We all want to live right. We all know that right living produces the happiest and healthiest way to live. We don’t ever want to stray too faraway from right living – that’s why we make sure we go to right schools and if we don’t, we try our best to brush up on the lot life has dealt us – above all we want to live right…but…..


“I don’t have a problem going up to strangers and talking to them if I happen to find them interesting. No. I’ve never had that problem. Not at all.

Other people may have a problem with that idea, but never me.

Recently when I was in the old quarter of Beach Street in Penang. I came across this woman who was composing pictures using an old film loaded Leica rangefinder.

I could tell she had an eye for composition, angles, proportion, scale and light. I could tell she was comfortable working with film and regularly shot only with fixed lenses.

So I found her very interesting – as its rare these days to come across people who still shoot in film. This may not be a big thing to people who grew up in the digital age, but since I did most of my growing up in the occasional only digital and mostly in rubber band, duct tape analog age – shooting in film is really quite another language that I don’t believe can be adequately explained to those who have never used a film camera before – it’s really another world within a world. A world of understanding the nuances of light and how it reacts to chemicals. How the different hues of colors can be caressed to life in only a dark room with a deft hand – above all, there used to be a time when a roll of 35mm only yeilded 36 shots.

And the idea that you really only have 36 opportunities to take a great shot – I think is a very powerful metaphor that imposes a sort of discipline to the whole idea of photography that today doesn’t exist at all. There’s mystery, art and whole idea of arcanum – today, if you want to take a picture at night, all you have to do is select an icon of the night scene on the camera and a microprocessor would probably produce a terrible shot – but in the age of chemical photography, it all has to calculated by hand.

It’s a slow and old world. Where the photographer is always struggling to find the best angle for the composition, light and color to produce just the picture he already has in his head.

I think if you can read to this point. Then you would understand why I ended spending the rest of the day and evening with this fascinating woman who I had just chanced upon.

We really have a lot in common. But I also believe to get to that point. Then you really need to make the effort to connect – and when you strive for that sort of commonality with anyone then I think they see the world slightly different from the way, they have always seen it.

And that is not a bad thing – not at all. The idea of reaching out, searching for and always being mindful of meeting that someone who may provoke you to think about life in a different way.

To always search for that nugget of wisdom to be able to live right by your and your terms alone and no one elses….to be able to set aside your pretensions, ego, lust etc etc to believe in the idea – when a man works diligently to find himself through others and NEVER himself – he will be less selfish, more forgiving and above all humanely grounded….when you see life from that sort of perspective, then I think living right is rocket science.

As it requires you to do so many things that you’re not really comfortabke with…..but I dont think that is a bad thing. Not at all….it just means you stretching that much further into the field of possibilities.”

Dog & Man

November 29, 2013

Don’t ever try this on a dog that you didn’t raise from a puppy. Especially if it’s a Doberman.


“I don’t blame people for trying to cheat me. I just think there are stupid to have underestimate me. I can farm better than anyone in this world.

I have chlorophyl running through my veins. I am made of the earth. Everything about my being is to be found in a clump of dirt.

And they want to cheat me? To add insult to injury, they wanted to do this with a half baked plan. They probably thought I would fall for it – like in the cartoons when the baddie saws the floorboards underneath the good guy and he falls right thru and everybody laughs – so they wanted to humiliate me.

This evening although having not slept a wink since the torrential storm that blew in suddenly from the east that night – I joined the elders of the village for evening tea.

You see it’s really very simple. Everyone now thinks that I know those clowns were trying to funnel me into the con of the century – but since I don’t bring up the matter. Everyone thinks I am never ever going to let this one go.

They know. I can tell from the nervous glances they all give me. I can even smell their fear. Sense their fleeting trepidation…yes it was all there….I know what they’re all thinking,

‘That bastard will never let it past. He will try to get even.’

I think trust is so important to relationships….don’t you.”

Long night chasing shadows

November 29, 2013

It’s been a very long drawn out night with hardly a moment to rest. It seems like it’s going to be an even longer day by the looks of how no one seems to know to what to do or even who is really in charge.

Some days are what I term epic fuck days – you know, the sort of day when every conceivable thing that can possibly go wrong will just jump unexpectedly at you like a demented Jack in the box.

During such moments – its best to remain very calm. To even allow all the chaos to go right right though you like X ray and to just watch it all go right by. To let it all go….to allow it to slip right out of your hands while you just smile.

Trying to sell me a lemon?

November 29, 2013

Do I come across as an inexperienced farmer. Do I perhaps even manage to convey the idea that I don’t know the difference between a shovel and a hockey stick.

So it came as a great shock to me very recently when a couple of cheap pirates tried to flog off a piece of land that in my opinion was good for just a landfill as prime land.

I wonder could these people harbor suicidal tendencies. Maybe they are bored of living and wish to go to the other side? Or maybe they are just really inexperienced confidence tricksters who have absolutely no idea how to set up a heist?

But what doesn’t make any sense to me is, even if they are new to the art of cheating people – surely they would pick an easier mark besides me. After all could it be, I come across as a push over?

Coming to think of it can I ask a simple question – do I look like someone that you can just pull a fast one on and get away cleanly?

I don’t understand. I want to understand. But I can’t seem to this time. As for this people, I really don’t know whether to laugh at them or just take off my shoes and throw it at them.

Midnight Storm

November 28, 2013

The weather can be very difficult to predict this time of the year – today I spent hours tracing the skies for signs that the weather is changing.

I could tell from a heavy column of clouds moving in the from the east, strong winds were blowing from the South China Sea. I could even taste a hint of mackerel in the air – by nightfall the gulls began to gather at the hill tops and suddenly the wind begin to hollow out – it was a strange sensation like probably pulling the plug in the sink and watching the water spiral all away with a whoosh.

That was how it is – thereafter a tomb like silence that seeps into everything like a thick fog and freezes it like a photograph. I could taste the metallic taste of nitrogen at the back of my tongue. Te air was sharp and felt like needles.

And very slowly it began to fill in again and this time the rains came.

I swear, I could taste mackerel in the rain.

The custodians of power will certainly win this battle, of that I am absolutely sure. But whether they will win the war is not so certain.

Yes, there is a difference between a battle and war. A battle has a start and end date – they’re short. And in a war there can be many battles. And it’s not unusual for one side to win all the battles and still lose the war.

A war is long…in certain cases so long that it may even seep into the groundwater of the collective consciousness – permeating the attitudes and world view of a whole generation.

Above all while the battle is really about the power of the state against the individual – the war is a much larger construct, but what gives it the agency of power is that it is not waged in the courts between lawyers. Rather it is all happening in a domain that’s very private, in the hearts and minds of netizens.

I have a feeling this is set to go viral…


“No amount of Internet regulation will stop people from speaking their minds. After all, I only live once….so I say and write what I want and it’s really as simple as that. Other people may see it differently –

Will netizens be cowered? Will this latest move send a chill down the digital spine of the Internet? Will the Singapore social political scene be like down town Pyongyang on national day?

I don’t know. I am not Nostradamus, just a simple farmer. But if I had to plumb it – I’ll probably say No! That’s to say none of these moves to muzzle free speech and individualism will have any effect – least of all a plethora of laws designed in my personal opinion as a very efficacious and cost effective way to put a policeman in the mind of every netizens.

You see it is very simple – most people have already undertaken the mental migration to the Internet way of seeing the world – which is contrary to many of the state inspired propaganda that keeps perpetuating the idea blogging is an anti social indolent habit that only afflicts mad people.

When all it really is, is the idea of drilling deeper, peering into darkened interiors, interrogating the system…to me when someone writes and another reads – even on a parchment such as a blog, it cannot be a just a simple thing.

As without the writer or reader realizing it – the moment there is such a relationship, then I think you will always continue to see the world slightly differently from the perfidious faced rah rah brigade.

I don’t think it’s realistic to believe in the idea that it’s possible to hammer our key boards back to the age when life was just like that in Singapore – as a corollary of globalization means that culture, values or what you really want to do on a lazy Sunday afternoon need not even be rooted in the idea of country, its now like the air we breathe…it’s everywhere for the taking.

So what’s the point of trying to cage the mind? I don’t think that idea will work.”

To win in politics is not easy in Singapore. Not if you happen to be the opposition.


“I have absolutely no illusions whatsoever as to the sort of people who may be required to boot out those cheap pirates, none whatsoever.

That I suspect is the defining difference between me and everyone in this forum.

And I don’t imagine anyone who presupposes that oppositional politics can be easy in Singapore can afford be weak. Do you? How’s that for a reality check? Did the earth shake for all of you?

Do you really all imagine I give a two shits about her life or for that matter what she’s going through – what if I tell you there are already many people in Singapore who are already going through much worse that what she’s been through.

Sorry to smash all your happy illusions – but what I see here is someone who is just wholly inept, ill equipped and has absolutely no inkling what it requires to get the job done. None whatsoever – to put it another way, we are dealing with an amateur. Who has absolutely no business dabbling in politics, let’s just leave the brass tacks of statecraft to one side.

Not at all. As to win these people may have to accept the theoretical possibility that they may be destroyed in the process. That to me is a reliable assumption judging from the historical precedent of oppositional politics in Singapore – that incidentally should not be confused with my opinion. Rather that is a statement of fact.

That is why I strongly believe the motivation to conform, tow the line and march to the beat is so pervasive in Singapore that it’s even conceivable there may not be many who see any mileage in aligning themselves with the opposition – as when you consider the oligarchy that they were going up against, then I don’t think, the task can be taken lightly.

And that simply means the only people who have the fortitude, sagacity and determination who can put a decent innings in oppositional politics in Singapore can only be those who can take a punch, roll with it, suck it all up and get up again….and to get up again for what you may ask?

Well the mini skirt answer is to take another punch…and another…yet another…and to do it over and over again…..with absolutely no prospects that they may even be making progress or furthering their political agenda – when one considers the opposition in the Singaporean context, they really have to be the caliber of the elites. Not the bullshit paper mâché variety that is always marketed by the custodians of power – those sissy for your information will die, suffer a nervous breakdown, if they had to endure one tenth of what an opposition politician usually needs to bear – as I said, I have absolutely no illusions whatsoever as to the type of personality it takes to kick out those cheap pirates.

None whatsoever, so please excuse me if I just say to you all – I really have no time for her sappy cry me a river stories.

I think in life, if one is serious about the enterprise of getting it right the first time – then, it never pays to get a sheep to do a foxes job. All you’re really doing, should you decide to invest in that idea, is setting yourself up for a big let down.

And another thing, ain’t no one going to throw flaming balls on fire on me – don’t be ridiculous, everyone knows that farmer’s have an elemental right to call a spade a spade…yes life is cruel. And the sooner all of you sissified folk get to terms with this awful reality, the better it will be for everyone.”

“Satisfied people don’t have time to go onto the Internet. Unhappy people often go there,”

Well, well what do we have here – anyone who blogs now automatically suffers from a character defect?

Let us just leave it there – coming to think of it, there’s a tinge of common sense to what he has to say, then again if he was doing such a good job – then why is everyone so dissatisfied?

Perhaps the solution is not to try to heal the symptom, but rather he should address the root causes accounting for the widespread dissatisfaction on and off line.


November 23, 2013

Hope. Hope that tomorrow will always bring good tidings, serenity and wholesomeness. Hope that we can all live in peace with our fellow men and even hope that if we lack the patience to do so…we will always endeavor to do the right thing.

Hope. To me it is not just a word. A word is something you just use to describe a thing within the boundaries of it’s dictionary meaning…within the prescribed limits of what it will always be and never what it can be. But hope is different from all these other vapid words.

If I had to choose only one word to bring with me to a place where I fear most to thread but have too – hope will be that word.

As to hope is to believe in the idea that – we may get it right this time round and all our sufferings will be worth it – hope is so important.

Yet often it sits there in the shelve….unseen when it’s right before us.


“When tough business men say, we make our own luck.” What they really mean is, “I am hopefull.” But since really macho businessmen have a hang up about their ego – they much prefer the manly verb, “make.” Instead of sissy “hope.”

But believe it or not – that in my opinion is what all successful people can do very well. They do it consistently. They do it even when all others throw in the towel.

They are always hopeful.

That is why hope to me is not just an ordinary word – I reckon it has to be like Ohm or maybe Halleluyah. Possibly even abracadabra.

As the reason why I say hope is not an ordinary word is because when you think real hard about it – hope is something that small man is not supposed to have. Hope is only for the movers and shakers, the guy who got that scholarship and the girl as well. Nope. Hope is rarer than beluga caviar in regatta and land tennis season to the cookie cutter, to the man who thinks and perhaps even knows, it’s the only job he can do.

Nope hope is not for the ordinary man, the cookie cutter or the bottom feeder. We are all supposed to suck it in – so hope is really only the preserve of the elite, like a rare reserve Pinot Noire from the cellars of Chateau Lafitte, the freshest Norwegian smoked salmon, truffles, the texture of silk.

And that is exactly why we must all be hopeful – as when a man discovers that somewhere in his life, the word hope can be fashioned even from really crummy circumstances – then I think he would have matured.

As life will always be cruel. Even if you have nothing. It is cruel. And when you have everything you can ever want with the power of money, then you would realize – you require mega doses of hope – impossible hope, hope that is born from hopelessness – that sort of tungsten carbide hope, the variety that you know will never break.

And why do we all do this, to even hope when there is no reason to hope? When you answer that question – then you will realize the story of hope and how that’s really where you discover courage – you now see how one word can even give birth to another. Only in hope can courage come out.

Today is a day of wisdom.”

Vincent versus Bertha

November 23, 2013

“That Bertha Henson, a reporter so thoroughly cut in the SPH mold as to write articles indistinguishable from a government press release, has carried her unsolicited musings into the blogosphere is forgivable, particularly given Warren Fernandez pipped her at the post for the top job. And her limited SPH-midwifed journalistic ability is also forgivable given her narrow worldview. But that her blog should host an equally – if not more (difficult as that might be to imagine) – uninformed expat to comment on an issue he clearly has no knowledge of or insight into is a new low, even for the Breakfast Network. Shame on you Breakfast Network: this is not journalism, this is polemic. Of a tediously unintelligent kind.”

I second that! Well spotted Vincent. Though I much prefer straight forward propaganda to polite polemic. And yes…..agree absolutely, it is of a tedious unintelligent kind. Most definitely.

Darkness 2013


“Recently, I read somewhere Quick Gun Shanmugam is planning to roll out new laws to straighten the laws on harassment online – I agree completely with him – people who regularly cause hurt to thinking folk should be punished!”


Somewhere in Northern Uganda many years ago….

The Chinaman cocoa planter of Gabundi estate looked from a hill in the distance as the Akholi tanks rolled into his plantation. He stood there on the same spot through out the afternoon, evening and even through the dead of night right to dawn.

There he stood on the hill watching it all…his farm razed, distant gun shots renting to the shrills of the fallen. Even his tall Matabali 40 something wired framed bodyguard, who had the unusual habit of carrying a karfu spear and a Kahasilli bow, instead of the de riguer AK47 – even he lowered his eyes along with the many braves who watched the carnage from a hidden thicket in the a distance.

They all lowered their eyes – when the saw spired wooden church the Shahidi has built for the Bavarian nun, Eva Mayer – the Chinaman Cocoa planter of Gabundi estate was good with his hands, he could hammer a steel girdle into a ruler. He could weld and so one day….he decided to built a Bavarian church for his one and only love – Eva Meyer.

Yet the Chinaman Cocoa Planter who stood that night peering into night never lowered his eyes.

He just looked on as the fires raged on through the night. From time to time, he would light a cigarillo or pop another Mentos into his restless mouth – he just looked on through and beyond the place he was in and beyond it, to another realm….another place….faraway from this place called hell….to a place that could only be called hope.

Many years latter a wooden legged Sudanese who had a habit of lounging in one of the many tea houses in the emigre quarter of Cairo. A man who claimed to be one of heroes of the Ascension wars would be heard murmuring in whispers. As that is how the Adamako tribe who once served the Shahidi would speak of chieftain – even a dead one – with his right hand over his mouth and in hushed whispers….the emigre that became his tribe would one day say when they sip their pipping hot Sudanese cardamon flavored tea,

‘He watched on through the night…..as they burnt down everything in his plantation…..he even looked hopeful….I wonder why? Did he perhaps see paradise like a man who stands behind and veil just before it was parted…

He looked hopeful. So very hopeful.”

To lose a thing. To see it slip right out from your hand. To discover how utterly powerless you are to stop it from slipping…falling..further and further away, till it’s a faint murmur.

If the word pain had a face, gender and shape, she would I imagine be dressed in material that all adds up to the phrase, ‘to lose a thing.’ Not a very nice woman I would imagine – the sort who likes to blow smoke at your face when you’ll still have that silly look that it’s all gone – you have lost a thing which you once coveted, taken for granted – it could be big or small losses – the passing of a loved one, could be that lump that’s bothering you lately, getting retrenched, losing your self respect as a family man who everyone thought could always be counted rain or shine to bring in the bacon. Unrequited love….lost…can take so many shapes and forms.

You can feel a slice of you dying…shriveling…like an ice shaving in the full blast of the sun.

But you know it has to go right on – life that is.

As when each of us experience a lost no matter how big and small, it’s still a loss. And every sort of loss has it’s own texture, hue and lingering bitter sweet sadness.

The profound sorrow that comes from losing the love of someone who you love with all your heart. The bitter sweet pang that one feels from getting retrenched or past over for a promotion.

Loss has so many shapes and forms…it’s an entire geography of pain……a hemisphere ranging from the very sharp kill you dead with a heart attack! to the languor when a pang of regret swells slowly in you as the storm of memories you rather not conjure are suddenly stirred……loss has endless shapes and forms.


“Most people in Singapore know this by heart, ‘once bitten, twice shy.’ No where else in this whole wide world, has the sandbox idiom, ‘once bitten, twice shy.’taken to such elevated helium heights except Singapore – where it really doesn’t matter whether you are Holland V Viriginia or Sengkang Sally. Doesn’t even matter whether you’re a corporate high flyer or a Ah Beng working in a car accessory shop.

Like I said at the very beginning most people in Singapore know it by heart – once bitten twice shy.

To me, this sums up the whole power and politics when we deal with loss. We are afraid. As the past cannot possibly inspire us to hope for the best.

So we hold back, keep quiet, stay very still and avoid all eye contact. The longer we do this, the more we begin to turn inwards and instead of trusting our hopes – we begin to deposit our faith in the ballot boxes of our fears.

It is really this lens of seeing the world that we all really find ourselves trying to make sense of the world – as when we are hopeful and not afraid – despite the many set backs and losses we may have all experienced. Then we will not allow our bad experiences of the past to color the outcome for the present or future.

This way we can give it our best.

I am sorry, this isn’t an entry for half way houses – there is no commitment without pain. This is the way I see it, walk through door with even one parts per million of your past and how it continues to haunt you and the chances are, it will all go wrong. As that is what fear can do, even in sand grain particles – fear.

Fear that it would turn out like the last time or since I could ever remember the way it usually turned out.

At some point I guess its natural for every thinking man to ask – why is life so cruel – why does it have to be heart wrenching. But as soon as I am assaulted by such doubts, I almost remind myself intuitively how the good times can also be purchased with commitment – crossing line. A line where you know the person who decided to go the long haul is the right person – you just know.

You make a commitment. As without commitment, how is possible to give it your all. So you need to commit with love – and to love is to always be hurt. The blessing comes with the curse.

As happiness without loss can never be happiness.

No! We humans aren’t old leather. Living doesn’t get easier with age. Life doesn’t get more supple with regular use – it’s always a risk. A risk even when you decide to say yes or no, maybe, perhaps…..or just do nothing.

Life is always a risk….you could find a person or even a puppy raise it up, see it bloom into adulthood and maturing. And in a flash it could all be gone.

But what do you do? Do you say to yourself – because it is so painful, I will never commit or love again?

In which case without love how can you bring out the best in anything.

I reckon it far better to risk it all – to make commitment to a person or endeavor and to see right to the very end. As although somewhere along this journey called life where the yes or no may oscillate endlessly… Perpetually….I would much prefer to go for the full experience than the half way house measure….”

It is a routine all my bodyguard dogs know by heart – when the master lays down on his camp bed for his afternoon siesta beneath the shade of a palm.

My orders are to protect him.

That was exactly what Jia Jia did when she spotted a full grown King Cobra slithering through the first parameter fence – somewhere in this newbie bodyguard Doberman brain, she decided not to alert the experience dogs – a breed that is accustomed to lounge indolently while I sleep.

You have spotter dogs like Jia Jia and the attack dogs who don’t use their radar ears as much as their muscular brawn – killing machines. Who would know exactly how to kill a cobra like a mongoose – every so slowly and suddenly with a strike three fingers from the head.

That at least was what Jia Jia was supposed to do – to just raise the alarm. Instead she decided to take a full grown cobra. And by the time she had killed it – it seem like we all there just looking a Jia Jia as she held the dead snake like a trophy.

I felt proud. As my dogs are not just dogs. It is very difficult to describe to city folk the closeness a farmer shares with his dogs. In the movie “I am Legend,” starring Will Smith – it’s just a movie to all of you. But to man like me who often feels he’s like the only man on this planet all the time – as that is what commercial farming imposed on the man – the very idea that his spatial perception along with scale can all together be pushed to a point where it’s not unusual for this one man to spend the entire day walking around his plantation and not seeing a single person.

A solitary tongue of light. Desolation. The idea of a man who is just walking……but with his dog.

I will stop here. As it suddenly occured to me none of you can possibly understand how close I am to my dogs.

They are my friends like the birds and trees. Kindred spirits cut from the same cloth.

That is why it was so terribly sad for me to realise Jia Jia had been bitten – and from the looks of it, it was full bite.
I realise then it was over.

Travel well my friend….travel.

Life is cruel!

Darkness 2013

Tightening online speech?

November 20, 2013

One of the great things about Internet chatter is it’s apparent frankness. I don’t want to use the word candour. As in the course of wordsmithing this entry – it came in a rare moment of epiphany somewhere between two alphabets – that frankness has an unpolished patina to it, it’s not like starched collar toffee nose, ‘prosaic’ that’s just a polite way of saying so and so was and still is a flanuer – frankness is neither like art nouve meets French impressionist circa Marcel Proust before he penned, ‘a la recherche du temps perdu’ – sardonic – which is really just another way of saying, he’s got license to slag off anyone providing there’s a witty barbed repartee somewhere.

Now you know why I much prefer, the gun metal sheen of FRANKNESS – as there’s a roughness to it, in the way a man’s roughness runs across silk stockings. A trades mans sort of patina to the word.

FRANKNESS isn’t just a word. It’s an attitude. A way of describing things, people and events in a unvarnished way – it’s the alter ego speaking – the man who would normally just keep his head down or hold his tongue and tow the line. As he knows only too well how the nail that sticks up will always be hammered the shit down – that if didn’t know is my under bridged version of how the Singapore internet way of chatting online evolved.

That unfortunately is what the custodians of power will never understand.


“I rue this day. As when you think long and hard about it. The Internet is the only domain where you can really call who you believe to be a fucker – a fucker. It is also the only place where you can call a motherfucker – a motherfucker.

People who think of trying to play zoo keeper in the Singapore Internet chatter scene can’t even supply a simple reason – how it became possible for a nation of fearful people to speak up and even question, probe and peer into darkened interiors.

This is the reason. I strongly believe the Singapore internet parlance developed in the way it did – as when you understand a thing for what it is. Then it acquires a sense of history along with probably supplying a very good explanation for why people choose to write like they would normally talk at the back of school toilet puffing on illicit thrilling cigarettes during recess time.

People may see that sort of behavior as deviancy, but to me – it’s frankness resembling parfum and not wishy washy eau de cologne – a way of calling a spade a spade.


Now if you take all that away from internet chatter then I think what you will be essentially recreating is a 100% facsimile of how people would normally speak and interact with each other in real world Singapore – and why would you even want to do that? After all you already have real world Singapore where everyone is pretending to be nice and congenial to everyone when they would rather just be alone or somewhere else – so why even create that idea online?

I guess one reason why I am resistant to that idea is because there is no FRANKNESS in real world interactions. That may sound paradoxical, but that’s really how I see it. As when we promote the idea of how we should speak to each other or buy into the idea of normalcy online, then what we are essentially fashioning is another place where the truth just becomes that much harder to surface – sure, real life conversations are real – where to fashion a smile, you would have to use all 74 muscles around your cranium and face instead of just a couple of twitchy muscles on your finger like so :). But my point is it’s hardly real, honest or for that matter frank.

As words are just not words – they mirror what people would really want to say, but dare or will not – so what you are doing is superimposing the real world Singapore chatter to blogoland.

Now from a diversity quotient, I say you’re killing diversity and maybe even trying to get us all to wear surgical mask and shower in Dettol just to have a conversation.

As there are many thin skinned politicians who just can’t seem to find the imagination, élan and panache to prosper in the digital sphere and find it increasingly year by year to manage difficult people who just write the things they do about them.

To me, there’s no nuanced approach to just insisting via black letter law – that we should all write like how we would normally speak to others in the real world. So what does that mean? Well for starters you can’t start a facebook discussion any longer on whether sticking pins on a doll to hurt your evil boss would work or not.

But to me there is more at stake to the whole idea of freedom – it is the idea of white washing things that remind me of chalk whitewash lime to cover scrawls and gruntings – I know its primitive. I realize it even sounds slightly Bohemian – the very idea there could be the idea of art even in the way Singaporeans regularly express themselves online. As when you break down words and ask beyond their dictionary meaning as to why people would write down ‘Jiak Liao bee’ instead of freeloader – then you will understand why I say this not just a way to getting us all on the polite and congenial bandwagon – it’s like an attempt to sovietize the way we would normally think and write about people and stuff – if we could express ourselves in bubbles like the one you normally come across in cartoon scripts.

It’d very Kraussian – very, “A liberated woman,” said Karl Kraus, “is a fish that has fought its way ashore.” As we frequently take the whole idea of satire especially in Singapore totally for granted – but I think, it should prompt all of us to ask when was satire really born in Singapore?

So when you see it from that detailed historicism of why so many Singaporeans use the Internet to vent out steam about the system – that keeps on blaring out propaganda messages that all is well in paradise – for a man who believes in this age just keeping the truth in between our ears is a daily act of resistance, this has to be a strange flirtation to indulge – the idea that we should talk like the way we would normally do if we were in real world Singapore.

It’s chelating….scouring….antiseptic. A way of putting a police man into a man’s head – that is why I resent the idea of people trying to tell me how I should write to describe a person…objects….places…..experiences and what we would normally think along with verbalizing.

The way you speak can splay out historicism. Along with what sort of man you are – can you bear out the beauty of words? Or do you just speed read and slow down when you come to the bits that you feel sums it all up?

I find it hard to describe the idea of people who are always out to tighten the way we all express ourselves online. It’s not only corseting. But I happen to believe it will limit the way the truth can come out. As when a man has to write with the shadow of cause and effect along with the idea we live in a world of consequences – then I think, we promote pretensions instead of honesty.

I am much not talking about how we would normally express ourselves – but when you think deeply about a phrase in the vernacular of Singapore Hokkien or Teo Chew and why it’s managed to root itself into the digital stream of consciousness – then you will begin to see, there is great beauty in it’s shape and design. We don’t have Bauhaus in Singapore. We don’t like the French have Marcel Proust or for that matter the habit of the illicit thrill in a Bordelo – but we all have a way to express ourselves – is it crude? Well of course – as frankness isn’t so much a well dressed man in a top hat in a tuxedo as it is the ordinary Singaporean picking his big toe and chomping on pot noodle as he blog surfs.

So we suddenly find ourselves now in the whole metaphysical world of IDENTITY – see how it is…it’s not as simple as telling people how to talk to each other…it’s much more complicated than that.”


Somewhere in the old quarter of Beach street recently when a storm forced me to cancel my plan to go sailing.

“Plantation life can be oppressive as it’s like going back to the early 19th century where tradition plays a preponderant role in village life.

So from time to time, I go up to Penang for a few days to run errands and get things that I can never get in a sleepy village.

Things like tile spear headed screw drivers, a number 19 nut head. A marine grade boat fitting. Fuses that boats only use, battery insulated co-axial wires – so when I am there, I just switch to who I really am.

You see to me the bush jacket is not really me. I see it more like a superman suit that I need to take off from time to time and just slip into a pair of slippers and a loose shirt to walk around like everyone else – to loose myself in the crowd, so to speak – well somewhere between these thoughts when I was just strolling carefree in the really old quarter of Beach street where everything seems to be either peeling off or come close to crashing down in a rickety heap of 1890 opulent Straits living – I came across this woman.

She was Chinese. Around late thirties. Maybe American. Bostonian. But what really prompted me to ask her whether she wanted to buy me a cup of latte in a really rustic bistro that I usually go too every time I visit Penang is the idea – this woman has her own mind. She’s an individual.

I can tell a persons character from what they use daily and decide to carry along – she trying very hard to study the light and trying to imagine how the picture will turn out in her mind.

That’s really only a sort of attitude that someone who still shoots on chemical film really has to develop – the idea of building a picture from scratch like how you would probably take a clump of clay and slowly shape it into an earthen pot.

From the way this woman was darting around furtively in and out of the shadows – she was having difficulties reading the light that afternoon – she probably decided to wing it without a light meter to travel light – but from the way, this woman walked around the building trying to find that elusive vantage where it would all come together…she was just exasperated…and this is something that you rarely see these days in people who take pictures.

As the digital format allows us to see what we have just captured – and it’s this sense of immediacy that really takes away so much of the creativity that goes into photography – the play of light on the subject – the multitude of hues along with the whole idea of texture and framing.

I could tell by just looking at her, she had to absolutely have that picture….moment…to encase a moment forever in film – yeah, real chemical film. As that’s what a Leica mechanical rangefinder does. And there she was studying the angles of light, peering into the chiaroscuro of how light reveals more when there is darkness.

At some point she looked at me – there I was with my usual ridiculous pirate sailing skull cap, dark Arabic coffee shirt, loose cargoes and slippers carrying a big box of marine fixtures. (I much prefer to walk in Penang).

She ignored me totally when I told her there’s no way to get decent contrast and color separation on chemical film where she had begun setting for a shot – it was like one of those please go away bag man look – but when I suggested a place where I knew the picture would all come together very nicely – and when she realised I was right on the number – as I walked away she asked me whether I would like to join her for coffee (oh, I lied about that part, she was actually trying to pick me up!) – we spoke along the way, she was interested to know how I knew the language of light so well – you know where alphabets are depicted in shards of cutlass ark light to the murmurs of shadows – how those who still shoot only in old school chemical film are always mindful there are only 36 shots in a roll – and it’s really where photography is more of an art than a science. A purist view of seeing the world.

Do you see how language can bring two strangers together. In this case the language of light and the idea of still insisting to shoot in chemical film? The appreciation of a thing for what it is and the whole idea of knowing that it’s a complex and cerebral thing that deeply soulful and not just plastic and vapid.

And in many ways this scene of a man who watches by when a woman struggles to take a picture is an aphorism of how when two people share a thing – then that’s when it all comes together, they have so much to say to each other.

And in a furtive way, this is a metaphor of what life really is. We don’t nearly live ten, twenty or thirty lifetimes – you’re really only passing by just this once, like how you only get 36 shots on a nineties mechanical camera.

And that’s really how I see it. That’s why I am never ever shy nor afraid of reaching out to people who I find interesting and fascinating….as that is what life is all about….precious moments…where all you really hope for is a conversation that allows you to see the world slightly differently from the way you have always seen it…..but to pull this magical moment off, I really think – you should not take yourself too seriously or even allow your ego and fears to get the better of you….you should just strive to be comfortable in your own skin.

As to live any other way would be to live in a lie and why would you even want to do that, when you only live once?”

Many years ago, General Yeo said in passing,

“know your place and we can have a conversation.”

When I first heard these words – I considered him arrogant and presumptuous. But as I turned the wheel of life as a farmer who has to regularly manage myself and others effectively to get results. I realized the wisdom of these words – as with everything the General has to say, it is compact as a pill and full of meaning.

I frequently think it is so sad that Singapore has lost a thinker in the cabinet. I hope one day he will change his mind and return to politics again.

Good men are hard to find….very hard.

The Second Coming

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?


“I think it is a criminal waste that such an outstanding man has decided to turn away from the affairs of the world like a man who retreats into the forest just to meditate on the meaning of life.

I wouldn’t mind if Mini Lee or Kee Chui did that at all – I would probably help them along by donating ten years supply of canned sardines minus the can opener to wish them Bon voyage. As all they seem to do is hurt my brain with their kooky logic.

As for the General. It saddens me immensely he is so inaccessible these days. I personally don’t mind paying 10k just to have lunch with him – I will cook him a nice salmon with creme sauce and some mash potatoes. We will dine in the field over a bottle of Yaldara – he will like that as I have a feeling, he’s someone who like the outdoors like me.

It will be meaningful and that is really what I want out of life….meaningful relationships….meaningful moments…meaningful encounters that will allow one to see the world slightly differently and even change to be a better person. Not fake people who are so afraid of their own shadows….all they can do is trust their fears more than their hopes.

After all we only live once. I miss him dearly….”

Choppy sea

November 19, 2013

Birds are infinitely smarter than humans when it comes to reading the weather I reckon. Much smarter. Way ahead of us. We don’t even come anywhere close.

As they seem to know instinctively when to head for the hills when the seas suddenly turns nasty, unlike us humans who think we know everything under the sun, when we know absolutely nothing.

I was planning to go for a spot of sailing, but it seems like the birds may well be right this time. I’ll stay in instead…..just in case.

I do it all the time. Even consider it an occupational liability. Pay off a few low lives to disturb a woman while I stroll right in – save the day and sweep her off her feet in one go.

The things, I am prepared to do to succeed in business….national service.

Proving once again the family man is prepared to do anything….to secure the well being of his family.

The crux of the issue was never the Messiah. This I admit may appear odd to many, but to me, he has always been really only a side dish…. a cherry on a cup cake…dressing.

What I feel is far more substantial and disturbing event was the underlying reasons that accounted for the overwhelming schadenfreude that swept through the public consciousness when the Messiah threatened mayhem – it was surreal (to me, at least) to have observed so many deriving a gleeful pleasure out of a government bunkering down to blunt cyber raids mounted by the Messiah and his motley crew.

That the general sentiment bordered on euphoria and fingered into every segment of society can never be denied – neither can one elide this outpouring of unfettered jubilation which emerged from the groundswell that seemingly celebrated this unfortunate incident without at least trying to explain why? – this should prompt us to ask, did the Messiah manage to tap into a vein of public consciousness? Did his message to the government of the day to annul the unpopular licensing of blogs resonate with many? Did he even manage to compress all the pent up resentment that was harboured by so many?

To me this will always be the crux of the issue. Not whether what the Messiah did was right or wrong.

And this should really be a wake up call for Mini Lee and his crew to think long and hard about whether what has reliably continued to unite all of us as a nation and people has fractured beyond the point where our divisions are greater than even what would continue to hold us together.

These are disturbing questions….and to me it doesn’t pay to beat around the bush to pretend that all is well.

Something is very wrong…when a significant segment of a nation takes to the other side and decides to stand with the enemy.

That is why I can’t help but feel, it’s rather strange for Mini Lee now to issue out a plea to the same public that once indulged in unmitigated schadenfreude, to now condemn those who were responsible for those cyber intrusions.

Instead Mini Lee and his government would do well to set aside sometime along with many of their their fantasies, to do some serious soul searching as to what are the causal links that provoked so many reasonable, law abiding and well adjusted people to react in the way they did.

In my opinion, it doesn’t pay for government to run away from reality – by trying their best to elide the public support for the Messiah (I could well be wrong in my assessment, but that was how it all felt to me watching by as a by stander) – as in truth, if the right conditions in the ground did not really exist to breed the requisite resentment, anger and hatred towards the government – it is very unlikely the Messiah or for that matter any trouble maker would have garnered even the smallest cachet of adherents and supporters. 

Something I feel must be very wrong between state and citizen –  It will serve both the interest of the people and government better for the latter to face the facts honestly and to analyse further what has taken us to today’s lamentable situation – where the government seems to have lost the trust of the people so completely that they even delight when misfortune befalls them.


“Let me speak plainly. If you want to go into business just to make a lot of money at every turn and opportunity. Then the chances are you will probably end up a bankrupt.

That was what the last person who owned the land I am presently standing on did – he operated his plantation like a business.

Now don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with the whole idea of making money. I am not a communist. Only there is a right and wrong way.

Let me begin by telling you the wrong way – you do what you want to do and you don’t care what others think. You don’t even respect what they regard to be important.

And that was essentially what the last man who owned this parcel of land did – and that is really another way of saying he willfully derogated his role as keeper of the wheel of life to his community – and the mini skirt version is the community eventually turned against him.

Now there are certain realities in commercial farming – the first is I cannot turn a profit without the good will of my community.

That means I have take care of them. If I do a good job, then they will take good care of me. I can’t take the attitude, life is tough and leave it all to the wisdom of the free market – it doesn’t work that way in an agrarian society – as the weather and a hundred other things will always conspire to make life uncertain.

So every week on Monday. I go to the local barber who is the head of clandestine services to get a run down on the price of fish, poultry etc etc. I also work very closely with the village police outpost to make sure crime is under control.

From time to time I will eat in the local warung so that my men can see that my life differs from them very little – and in the hour when the cows return indolently to their pens, it is not unusual for me to drop in for dinner with a family to see how things are getting along.

During Ramadan I will fast. This way no man will complain about the work load. As I will take off my bush jacket and work beside them. In the ghost month when Taoist believe the malevolent spirits roam the plantations – again it is not unusual for them to see me working beside my men – and when the Tamils believe Durga is nearby, I am the first to offer alms to placate the restless spirits.

Above all, I believe very strongly when people are with you – they will wish you well. When the enemy stands at the gates, there will not be much talk, men will come forward and they will stand in one neat line and stand ready to repel the enemy. When the farmer is sick, the villagers will ask, how is the keeper of the wheel of life – tell me what can we do?

Now you understand why I feel deeply something is awfully wrong in Singapore….it is so wrong that I do not even know how or where to begin to explain what is wrong. It is just very wrong in so many ways.”

Swiftlet Bird Nest Farming

November 14, 2013

It is never enough…is it? After this hill, there’s always another hill… and another and another….the never ending story….like the birds circling high above me chirping wantonly away without a care in the world. How nice it is to be a bird – how liberating it must feel to glide effortlessly through the air.

How I envy you…as I too very wish, I had wings like you.

I feel restless. I am not entirely comfortable with the idea that my business model is solely dependent on palm oil. Sure I can buy more land, but I am not totally at ease with the idea of pilling on more debt – I’ve never ever been comfortable with the idea of borrowing.

As for my new bird nest business. It’s still in the gestation period – it will take a while before it all comes around.

Besides there are too many snakes on the plane! Too may evil businessmen who feel that I have imperialistic tendencies – fuck them lah!

I need to diversify aggressively into a new field. Lately, I have been researching the idea of breeding and training guard dogs for security work specifically for palm oil plantation settings.

I am confident based on my own extensive field trials with my own dogs this is doable…..to breed and train dogs of war.

If there is anyone out there who has field experience in the armed or security services and who loves dogs please drop me a line. I would like to collaborate.


“I believe to get consistent good results. It is very importantly to train realistically. And to do so as often as possible.

That is why my gardener who is a tribesman has the second job of trying to kill me everyday.

For instance, it is not unusual for him to hide for hours in cupboards or drawers (as he can dislocate his bones to fit in) for hours on end or to breathe through a hollow reed while he lies beneath the surface pond waiting to ambush me or even to secret himself in the many palm trees on my lands to try to ambush me.

I realise this is quite an odd and curious way to live one’s life – with assassins regularly jumping out of a hole or ceiling trying to strangle or stab me.

Neither is it uncommon for visitors to see me wrestling with my gardener whenever he ambushes me whenever they have been invited to tea.

On one such occasion a well heeled plantation lady insisted that I must be a mad man to decide to live such a lifestyle. As she had a shock of her life when my gardener suddenly pounced on me from a great height. As he had painted himself the same color as the ceiling and was waiting to spring a trap on me from high up.

This plantation lady was so shocked, she promptly departed and even told me sternly, she would tell everyone that I am a deranged person.

Some years later when I chanced on this same woman again on one of the many serpentine plantation roads that criss cross estates. I noticed her driver had foolishly taken a very dangerous route riven with brigands. I decided to followed this stupid woman on my mountain bike with my doberman.

Sure enough, when the driven alighted to open one of the many stour gates that usually divided one parcel of land from another – a group of men emerged from the thicket armed to the teeth. I could tell she was in danger, so I creep to a high position and gave a hand command to my dog to attack, while I stayed hidden with my bow trained on the leader of the bandits.

Though I was outnumbered six to one, they didn’t stand a chance – I was invisible and had taken a commanding position overlooking the scene – since both I and my dog had trained countless times for this type of scenario, we were very surefooted and confident – even if it got nasty, I had no doubts they all could be neutralized with surgical precision.

Those fucks scooted off faster than rabbits before a poisonous cobra.

When I finally emerged. The plantation madam gasped as my face was painted in camouflage – it took a while for her to recognise me after I had enquired whether she was well and would she like me to escort her for the remainder of the journey. I recommended a much longer, but safer route.

The following week, she sent me a letter thanking me profusely and apologising for her misplaced impression. She went on to add that she would from now onwards retract what she said to others concerning my “madness.” – I told her she was most kind and thoughtful.”