck certainly played a preponderant role. It’s very easy for a man to allow himself to be lulled into a false sense of confidence…..to bloat up and lose all sense of scale and perspective as to what he’s up against. Especially when that man seems to always beat the curve while others fall helplessly by the wayside. This man who looks at mother nature with defiant eyes in the way a lone climber would flare his nostrils and just up her skirt to the summit her just when her back is turned – but this year is different from all other years. This year is so bloody ridiculous hard. If last year was a leisurely walk in the park. This whole year feels as though I am just throwing out canon balls out of my boat to make headway!

If I can believe in the idea of God. I could perhaps seek resolution in prayer. To leave it all beneath the feet of the great architect. The endless litany of caprice…vagaries…..along with the never ending intrigues of fortune to regard victory and defeat as one of the same face of a coin. But I don’t!

If only I could be sure about how the weather would pan on in the weeks ahead. I could just as well take comfort in the metallic certainly of mathematics….units of measurements…photosynthesis….periodic tables…the anatomy of the tree and how it would perform under X or Y conditions – but again I cannot as there seems to be no way to beacon out the murk.

So there I am….a man with just the mere morsel of his humble courage. So small that it’s like a tongue of flame that fits within the palm of his hands. This man who looks out across the treacherous desolation of no man’s like some faceless soldier who is just about to storm out of the trench line. He checks his rifle to see whether he’s chambered a round. He looks at his watch for then tenth time and somewhere between the fifteen and sixteen….he wonders whether he should leave it in the trench with a letter impaled with a bayonet….he bobs his head up again to make out the machine gun post…he knows it’s there…somewhere….but he can’t make it out. He looks at his wedding band furtively. Then he steels himself.

Soon the whistle would blow and with it all of hell would be unleashed.

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‘The idea of valor has to be at best the sum of what others prefer to see. Usually they see what they want to see. The travesty is what they see. They believe it to be true. I know. I know this well. As I belong to a category of men who derives so much of his being vicariously from the whole idea of what others prefer to see….and believe.

You know the sort of mysterious man who walks into a beer hall in Munich that only climbers frequent only for everyone to fall silent as they all whisper to themselves while stealing furtive glances…he’s the one….he did that….what a jolly good fellow. The sort of man who has at least a dozen Polaroid framed pictures behind the bar counter in every happening city from Beuno Aries to Brooklyn, New York of himself summiting that mountain…sailing that sea…crossing that desert. He even looks the part with his penchant for sport cars….lean frame…the sinuous way he moves…the slight pause like a panther when something piques his interest. A man who all others in the fraternity of the brotherhood considers the man who went further than any other man. The one who others talk about with intonations reserved for only fandom…the one who other men touch the things he touches hoping that it would leave them with some lasting residue to be like him.

Yes. He certainly looks the part. He even has just enough gruff to go with his Rolex Submariner…wear on his Austin Reed jacket sleeves….even has a broken side mirror on his Masserati. All the accoutrements to supply the belief. He’s still reaching out across that infinity of time and space into and beyond that mythical equatorial line somewhere in one’s head where fear and fascination resides in equanimity.

The man who to others always seems to have just the right eclectic mix to be in his element anywhere….a flanuer with a dash of sympatico….like the ever dissipating aristocratic. Monsieur Swan in Marcel Proust remembrance whose content to prowl the Parisian streets as if he’s only function in life is to supply valence to the idea – the sole function of life is to decay and give oneself to the atmosphere bit by bit like a ball of camphor – as he struggles in vain to comprehend whether life perhaps might perhaps be to imitate art instead. Otherwise what can possibly account for with obsessive compulsion to fuck Odette – which he seems to be only able to love my imagining her as one of Botecelli’s nymphs.

Yes I don’t imagine this man can be so different from the poor Swann, his one and only mistress is fear.. Imagine a hand curled with shards of nails. That is how this man sees his mistress….fear.

But the greatest irony that befalls this man – has to his irrevocable belief what others think about his exploits. Real or imagined, has to be hogwash…make belief….the stuff of comic books and CGI rendered movies – as since he knows fear only too well. Yes, he knows it. Often he murmurs to him – if only he can tell it the way it really is…..but who would listen to this man who knows fear intimately. Who? In a world where people prefer to see what they want to see?

There lies the dilemma for the man who knows fear better than anyone else. As the closer this man reaches out to the end of fear. There’s really less to say. Except maybe to reconcile his sense and sensibilities to the idea – this realization can only bring with it a variant of the end……the finality of his estrangement from his fellow men followed by a sort of bittersweet acceptance that he would always have to live alone with this unabridged version of all there is to say about……fear.

As surely even to this man who knows fear like the touch of a lover knows only too well – the end or for that matter any ending…. is only imagined, a destination invented to keep one foot ahead of the other like some perpetual wheel in motion – only for this man. He differs from all other men…..it’s a vampire thing….as he intuitively know he will never get there. Nor even understand it fully either….his delightful torment…mistress….the source of all his fascination and trepidation….fear……fear. And so when this man who till now is contend to roam following his nose wherever it may take him like some restless flanuer comes to a salutory stop, that is only because he knows the very one thing….no other man can ever share with him. He has the rare privilege to fear better than any man alive. This he knows……that which all other men prefer not to see, nor believe.’

 

 

 

The first monsoon rains

September 19, 2014

From a distance,
the incessant chant of monsoon from south west,
sounds like an old witch practising her craft,
she is all evil and dark, one would think,
the overcast sky her sinister cloak.

She is feisty with her lashing of lightning bolts
I watch this coy gyre as she weaves her spell,
A crackle of a solitary thunder and virgin rains,
now she walks with me step to matching step,
She tries to entice me with her soft tunes,
Her tender cool, waxing my cheeks,
her lover’s touch unmistakable, passionate, eager
I shiver, she wants me to get in to her arms, she is monsoon..

Tactical Living

September 17, 2014

There are some people after looking at my life, roll their eyes and exclaim, ‘paranoid’ ‘psychopath’ Not that what they think ever bothers me. Not at all.

As these people regularly get robbed, car jacked and since they take zero ownership over their personal protection and only seem to outsource it to the police all the time – these are also the same people who are very often constrained by fear. Real or imagined. Fear consistently holds them back. Fear keeps them poor.

In many cases it even stops them dead in their tracks from doing business in the world’s fastest growth regions. No I am not talking about New York, Paris or London….but rather places where folk regularly point guns at people. These are incidentally the best places to make your fortune abroad. As since the polite air conditioned addicted crowd considers them basket cases – land is usually dead cheap. Rental is non existent (even comes with a sky view, if a bomb renovated it). Labor is plentiful. As everyone wants to get out of refugee camps and as far as the laws are concerned, you can just make it up as you go along.

These are of course nuggets of wisdom – they never ever teach you in Harvard Business School. As they since tactical living is not a module that is usually taught there. They have no choice but to go in high. While those who are skilled in managing risk can go where angels fear to tread and pick up goodies for free.

I kid u not! I happen to know bus loads of people who regularly read my blog and they’re all prospering and very happy doing what they do all over the world – as we all share the common philosophy of living a tactical life.

To me cultivating a Tactical Mindset is not paranoia. It’s good business IQ. If you happen to believe that it is of no value…then you are stupid and ignorant. The end!

It is wisdom. As since I work in a dangerous environment. I makes perfect sense to have a complimentary thoughtware. I don’t ever have to live in the shadow of fear. As since I spend a lot of my time training, training and training….I have every confidence in being able to defend myself and those around me.

Tactical living to me is attitude where one makes a conscious decision to declare war against complacency and to be prepared to maintain the status quo thru the knowledge of Warcraft.

It is preparing constantly for the unthinkable. It is living in a state of heightened awareness where one is conscious of everything. Nothing is ever what it seems when I am in this heighten state of consciousness – I take nothing for granted. Not even simple everyday acts like driving up to my gate*

There is so much more that could be written on this one subject. But since I don’t want to overload your brain till it explodes like a hand grenade. I hope this short piece will provoke you to consider taking ownership of your security seriously.

*When you drive a car into a house head first. You literally lose every strategic advantage. You’re a duck! If there is an ambush. You can’t step on the gas and make a lightning getaway. You can’t even weaponize your car to ram the baddies or take off their knee caps either. And since all ambushed contain within them the element of surprise. They all invariably take advantage of the blind side and when your back is turned to a possible threat. You are literally a sitting duck. That’s why the right and only way to drive a car into a house is by reversing in.

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‘The greatest solvent that militates against 100% preparedness has to be complacency – to me that’s really just a zombie attitude when everyone goes thru the motions without having the goal firmly superglued in their heads. It’s just aerobics. Usually with roughly the same processing power as tying their shoelaces. They’re not situationally attuned. They’re not covering the bases tightly with the right attitude. It’s sloppy and worst of all they don’t bother to train realistically and everything is just dumbed down to a routine. Wonder no more when the shit hits the fan like little India everyone is twiddling their thumbs, mumbling and waiting for someone else to make the decision.

In that case. They did not lack the equipment. Rather the one factor that undermined their capacity to annul the threat rapidly had to be complacency. That’s to say they had the wrong attitude.

That attitude is well and fine in Singapore. I bet you could even live up to the ripe old age of eighty with all your hands and feet intact. As all one has to do is pick up the phone and outsource the whole idea of personal security to the police. But over here in the frontier. There is no law. Not after you cross the first two rows of the palms as you drive into a plantation.

It’s only you and them. So to me there will always be an understanding of sorts that differentiates me from all other men whenever the subject of life is raised. This will always be the attitude of those who turn the wheel of life in the frontier – nothing is ever what it seems. Nothing can be taken for granted. If no one is trying to kill you. That’s because you put in the effort to make those basic living conditions possible with the sweat from your brow. It never came for free. As for the idea of government, it might as well be on written on some rock on the moon.

The frontier man can step right into the field and put it on like a jumpsuit and just as well be the invisible man. With the certainty, there will always be 12 ways to walk in plantation in the dry season without ever making a sound. If the other side has FLIR. On a moonless night there are at least six ways to confuse him. You can’t defeat it, but you make him pull out his hair! If it’s thermal, there are at least seven in the dry season and only two in the wet with a possible three with the intelligent use of kerosene. In the wet season, there are four shades of camouflage. In the dry three when the sun is high and seven more when the arch of the sun sinks below the 3rd azimuth. Three methods to turn a lorry turtle on the flats with just three sticks. Six on the slopes with only two and one when it’s crossing a bridge in a plantation. Four to make a lorry stuck in the mud during the dry season. By falling just two mature palms, it’s even possible to bring an entire column of lorries to a halt. Two methods to bring down a bridge. Four to make it sweep away in a heavy storm and only one to slowly bring it down crashing….yes, there will always be an understanding of sorts I reckon whenever the subject of life is raised…but that is only to be expected don’t you think so. After all it’s hardly as if we live the same, but rather separate lives.’

(1) Always keep your word. If you say, you are going to do something, do it. Even if you lose money. See it thru to the end. Even if you have to end up in ICU or the police station. Do it. If you cannot do it. Never commit.

(2) Get use to calling a spade a spade. The goal is to get it right the first time. Never use a family of bullshit words like ‘right sizing’. In my opinion it’s a bullshit word usually used by bullshit artist to sell invisible bullshit! Just speak plainly and honestly. Granted you may not be known as a very diplomatic person. But at least you will never see the need to waste time clarifying what you meant or keep having to explain to others your words were taken out of context. Get it right the first time!

(3) Be prepared to make enemies. In business conflict is unavoidable. Because by just being in business. You have by default taken an aggressive position. So do not ask why. Simply accept jealousy…backstabbing…character assassination… etc come with the territory. Some businessmen are unethical (do not ask why, it is what it is) and they are very accustomed to cheating and resorting to underhanded techniques to gain an advantage. If you come across someone who tries to cheat you. Make him an example to the others in your business circle -be ruthless and do not take any prisoners….there is no Geneva Conventions in business. So do it a la ‘this is what happens to people who try to cheat me’ style. Agreed. It may be very crude some people may even consider your methods unsound or that you may be psychopath, but do it enough times and all the cheaters will simply say, this fish has too many bones. Best look for easy meat. Otherwise you will always be harried…distracted…and find yourself following dead ends or worst still chasing rainbows for that pot of gold.

(4) Respect the idea of dignity of labor. Pay a man his due. No more or less. As I can almost guarantee you 100%is the people who work for or with you are either dim witted, lack experience or are simply bad decision makers. They will commit to an impossible figure and because they fail to factor in the complexity and extraneous cost – they end up losing money. In such a case, be flexible and pay them an equitable sum. This way they will regard you as a fair man who respects them.

(5) Never give your knowledge for free. Never! Doesn’t matter whether it is a church or for a charitable cause. Volunteerism lagi worst. Because anything free will invariably be transformed into the worthless even if it is valuable. But when another man pays to hear what you have to say and the results turn out to be good. He will be more appreciative and value what you have shared with him.

(6) Be a man of few words. Empty barrels make a lot of noise. If you are the sort who talk too much, no one will ever take what you have to say seriously. Less is always more in business. Instead be sparing with your words and cultivate the habit of observing those around you.

(7) Business is war. The enterprise of waging war is and will always be a very serious affair that requires the utmost personal discipline. Along with a gamut of black arts involving espionage, infiltration, deception, misdirection along with ten other unmentionable Mossad skill sets. No one can and should ever be trusted. As in business there are no friends or enemies…only your pets are the exception – they are all merchants of convenience and it’s best to work on the assumption everyone can be bought for the right price. Anyone can betray you! Anyone can let you down!

(8) Be mindful of alcohol, women and boastful people. Alcohol impairs the judgement and is a truth serum. If you must drink. Do so in private. A drunken state invariably leads to accidental fornication. I can almost guarantee you this 100%. You will wake up in strange places with no reliable recollection of how much information has been divulged. Fornication also leads to emotional upheaval, lack of focus, lethargy, sloth and of course back ache. Which means you end up buying a super expensive OSIm chair (refer to point 10 for further elaboration). Fornication also compromises your personal security. Remember business is war – to possible blackmail and intelligence gathering along with seeding a delusional state. A delusional state will make you bloated with false pride…thereafter you are good for the proverbial fall! If you need to blow off steam. There is always Ipad porn, it is good to go 24/7 and since it improves the power of your imagination, it is also prevents you from Alzheimer’s.

(9) Carry yourself seriously like a uncle. Mastering the full range of uncle power is one of the skeleton keys to success. As age is synonomous with wisdom and stability. This is very easily accomplished. All you have to do is go to Cash Converter and buy used clothes of dead people. Start sentences with the words, ‘young man…I will have you know…. when I was young like you….is this what young people like you do these days are up to….In my time. If people ask you how old you are, just tell them you take Vitamin E, laugh sardonically and head for the toilet or change the subject. Grow a mustache. Style your hair like Chow Yuen Fatt. Wear a singlet. Steal toothpicks after every meal. Make strange bodily sounds. Pretend to be long sighted. Be seen only with the company of old men. Talk about sicknesses. Avoid topics like the internet….if they know you blog instant Matilah!

(10) Lead a simple life and be very careful not to provoke jealousy in others. If your peers insist you are doing well. Ask them whether you can borrow money from them or introduce you to a good bankruptcy lawyer. The goal is to confuse them. With your farmhands always look at them with an expression that you have migraine – this way they will pity you and whisper to their wife’s, thank God our lives is not as complicated as his! We may be poor but at least we don’t have to pop Panadol like sweets! Never mix with plastic people like the Joneses. Never take to their poisonous ways. As when you cultivate the company of this jet setters you will always find yourself living a life of dissipation.

Pruning of the palm takes it’s cue from the art of diamond cutting – if just the right amount of leafs are cut off….and no more. This would enhance the carat, clarity and value of the diamond. If too much is taken out. This will reduce the value of the diamond to crud….the magic cannot happen….it all goes to waste.

It’s a task reserved for only the most experienced oil palm farmer – it’s like attaining the mythical level 85 of the world of Warcraft – and its not unusual for plantations to engage professional pruning crews who just specialize in this one task.

If too much leafs are recklessly taken off. This will not only impair the capacity of the palm to perform photosynthesis effectively – it may even trigger a self destruction mechanism in the genetic make up of the tree resulting in certain death.

However if just the right amount of excess leafs are removed. And this would depend on a host of factors that requires a variety of judgement that is closer to an art than science, such as the location of the tree in relation to the arch of the sun, it’s age, girth, soil type etc.

Pruning when done well will have the desired effect of stimulating the tree to produce longer and broader new leafs thus increasing yield.

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‘When one reflects deeply about life – the metaphor of a gardener vexing over which branch to prune along with how much goes a long way to describe how most of us go thru the long journey of life.

Pruning….is the only thing we regularly seem to do throughout our entire life – this life long procession of discarding things, people and ideas – we consider worthless and to only keep that which we consider worthy.

That is why I believe a large chunk of life is to be found somewhere in the Tao of pruning – this continuous process where we see ourselves cutting off ties with the people who we believe can do nothing but hold us back or throw out ideas that we once considered useless along with consigning old clothes to the Salvation Army depot.

You could even say that is all we ever do in our life….prune….prune and prune.

Some people are better than others at the art of pruning. They can just go chop, chop and it’s all gone, they even have the pruning thoughtware to go just right on without skipping a beat. I don’t have that single mindedness when it comes to cutting off things from my life. I tend to vacillate…..hold off a decision as long as I can…I am just lousy at it.

What I do know is at times, we can be down right reckless with the people, things and notions we decide to cut off from our life. We may decide to slam the door on someone just because all that person seems to give us is grief.

That could possibly explain why I don’t seem to have many hits as a blogger after blogging for so long.

Only I am one of those men who believe very strong – if we decide to cut off someone from our life. Throw out a thing. Or change the way we see the world – we should at least know what we are getting into.

That’s another way of saying. We need to understand the wider ramifications of our acts and omissions and how it may come back to either bless or bang us up somewhere down the future.

It’s not something that I would ever consider doing by just listening to some funny man I came across on TV or over a casual conversation or even if it’s something that promises me a short term gain.

Most people I feel don’t think compellingly about the things, people and ideas they they decide to prune off from their lives. Not deeply enough…at least. Not seriously enough to consider the wisdom of withholding that sort of decision till they truly know about what they’re getting themselves into.

They just don’t…it could well be, they’re just not bothered. Or they feel this is not something that they want in their lives any longer. Could even be, they feel it’s the biggest mistake in their life and all they want is to move on without that thing, person or thoughtware.

Only understand this! prune away a thing, person or thoughtware from one’s life – that which is allowed to fall away will have to go the way it has to go.

I will say it one more time only because it bears repeating – that which is allowed to fall away will have to go the way it has to go.

If it is a thing like a tractor that is just left to rot in some shed – then don’t expect it to start on the first turn of the key should you decide to go back to it, just because you experienced a rare moment of epiphany, its less reliable, user friendly and endearing than your new sexy tractor that you were once smitten with…..expect a hefty repair bill, if you want it to get it up and running again. Accept even the idea the bill for the repair may probably even cost your more than a new tractor!

Those are the facts of life when you prune the wrong things and they fall away from your life…..you pay a hefty price!

The same I imagine applies to people as well. Not all broken relationships can heal and repair themselves. Not even if you put in the effort. Even less if you pray to God. As Mr 10% is highly optional lah!

A relationship left to neglect will and must die and eventually it will be reincarnated into another form….only….without you!

As some wrongs can never be forgiven. And even if they are….they’re unlikely to be forgotten as the scars run too deep. It’s best to accept these things and move on as best one can.

Again. These are the facts of life when you prune the wrong people and they fall away from your life….you lose that special him or her forever!

Then there are some ideas that we may have once renounced, considered stupid, a waste of time only to realize later on in life, we could have gone further, if only we have that thoughtware between our ears….if only we went with the flow then, gave it the benefit of a good light – it could be deciding to do a degree…learning a skill or just being able to get along with folk who are so different from us.

Instead we were righteous and deluded ourselves: there is only one way to see the world and it is ours. As for the rest….they’re are merely details in the greater scheme of things. So we censored, killed, threw out, stop it from growing in our minds, drove it out from our lives with mindless mantras and now after so many years when we look back at how that once ridiculous idea could have taken us further…served us well…make us happier….we know, deep down, it’s too late for those things we once pruned off to ever return back to enrich and better our lives again….they’re gone forever…the door closes…and all that remains is the faint memory, that which was once worthy nestled firmly within the assurance of our palm….is now just dust blown away by the restless wind of time.

Prune wisely and you will have sweet heavy fruit.

Prune foolishly and you will have to eat bitter fruit.

It would be difficult like robbing the Bank of England…but not impossible la. Not at all.

As I believe I am the world best farmer. I can grow anything….even iceberg lettuce on the moon.

There are probably less than ten farmers in the whole wide world who have the arrogance and temerity to pull off this caper. One needs a certain swagger of a conquistadores anything less and it’s no good. Like I said its like a bank heist. Besides I am eminently qualified since I have the natural advantage of a diabolical criminal mind.

My winery will probably be just 4 acres in an temp control enclosure. Could even be in an industrial park or where freight containers and tractors go and die. I am not particular. Or maybe Bukit Timah since its closing shop for two years. I may just grab me a piece of land like one of those South American Grileiros.

I will try my hand at an Alsace strain of grapes… a Lambrusco cross with Torrentes….yes. A Pinot or Cab is definitely too long a shot….a bridge too far…just too finicky in the tropics.

But since I much prefer the challenge of a European Feinherb pedigree – it will probably have to be a ramrod stiff Riesling, can’t be rounded…..that’s impossible….or for that matter full bodied…cannot, it’s the heat..it will probably be sharp in the first note as that’s the best that can be done in loamy alluvial soil under tropical conditions – so it will probably be a great accompaniment to Char Kuey Teow or Jumbo chili crab – it wouldn’t be floral and fruity like all Reislings. Rather there will be hints of tropical fruit like Mango and along with rambutans (that’s unavoidable as the high sulphides will never be able to reproduce the mellow flavor of a thoroughbred “Feinherb”….impossible – don’t expect to bottle more than 5,000 a year.

As I will probably run it like a cottage industry and open my winery up twice a week for tourist to visit.

Yes…it would be game of cerebral fitness like a bank heist…..but no…it’s not impossible…..not at all.

Some day.

All of us like nothing better than to fit in and be accepted by our family, friends and business associates.

This is a very natural human yearning that you, I and everyone who is a member of the human species aspires too. Those who tell you they much prefer to stand as shark infested islands all by themselves are either liars or delusional.

Man is after all hard wired to be social animal. Our faces are built to convey a range of emotions. Our hands can sense warmth along with danger.

Hence as humans there will always be something intensely brain stem satisfying and edifying to be welcomed, accepted, appreciated and respected by our fellow men.

And when man is denied these stimuli’s, it’s very natural for this him to doubt himself….and even feel less of a man.

This is why there are so many perfectly sane and level headed people who are willing to do almost anything to gain the approval of their bosses, pastors and those who they look up too.

These people are prepared to do almost anything to be accepted…belong…and remain part of their chosen community – some work like slaves often canibalizing their physical and spiritual well being just to please their bosses…others are even prepared to sell their homes and donate it all to bent pastors….then there are those who are willing to even betray themselves like a chameleon just to curry favor with their political masters.

But since a wise man has invested considerable time and effort to know his strengths and weaknesses without the trappings of delusions and since he knows this one thing better than anyone else on this planet.

This man will NEVER give another the power to judge, measure or pigeon hole him. Never! After all, why should he? It hardly makes sense for him to do so….as he knows himself better than you can ever aspire to know him. All you really have is the illusion that you know of him – and even that could be something so well crafted that he has put in your mind.

So if you already invested time and effort in getting to know every aspect of yourself and another who hardly even knows you decides to compliment or say something negative about you – how can he really have the power to change who you really are intrinsically…elementally…and for real.

How is that possible?

Hence true confidence can only come not from embodying the trappings of success or by reading self improvement books to will yourself into a confident state or by displaying only the form of confidence without the complimentary content – rather it can only come through a dedicated process of investing in the self – when you strive day by day to be comfortable in your own skin.

Without this one strategic capability to manage yourself and others….your sense of worth….happiness….self worth will always be in the hands of others to do as they please.

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‘Life can often be ironical without us realizing it.

When I first ventured into commercial farming. I always made it a point to tell others how educated I was along with boasting how much land I owned.

I will be perfectly honest with you. Only because I don’t believe many businessmen are willing to be as candid about this whole business of confidence and ego as I am for reasons that hardly require any elaboration – my only hope is that you will understand why it’s jugular as you read on.

At that time, I felt it was important to project a confident, stable and reliable image.

As since I probably suffered from an inferiority complex. I’ve always felt acutely the need to chalk up credibility and the most reliable way I could do this was convey my worth thru an ostentatious display of wealth that usually had the effect of mesmerizing my audience.

One day when I was driving in the kampung. I came across an old farmer who was sitting by the road patching up a flat tire on his bicycle. The man waved me down. When I wound down the window. He asked, do you happen to have any glue? I told him that I would be happiest to give him a lift to the nearby tire shop. The old man shook his head and said, no I just need glue. While rummaging through my tool bag I told the old man the leak could be patched up for less than $2. He only expressed, ‘please do you have glue.’ Eventually I found the can of glue and handed it over to him grudgingly.

I must have sat there with the old man for over an hour as he patched up his leaky tube. During that time, he mentioned….he had heard a great landowner had come to these parts. I told him that person is me. To which he chuckled and asked me whether I could drive him to the nearest village. When I helped the old man load his bicycle. He spotted a old rag of a T- shirt and asked humbly, whether I was willing to part with it. He offered me 20 cents. Mumbling it would be something he could wear when we worked in the field. I told the old man imperially, it’s yours…take it. He beamed with joy.

When we reached the village. The old man asked me whether he could borrow my mobile to call for someone to pick him up. Again I obliged.

Within the hour a white helicopter landed in the school Padang. And men who looked as if they jogged a lot started to load the old man’s bicycle into the helicopter and soon he was off. Before he left, the old man peered at me for a long time and he said, thank you….great landowner.

As the helicopter lifted off. I was still reeling in a state of confusion. So I asked a bystander who was that old man. The crowd replied, that is the great landowner.

From that day onwards. I understood the real meaning of confidence and power. It hit me like a diamond tipped bullet right between my eyes. This one incident would have a profound impact on how I saw myself and the world around me. And that’s given – as when one knows a thing for what it is and not what others say or claim it is – it can really only be this way and no other way.’

A Super Dry September

September 12, 2014

September is usually the second wettest month in the whole year where I turn the wheel of life. Historically it rains 18 out of 30 days. We r already half way into September and there has only been 2 decent rainy days. The rest don’t count. As they’re Mickey Mouse rains.

Next month is supposed the wettest month in the whole calendar year. Will October bring the much needed rain or will it be worst than Sept.

I don’t know. Meanwhile I have to make a decision. Do I begin broadcasting my fertilizers now? What if it doesn’t rain and all my expensive fertilizer goes to waste?

This evening I spend hours watching the birds…only my friends can unravel this delightful torment. Just before nightfall at the Western plains overlooking the twin peaks some 20 km away from my lands – I saw flock after flock of bird heading eastwards. This is unusual and it can only mean one thing, the trade winds that usually bring the rain laden monsoon clouds have begun to die down earlier than usual forcing the birds to navigate by the stars and moon.

This is not a good omen as it means no rain or very little can be expected from the east.

Two weeks ago my farmhands found a baby elephant wandering in the lower Western sections of my lands – elephants are not dumb. They have a map of ancient watering holes imprinted in their brain passed down thru mellinia. No elephants have been seen here for over 20 years and if they return back to their ancestral watering hole in my lands that used to be a swamp a hundred years ago, it can only mean one thing. They intuit it will be dry. Very dry. I went close to this baby elephant and could make out that it must have journeyed across the limestone mountain ranges as it’s hide was stained with chalk.

Two weeks some of my farmhands came across strange tracks in the riverbank in the lower sections of my lands – they were afraid as they looked like Harimau tracks. When I was summoned, I scolded that farmhand and jested that it was just a bobcat.

But when I saw the tracks. I knew it was a tiger. I am an expert tracker, no one even the civilized world can even can close to me. If I was tracking a man. I could even tell you how many pounds he weights…just by looking at how deep the edges of his tracks cut into the earth. Could even tell you whether he is right or left handed by the slight curvature how much earth lifts off the ground….carrying a load or trekking free and easy…double quick step or just taking a lazy walk. I learnt all these secrets from the tribesmen…..the tracks I saw that day was definitely a tiger.

A male. Around 140 kg. Not your scrawny Harimau, but a muscular mother with firepower to match it….I asked myself then why would the tigers make the long 200 mile trek from the perfume hills to the lowlands….unless of course they know the shit is going to hit the fan….like perhaps Jumbo the elephant.

It seems the weather man is dozing again….an El Niño event declared…..my only hope now is the decaying trade winds will trigger a low pressure ridge somewhere in the Pacific. This if it occurs will bring a cold front right down from the Andaman seas into the Peninsular and hopefully we can get some rains from the Himalayans.

This is as good as it will ever get. It doesn’t get better than this. Not from where I am standing at least.

Tomorrow I will begin fertilizing the trees.

Come what may.

The wisdom of Japanese curry

September 12, 2014

I like Japanese curry. I like it a lot? It’s easy to cook and a well balanced meal. Super easy to cook. All you have to do is sauté the beef with diced onions and throw everything into a crockpot….and when I return back from the field later…it’s good to go for at least two helpings.

I much prefer to fashion Japanese curry with wild meat such as lizard, snake or hog. As the slow cooker tends to tenderize the meat.

When I was back in Singapore. I regularly stocked up on Japanese curry premixes from supermarkets. They come in many flavors ranging from Apple to even prune. It’s a Japanese thing….Japanese curry that is…as it hardly taste like curry as we know it.

But over here in the kampung. These premixes don’t exist. Probably too pricey. So I have made my own version from scratch. It’s about 90%.

ingredients:

- 500 g Beef (buy the cheapest beef cuts, hardly matters as the slow cooker evens out everything, cut into cubes)
– 1 diced onion.
– 3 quarters of garlic sliced
– 1 Cinnamon stick
– 3 teaspoon of meat curry powder
– 1 teaspoon of chili powder
– 1 tablespoon of Worcester sauce
– 1 small cup of prunes or sultanas
– 3 diced carrots and equal amounts of potatoes
– 1 can of tomato soup
– salt

Directions: heat a pan with oil. Sauté beef, onion and garlic till brown. Add curry powder. Stir fry for 15 min. Transfer to slow cooker. Add the rest of ingredients with half a liter of water and salt. Cook for at least six to eighth hours under low and serve with hot rice. To thicken sauce further, add corn flour.

The Japanese version of curry was the first MRE of the Imperial army. It was first adopted in 1910s by field kitchens where it featured onions, carrots and potatoes as accompaniments to beef. This recipe was adopted by the Japanese army because of its nutritional value and ease of cooking. In 1923, Minejiro Yamazaki (founder of S&B Foods Inc.) was determined to develop a Japanese curry powder. After much trial and error, he finally succeeded in his goal. Today, every japanese family dines on this meal regularly.

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‘I once had a man who drove up to my plantation house on the hill in a spanking new Range Rover and demanded in a booming voice that I open the gate. I opened the gate. I was having lunch dining on field cutlery, the variety where everything is made from indestructible stainless steel.

It was a simple meal consisting of something I had hunted the night before and bunged into the slow cooker. I think it was squirrel stew with tapioca. When one my farmhands offered some to this to the well dressed man and his entourage.

They looked momentarily disgusted and cringed away – thereafter the man asked again this time in an irritated tone – where is the landowner. When one of the farmhands pointed to me and told him – the disheveled man wearing the open collar khaki shirt with dirt underneath his nails – the man he shouted at and opened the gate was the landowner…the man told off the farmhand sternly, I don’t have time for this…where is the landowner.

Do you see how perverted society has become. Can you see? How vapid it has become to a point where the sum worth of a man pivots entirely on his nett worth or in this case the misplaced perception.

Do you see how a man by just the mere act of breathing and going about his regular daily business has the capacity to inflict pain on others callously – a man whose utter ignorance is only preceded by his terminal indifference to his fellow men.

As I watched this blunderbuss strutting around like a peacock the thought flitted briefly thru my mind’s eye of the man who once turned the wheel of life as a Cocoa farmer in the darkest bowels of Africa. The sort of man who wears flared ridding breaches and mirrored polished boots. Such a no nonsense man would have whipped out his revolver and put two holes into the car radiator with the words – get off my land! I felt a wave of shame sweeping across me thereafter, but not before I grinned mischievously – it’s the condition of a man who had succumbed to violent thoughts when he has promised to renounce his evil ways, in the way a child’s sweet tooth gives way to a box of chocolates.

It was then after composing myself that I began to wonder to myself what would happen if this persist? What will happen? Where would we all end up? Would the rich and the poor…the have and have’s not kill each other as since they have so little in common. Is this where the world is heading….I wondered.

Shortly thereafter I came out with a moral code for how one should live when one is fortunate to come into money….simply….considerately….respectfully like Japanese curry scrubbed clean of all pretensions and affectations.

If only the rich and influential can see the beauty of the simple life. All our problems will disappear….as when we ask ourselves truly what is the furtherest distance that separates one brother from another brother…it is not the two furtherest points of light in the whole universe.

Rather it is when I…the man a tands before you and…you do not even see me. How could you….as you only have $ in your mind and so you can only seek the landowner.’

It is bloody impossible to farm these days. As the weather for the whole of this year has been throwing out one curve ball after another. Hard doesn’t even begin to describe what it’s like trying to run an enterprise when everything is just right up there in the air – can’t rely on the weather bureau to beacon out the murk. As 8 out of 10. They get it wrong. Can’t even fall back on tried and tested yellow brick road farming know how. As that template only works when seasons behave themselves.

Back home in Singapore. The weather seems to be normal. Further up North where I turn the wheel of life. We are just not getting the rainfall. That presents many challenges. As to do my magic. I need rain. Without rain it doesn’t matter how good my fertilizer formulation is, it all doesn’t get taken up by the trees and if the drought persist, all that money spent on fertilizer just goes up in smoke.

So far all we seem to be getting here is Mickey Mouse rain. I realize most weather boffins have decided to declare the expected El Niño event a no show this year. But where I am located. We seem to be experiencing El Niño type weather – that doesn’t mean it doesn’t rain. It does. Only due to the weakening of the trade winds this year – we don’t nearly get the same level of precipitation we need. Not to grow sustainlt that is. Not to even run a business.

Farming is really only about one thing – intercepting opportunity by reading the ways of Mother Nature. Do this one thing. Do it well. And you make $. Make a few wrong calls and you’re toast.

At times when I look through the weather reports and decide which specific fertilization formulation I should broadcast to materialize a bountiful harvest. It all just doesn’t make sense to me any longer. I feel like a pilot flying in soup….my instruments don’t make any sense….I can’t even rely on the so called experts and overshadowing all these uncertainties is the realization that if I get it wrong by so much as a 10 percentile point error. I could totally fuck up the prospects for the whole season. The stakes are so incredibly high…and so far I’ve just been lucky to make all the right calls so far.

That’s something I am never comfortable with – the very idea of leaving it all to one turn of the roulette wheel. I mean if I have the margin for error. That’s fine. But I really need the next harvest to come around. So this whole idea of leaving it to caprice and the vagaries of what the weather may be like tomorrow, next week or month is really something that just rubs me the wrong way.

How am I supposed to hold it all together when nothing seems to hold true any longer?

How is that even possible.

For better or worse, philosophical acceptance of the very idea that I control so very little as to have no influence on my destiny has rarely been my default frame of mind. I am just too rebellious to accept the idea I cannot exert control over my life. This could account my preference to rely on faith (even if it’s blind) that sometimes borders on the messianic – the idea that through the sweat of my brow the sinews of my muscles and the reliability of my brain – I can always make things better doesn’t matter what it is, could be a spluttering tractor….a shoe that’s not made to last….I can always change it….resole it….slap on a piece of industrial grade rubber and it’s good to go for ten or more seasons in the field. Done that so many times that it’s conceivable that I may have fashioned a God of delusion who believes he can control the destiny of everything…..

Is it possible a little less faith in the idea of the infallibility of my convictions, and a little more skepticism towards my imagined capacities would itself be a form of self-improvement?

———————————————————————————-

‘Empty all of yourself….there is no need to think…just do it..let all go…let it…all your worldly concerns released like a tensioned bow string sending the arrow hissing towards the point in your minds eye…..thereafter there will be nothing left except the man who you were meant to be….everything else simply doesn’t exist any longer.

Easier said than done. I’ve been loosing arrows practically all my life like a man throwing a stone into a bucket. I do it so well. It’s automatic. I don’t even need to think. It’s as if the bow is fused to my bones and my muscles can permeate the bow string and when you reach that level of archery – you don’t even need to aim – you just see the point where the arrow needs to find the mark and it’s there.

But I still don’t know one thing about the first paragraphs of emptying the mind…let it all go. That whole idea has to be anathema to me – as the very idea of ‘letting go’ requires resignation or at least acceptance of what has to come….what has to be. The idea that our lives…my life is so crumbly that all I can really do is plan my life only to be ruled by the caprice and vagaries of fate and fortune.

No! I don’t buy into that idea of pot luck. Sounds self serving as thus far I can’t really say for certain I did not make it all the way here in one piece without massive dollops of good luck. Truth is I was incredibly lucky most of the time to pull off many of the things that I simply attributed to cerebral fitness.

How conceited I am….’

Monitor lizard for dinner

September 4, 2014

Life in the frontier will always be very primal. Always.

My birdhouse

September 4, 2014

In the kampung if a man hails from the city and he betters his lot and is more prosperous than the natives. They will never say it is hard work, dedication, discipline, skill or the willingness to take risk. His success must be attributed to black magic or some hocus pics. And when a man becomes very successful. Automatically the man is transformed into the devil lah.

This how an ordinary man usually becomes known as the devil to all….in the kampung.

If you have not bothered yourself with the whole business of figuring out – what you are worth – then do not be surprise, if some funny man who you came across in TV will just tell you what you’re worth by instructing you to turn left, jump over that hoop, be happy with that job and the next thing you know, you will end up putting your hands up for urination breaks.

The same applies if you’re one of those women or men who have never bothered asking yourself – what are you really worth and instead keeps asking your other half, ‘I don’t understand why you even love me!’ In that case, don’t be surprise if all your other half ever seems to is to use and abuse you.

By the same vein, if an employee is so bovine as not to sit down and consider his worth from time to time. Do not be surprised if one day his boss treats him like a slave and he finds himself in a dead end job working for peanuts while everyone gets ahead of him.

If you do not even know your value as a human being. Then others will come along and set your value for you. And if you do not take the initiative to write your own life story. Then someone will just come along and write it for you.

And if you do not value yourself. Then how can you possibly give any value to others.

————————————————————————————-

‘When I was a young boy. Everyone thought I was slow..and to be honest with you probably retarded as well. As since I was a very quiet child who did not talk very much. Whole days, weeks and months can even go by without me uttering a single word.

During those rare occasions when I did speak. No one seemed to understand what I was trying to convey or showed much interest in what I had to say.

In one stretch of my school holidays. I remember working in this typewriter repair shop which had a school to train apprentice typewriter mechanics. The proprietor had a habit of hiring kids during the long school holidays as since our hands and fingers are small. We can get into nooks and crannies that grown ups can’t.

I worked with the other boys. But when it came to pay day. I got only half their salaries. When one of my relatives accompanied me to demand an explanation from the proprietor why other boys got their full salaries while I was only paid half despite putting in the same hours doing the same work. The boss told my auntie, he’s an idiot. The rest of the boys can talk. But he’s dumb and he even went on to threaten my auntie that if she didn’t quieten down and insisted on stirring up too much trouble. He would never take me on as an employee when I grow up. The fat man went to tell my auntie in a mocking tone as he chased us out – after all, who else would hire that idiot child.

I continued working there despite getting only half the pay. After all what other choice did I have. That’s how politics is conducted in a small village where jobs are far and few.

One day as I was working as I always did all by myself on the upper mezzanine floor next to main office as the rest of boys parents believed my speech impediment was contagious if they ever allowed their kids to associate with me – the wife of the proprietor rushed out frantically from her office and screamed at the top of her voice – all the proceeds for the whole week had been stolen. Someone had cracked opened the uncrackeble Chubb & Sons safe*.

The police were called in and thru out the whole day people came and went oblivious to me – some were reporters, others just stared from the five foot way curiously. But most were stern faced policemen and detectives who grilled everyone. As they suspected an inside job…..well everyone suspected it had to be some one working there… except me….of course….since everyone was convinced I was an ‘idiot child.’

The typewriter repair shop was further robbed six times after that one unfortunate occasion. Subsequent dates of the robberies all coincided with same dates when my employer would unilaterally cut my wages further to a quarter of the agreed sum due just to show my auntie that he could do so. As since he was irrevocably convinced I was an idiot child. He justified these cuts by recounting to my auntie – he was performing charity by taking on an idiot as an employee – the thief was never apprehended and even the local constabulary were so baffled they enlisted the help of a medium who could do very little to shed any light on the mystery, except to inform the proprietor he should perform more charitable acts to deflect malevolent spirits from exacerbating his bad fortune….to which he would always point to me and boom aloud, ‘look, I have even taken on an idiot child and given him a job for life. Surely heaven cannot be so blind!’

Sometime after sixth occasion when the typewriter Emporium was robbed and the proprietor suffered a nervous breakdown that required him to conduct business from bed – the first home computer featured in the window front of the stationary shop across the street. I remembered pressing my nose against the glass completely mesmerized by the mysterious greenish glow this strange machine emitted …this I knew deep in the marrow of my bones was the future though I was slightly confused why a farmer who grew apples would even dabble in typewriters that featured a TV screen and not long after that I got a job there with full pay like the rest of other boys…eventually the typewriter repair shop closed down and today it is just another faceless food court.

They never caught the thief…..how could they?’

———————————————————————————

*The type IV Chubb & Sons safe was first manufactured in Wolverhampton in 1881. It featured the patented Chubb detector lock which is a type of lever tumbler lock with an integral security feature, a form of relocker, which frustrates unauthorised access attempts and indicates to the lock’s owner that it has been interfered with. When someone tries to pick the lock, the lock is designed to jam in a locked state until a special regulator key or the original key is inserted and turned in a different direction. This alerts the owner to the fact that the lock has been tampered with. A failing common to the detector lock was the leaf spring used to trigger the relocker which could be jimmied using a specialized typewriter tool known as a size 2 needle nose Penning plier manufactured only by typewriter specialist toolset firm, Excellite – this tool used for straightening bent type face arms in the narrowest of cavities within the plate section of a typewriter – could be inserted into the oiling eyelet of the tumbler lock, rotated thirty five degree anti clockwise and with the application of slight pressure annul the relocking mechanism – leaving the rest of the complication free for even a child to tamper with and with a bit of luck even open the uncrackeble safe.

On Nicole Seah

September 3, 2014

Next…

———————————————————————————-

‘Never get a sheep to do a foxes job. That sort of arrangement is always bound to disappoint terribly.’

My reoccurring dream.

My eyes flicker open slowly. Gradually I am awake. I know it not to be ordinary sleep. But space sleep or hypersleep. As I am lying supine in a stasis capsule within a spaceship.

I look around the cramped sarcophagi shaped capsule – nothing. Suddenly an insignia of the IMG (Interspacing Mercantile Guild) on a holographic display pops up before me – it reads ‘congratulations you have accomplished your mission.’ Thereafter the display counts down from 500 seconds to zero while the words, ‘standby for systems initialization’ flashes. A string quartet by Vivaldi fills the capsule.

Meanwhile I look out through the frosted polycarbonate canopy of the capsule. The lay out is very familiar to me. It’s a Minerva V class deep space cruiser – I know it very well. As I am the one who designed it – it’s the latest generation of deep space cruisers that comes with a suspended animation hypersleep feature. A vast improvement to its predecessors. As this detail allows astronauts to “skip over” large sections of time and space without aging – that’s jugular, as space travel at light speed exerts tremendous gravitational forces that will crush every bone in the body and make every living cell explode.

When the counter reaches zero. It blinks once and canopy retracts open. I sit up and that’s when I become aware of a metallic taste in my mouth followed by the sensation of profound thirst, then hunger.

Soon I am in my flight overalls chowing on mee pok with less tau yuo. After that I walk around the space craft. I am wearing khaki. I remember the color makes me very feel safe and comfortable. Comfortable enough to activate the holographic display that appears before like a cloud – it’s the same opening message that greeted me in the capsule, ‘congratulations you have arrived…mission accomplished.’

I interrogate the computer on how long have I been in hypersleep.

The computer tells me that information is not in it’s data bank. I request access to interrogate the mainframe in the primary console this time at the bridge. I find out that information is on a need to know basis.

Suddenly I am filled by an overpowering urge to discover the date of my launch from earth. My mind begins to shift gears to remember, but all I seem to remember is spending day after day in the field in a plantation…. I am a farmer.

I have no recollection of ever being part of a space program. But I can’t be certain. As I happen to know it’s standard operational procedure for mission control to program a sleep narrative to induce sleep stasis to bring brain activity right down to zero when space is folded – that’s to prevent astronauts from suddenly waking up from nightmares in hypersleep which would normally be fatal.

I wonder to myself whether entire life story of the farmer came right out of the thumb drive. Is this who I really am.

I interrogate the computer again for the launch date. Again it tells me that information is strictly on a need to know basis. I do not have the security clearance.

I sit down dejected wondering to myself how can I bypass the mainframe. I try to access the common memory banks to get any scraps or clues of when this mission begun and how long has elapsed. Soon I find a folder labeled as ‘my life.’ I open it and it’s a Youtube video of me sitting down for a meal with my family, but it doesn’t tell me what I need to know….what year is it now and how long have I been sleeping?

Then it occurs to me there is another way to find out how long I have been sleeping in space. I remember the Minerva class is the powered by Sardonyx. A rare earth element that has a half life, only shorter like plutonium. If I can get to the booster section of the craft. I could easily find out how long I have been in space by calculating how much fuel has been used up by counting off the spent fuel rods.

But it’s located at the tail section of craft that requires a space suit to enter. As I struggle to put on the cumbersome space suit. I realize it’s the only one on board and soon the realization dawns on me – I am the sole astronaut on this mission.

Soon I am floating down a hexagon shaft towards the tail section of the craft in zero gravity – it’s awfully difficult to maintain equilibrium as the shaft rotates and I am struggling – this disorientates and exhaust me enough to give up and I make my way back to the safety of the pressurized bridge.

Just before my second attempt. Suddenly I realize there’s an easier way to find out how long I have been asleep in space. I kick myself for the oversight and curse aloud as I frantically try to access the touch screen console of the hypersleep capsule – all the while muttering to myself, there has to be a log. A chronology. Otherwise how would the bloody thing know when to wake me up from my slumber. But again that information is on a need to know basis.

I sit there with only one question festering in my mind – how long have I been away from home….one earth year….ten years…a full hundred or perhaps a thousand years.

It’s the same dream….every night for the last week….what does it mean.

What does it mean.

We live in a world full of surprises it seems. This morning at the village Bak Kut Teh shop. I chanced on the cartel of landowners who are all hell bent on stopping me from buying land.

One of them invited me to take a seat.

In business it does not pay to let your enemies know that you want to have nothing to do with them. This is a luxury, I can hardly afford as the stakes are so high. So I took a seat and made it a point to be as congenial and friendly as I could manage.

As we were all chowing. One by one the landowners took turns to lament about the deteriorating price of oil palm. It seems the slide to the long kang (drain) this time is inexorable.

In the month of August alone, the crude palm oil market has collapsed by a staggering 25%! This is not only unprecedented, but if the trend keeps up it’s downward spiral to nothingness – we may well see a new historical low for oil palm.

Since many of these landowners have been buying up lands in this last five years when the price of oil palm was high – many of them are now mortgaged to the hilt and since these loans need to be serviced. This will present many complications when the price of oil palm bottoms out.

One by one they all lamented….we may have over stretched ourselves…it seems there is no end to the bottom……if this continues, we will soon be forced to sell at a lower price than what we bought….even then who in their right mind would buy land when the price of fruit is worthless…who?

This was when an elderly landowner put down his chopsticks, peered at me and in a voice like a whispering hush mentioned to all on the table.

‘Not all of us it seems, will have to bear the unbearable.’

I smiled sheepishly and asked the rest of old men on the table – would they like to join me for a second helping. As I am very hungry. The rest of the landowners on the table shifted nervously.

———————————————————————————–

‘In life whenever we encounter set backs or when things don’t go our way even when we put in the effort. It’s quite natural for us to all to believe we have been born into this time line just to nourish human suffering.

There was this time when I studying abroad and since the money never always came in post. Mostly it didn’t even come at all. I found myself having to hold down two shift jobs just to get by. I worked and studied. Life was hard as the home office was very strict on how many hours a foreign student was allowed to work. But there was one loophole. You can’t for example work as a bricklayer more than eight hours a week. But nothing stops you from working an additional eight hours in another trade. It was tough as to work as a tradesman one had to be City and Guild certified as unions are very powerful in the UK, it’s not like Singapore where anyone can just set up shop at the back of his van as an air con repairman. So I was always going for welding, pipe fitting, tractor, plumbing courses…you name it, I probably have it. I even have a game keepers certificate that allows me to go to a farm and hire out my skills as a sharp shooter, coupled to that, I moonlighted as a fill in cook in Cantonese restaurants in China town.

There were many times in the moment of my youth when I would always sit in a park on my few rare off days and wonder to myself why is my life so bloody difficult. How come other people just have to study while I feel as if I am juggling live hand grenades all the time! why ah! I must be cursed lah! As the croupier of life just keeps on dealing me a crappy hand all the time – if this is going to be the prologue of the story of my life. I might as well jump off London bridge.

But the beauty about youth is one can take a lot of physical abuse and still keep at it without really bothering with the philosophy of why or is it all worth it. That could well explain why young people seem to always dedicate themselves to trivial pursuits like blogging – you can go by with three hours sleep or work sixteen hours a day and still wake up the following day and do it all over again….and again. But through it all, one is acutely aware, this is not what I want to do with my life – it all just seems like a great waste back then, as at that time, since one lacks life experience. It’s very natural for one to conclude all this plumbing, pipe fitting, tractor driving, welding, technical high wire climbing etc etc etc skills will probably just add up to a big fat nothing. As that is not what one wants to do!

Many years later when I ventured into commercial farming. I found what I once termed as a ‘great waste….big fat nothing.’ All came together marvelously – it was a rare moment or epiphany for me as it all came full circle. As since I had to do many things myself. Put up fences, weld, build, road works, bridge building, haul, drive a tractor etc etc etc – and even if I paid some contractor to do all this. Because I have a very solid foundation of how to approach the work from the inside out. They all know, this fellow is a lau chiao. If they try to cut corners they run the real risk of not getting paid, ridiculed out of town or having to tear down the bridge and reworking it again on their own cost and that possibility alone just makes the whole proposition of doing a shoddy job financially risky. That’s important because when you run your own enterprise it’s too expensive to enroll yourself in the university of hard knocks – people who tell me they learn from their mistakes are all bankrupts. As when you run your enterprise, you need to always get it right the first time! Few hard knocks and your creditors will be knocking on your door. So that whole idea of learning thru your mistakes misleads terribly.

My point is many of the ‘set backs’ that once compelled you to take on roles you never wanted too earlier on in life are never really wasted. That’s because the marvelous journey of life is way too long to predict where you may actually end up or what may come in useful or worthless – even should you find yourself having to walk right out of an abusive relationship, it’s something that you can always take to make the next one better….the bad is never always the bad….it’s fluid….changeable….and so if you find yourself having to will all of yourself just to put on your clothes to go and put another eight hours of grind in that crummy job that you don’t want to do as you believe you were meant for greater things in life – you’ve got to be able to see that all fitting in the larger scheme of things by juxtaposing it against the broader canvas of your entire life span – as since the journey of life is simply filled so many unexpected twist and turns that you will never really know early on in the journey what you need and can do without. All you can do is approximate. But that’s all you can really do and if you think about it that way. Nothing is ever wasted. Nothing. Not even when people tell you, you’re wasting your time dedicating yourself to something that’s useless – not even the times that you never ever want to share with the world and always seem to make you sad….they are never wasted. As somewhere in the great journey of life. They all have a place to fit right in like a missing jigsaw puzzle and that’s when you will just say to yourself….I now understand why I had to go thru all that….I understand.’

A puppy named Got- Tail

August 31, 2014

This afternoon after returning from the fields in the Western reaches of my lands. I found Got-tail hiding in a tub. The pack has been bullying him. As his zero maternal instinct mother Rita has decided to disown him.

It is pointless for me to ask why this has happened. Why when it comes to puppies like Got-tail and literally irresponsible bitches like Rita is an understanding that I have long learnt to live with under -it is what it is terms. There’s really no mileage in trying to figure out the why’s.

Got-tail is very different from the stock Doberman breed. He isn’t jet black, loud and assertive. That’s why I’ve decided to keep his tail. I need a feed back, a cue that allows me to read his mind and I can’t go snip it off just for the sake of style.

Instead of cutting it off to abide by the classical streamline form of the Doberman breed. I have decided to keep his tail.

Hence the name Got-tail which is pronounced as one word, gordtail.

Beside I suspect Got-tail suffers from a delayed speech impediment and this perculiarity has rendered him unusual to disturb the pack. They don’t want him around. Neither does his mother it seems. Rita seems content to watch by as the rest of pack take turns to bite him as he’s tossed around like a rag doll.

Dogs that are breed in plantations are different from canines in Singapore. Here in frontier, they seem to intuit life will always be hard and so in the politics of doghood – ragging seems the norm. But I am not so sure Got-tail will survive this cruel process of winnowing the weak from the strong.

So I have decided to take Got-tail into the inner sanctum of my safe house. The place that has always been out of bounds for dogs – even to the close protection breeds who guard me when I sleep and rest. Here in this place where I live like an astronaut with no windows cocooned in a fortress of steel and concrete armor where even the air is scrubbed and the water is filtered to prevent the possibility of assassination is where Got-tail will grow big and strong.

I have made the decision. It’s as simple as that. I have the power over life and death. And I have decided. I will not let the same thing happen to Ping Piang again. Never!

How will we cope….love will find a way….of that I am sure.

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