June 8, 2015
A colorful photograph could well be just another pretty picture to some. But to those who know the art of light and shadows intimately, it could very well be poetry, the history of the human spirit, philosophy and a very different way of seeing the world.
June 8, 2015
Mountains command the respect of professional climbers for only one reason. As even seemingly benign mountains all secret within their belly, the terrible power to unleash hell within one blink of the eye.
After climbing for so many years. I have never ever come across such a thing as a ‘safe’ mountain. Never so much as even once. So this notion of a mountain being some how ‘safe’ will always stand as a sort of a oxymoron to me. It is an idea that I have never been comfortable with.
That is just the way I see it and will probably always see all mountains.
‘Climbing a mountain doesn’t make you an exceptional leader anymore than living in a cave necessarily makes you a geologist.
If you want inconvertible proof then I can share with you the averagely miserable life profiles of many Sherpas who regularly lug up washing machines, fluffy toilet paper and high thread count towels up mountain rest houses so that fat Europeans can keep their sugary illusion intact and continue to take faith in the ridiculous idea by climbing a mountain, it will somehow impart some mythical power to transform their mundane lives, thereby making them a wholer, better and a much more confident person.
To me that’s just hype and spin…. commercial marketing manifesto talk that’s designed to sell stuff.
Truth is outdoor tourism along with the experiential training industry simply has found a new way of commoditizing the mountain climbing experience to even sell it as edutainment in the form of character building, leadership honing, confidence boosting etc.
Does it work? Is it really true? Well I shall leave that to you…the perceptive leader.
Like I said. I have a right to remain skeptical. Having said that I don’t for one moment disagree a mountain is a powerful metaphor. Then again anything can assume that transformational effect and allure providing you market it professionally. At the end of the day, if you believe it can change you from the inside out…then it probably will have the power to transform your life.
Having said that one has to be mindful of the profit motive in the experiential learning industry. As businesses are raking in millions by hard selling danger as seemingly safe – one dimension of that product mix is by marketing the idea, there’s actually such a thing as a ‘safe’ mountain.
I imagine the contradiction in the form of a ‘safe mountain’ will always command an illicit thrill. As what it actually offers is adventure and risk taking on the cheap. To paraphrase without ever having to deal with inconvenience of death and injury.
The way I see it, you don’t need to ever splurge out $1,000 on an adventure holiday to make you a leader. You could just as well achieve the same by carrying two sack of rice up the HDB when the lift is broken to help out some old folks who have been stranded. Or retile the roof of your church, temple or masjid and get the same measure of utility. With the right person leading, it will be both an exciting and magical experience.
Will any lessons be learnt from this tragedy?
I don’t know. To be quite frank. I don’t really care. I am just glad to be able to climb again without having to share it with people who in my opinion have absolutely no business being there in the first place.’
June 6, 2015
In my opinion, there is no compelling need to understand. You might as well go and plough the sea…if you seek to understand the places, people and situations that bring out the worst in you.
Even less need to ask why some people are the way they are. Or why they say, do and think the things, they do. All that is required is to come to terms with the notion – some people will always be unfathomable….even to themselves….they are just the way they are.
The ONLY thing to do is to avoid the places, people and situations that bring out the worst in you.
That is the ONLY discipline one needs to abide by, to manage one’s anger effectively.
You could just as well throw out the rest of the anger management doctrine and it wouldn’t make one molecule of difference to the final outcome.
June 6, 2015
According to the weather experts. The rains should have stopped two weeks ago. But the birds are telling me a different story. Do you see how they dart around jaggedly in a figure S – that’s the way the males show off to attract females. It’s aerial gymnastics the equivalent of ‘look what I can do!’ – that means they’re courting and preparing to set up a nest and breed. That also means, the rains are good to go for at least another full month.
My friends…the birds. They’re always spot on!
June 5, 2015
Everything is the way it should be….for now at least. But appearances can often be deceptive. As mother nature is planning to lob a hand grenade into this apparent sea of calmness in the form of El Niño.
The signs are all there. The air is hollowed out, exactly the way it is just before an epic storm. Rains fall straighter. As for the cumulus clouds. They hardly ever moved at all. It’s as if a giant hand pinned them against a blue montage. Even the birds are restless. Yesterday I caught sight of a flock of flamingo flying east. They were heading towards the wrong direction. Africa is on the otherside. As for the sea, pickings have been sparse. Fishermen say the sea is smooth and calm like a mirror.
It’s slowly unfurling. Somewhere in the pacific, it’s all coming together. This year, it’s all line up nice and proper like dominoes…..the conditions that makes possible an El Niño event that is. There’s is no dilly dallying…wan…Dowan….no room even for the slightest margin for doubt.
Last night I heard from the BBC world service the Indians have declared that their June monsoon will likely fail. No show this year.
As for the politicians, they don’t seem to comcerned which to me is the surest sign for one to be duly concerned. As they probably know the shit is going to hit the fan and food prices are likely to spike in the next six months.
Meanwhile everything is the way it should be….for now at least.
‘While El Niño usually last nine to 12 months. In some cases they may last for years. El Niño usually begins to form between June and August, peak between December and April, and then decay between May and July of the following year. That’s mucho bad for oil palm as this means two monsoons will be severely affected. The first that occurs somewhere between August and September 2015 / April and May 2016.’
May 31, 2015
I’ve had this camera for 3 years. Use it everyday mostly in field conditions. It still performs like a champion.
Virtually indestructible under every possible condition
Good battery life
Average pic and video quality.
Below average performance under low light.
Summary: Short, sweet and to the point.
First it was Grace Fu. Now Calvin Cheng. Both mentioned it. I wonder what is this ‘red line.’
Is it like the mythical sea of lava that cannot be crossed.
I am so confused! As there are already so many laws and regulations in Singapore to restrict what people can say, write and think. And now to cap off these mountain of laws and regulations….we have the red line that no even knows what it is.
Can someone please help me my brain hurts.
May 30, 2015
Whenever I visit the city. Many people like to clamber for my opinion on things that I hardly know about. I do not know why. So I get invited to many social events.
This evening I have to attend at least four new season rehearsals for new designer wear and still make time to attend an art gallery function.
Most of the time I have no idea what is happening or what these city folk are doing – why would anyone make clothes out of paper! What is happening!
Since I am only accustomed to wearing khaki most of the time and to be frank my needs are very basic. It is very unlikely I will ever understand their mysterious ways.
Coupled to my already saturated state of confusion. I don’t really understand what these city people find so fascinating about me to even seek my opinion on their objects of interest.
However, despite my state of confusion. I am just going with the flow of the city as I mingle with the rich and influential plantation ladies who live in the city. Many of these rich folk live in an elaborate dream world that is so far removed from the life of the average cookie cutter, it’s as if they are another species of life all together. From my opinion, it is a make belief world filled with all kinds of paper mâché illusions which all do not amount to very much.
Whenever I step out of line in the city. Everyone just laughs and someone always quips, ‘dont mind him….he is from the provinces’ or ‘he’s a farmer.’ And they all smile at me with that expression of quiet understanding.
Yesterday morning while attired in a stern bush jacket and standing outside the driveway of a hotel for fresh air. As I am not used to air con. A fat man who appeared to be in a hurry that I had never seen before in my life threw me the car keys of his Porsche and asked me to drive it away – I have been driving his beautiful car around the city the whole day and will probably do so tomorrow as well and I don’t even know him! Such is the strange and fascinating way of the city.
There are many times whenever I feel very confused. I will search out for a park bench to simply sit down like perhaps Forest Gump to gather my thoughts whenever I am in the city – only to ask myself – what the hell is going on?
Whenever I cannot find a park, it’s not unusual for me to ring on the door bell of the many leafy bungalows and demand in an authoritative tone of a landowner permission to enjoy their garden – when the lady of the house is hurriedly summoned by nervous servants and I am introduced as a planter from the provinces, she will usually smile understandingly and excitedly ask all her servants to draw out a chair for me to rest in their garden. I can stay for hours if I want.
In a while more ladies will appear in chauffeured limousines, fluffy sweet cakes and tea will be served while they all gather in knots and stare at me or study the cut of my bush jacket while muttering to themselves, ‘are they all like that…is he really from the provinces….he is a planter….I have never seen a planter before.’
While all this is happening my confusion deepens and all I want to do is return to my trees and birds.
Do not expect people to understand what you are going thru. If you hold on to this unreasonable expectation. Even your loved ones and close friends will fail you. All you will end up accomplishing is feeling very hurt and disappointed. This is how a man turns into a cynical and bitter person.
The best you can ever hope to do – is to strive to understand yourself by understanding what you HAVE to go thru and WHY.
Once you understand this aspect of yourself completely. You will be able to face your fears calmly. Through the sheer power of understanding yourself in the form of what you HAVE to go thru and WHY. You will never feel abandoned and forsaken. There can be no fear. As fear can only draw it’s power from uncertainty and not knowing.
When you understand yourself completely. You will be able to control your mind so well that even fear can have no dominion over you.
All that fear can do is pass over and through you like a vapor. And when it has gone. You will turn the inner eye of your mind to see its wake.
Where fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only you will remain……there will be no one else…..but you.
As only you understand.
How important is a degree today? Well it probably depends on whether you believe it’s safe to consume fish from the Fukushima sea.
May 28, 2015
Today someone asked me whether, a degree is necessary as he heard the government has been pushing the idea, a degree is no longer necessary these days for one to be successful in Singapore.
I told this person quite frankly. We can debate this question till hell freezes ten times over and one more just to spare and it’s very unlikely we would ever reach a satisfactory answer. The pertinent question in my opinion is not whether a degree is worth pursuing or even whether it’s even a precondition for personal success these days in Singapore….that’s a red herring, in my opinion.
The cogent question is: how many ministers are grooming their own children to turn the wheel of life without a degree in Singapore?
That is the ONLY question.
‘Some time back ago, one of my regular readers asked me whether it’s safe to consume food products from Japan. This lady was particularly anxious about the nuclear fallout after the tsunami in Fukushima and it’s effects on adjacent perfecturates. As she is a especially fond of Japanese plums that are grown in Sukagawa.
Since this lady is a scientist. She started peppering her questions to me with technical information such as how the Japanese government approves of shipments of food that test below 100 becquerels (units of radioactivity) per kilogram, lower than its original 500 Bq limit (and in line with global standards) etc etc etc which all ended with the question….so if the experts say it is safe…it must be safe right farmer?
I told this lady. I am not a technical expert in nuclear matters. I went to stress. I am just a simple farmer, so I don’t really know whether it’s safe to consume food products from Fukushima and it’s adjacent perfecturates.
I did however share with this lady – if I really wanted to gauge whether the food grown and harvested in Fukushima and it’s adjacent perfecturates is safe for human consumption. I would probably never rely on what the experts have to say.
I went on to stress to this inquisitive lady that was just my nature. I never ever take anything at face value.
I would probably conduct my own line of queries by logging into the many farming forums where Japanese farmers regularly hangout to chat about herbicide and where to get value for money shiatsu massage and ask simple question like: whether the farmers in Fukushima who grow and harvest these plums are regularly consuming their own produce?
Or ask very basic questions along the common sense school of thought, like if these produce are not tainted – why don’t the Japanese eat ALL these ‘suspect’ food themselves? Why are they exporting them elsewhere for other nationals to consume?
Better still I will personally whip up a seafood Tom Yam delight consisting of foodstuff exclusively from fuckshima! And invite the entire Cabinet and all the top decision makers in AVA for a seafood gala night. It will be very cheap. As since the humans will all be glowing like light bulbs. I hardly need to spend money on night time decorations. I will even insist they bring along their families and see whether they go for second helpings of atomic fish ball or stick to mineral water.
She exclaimed, ‘how very true! Why didn’t I think of asking those simple question?’
May 28, 2015
A short term pot experiment in a growth room and long-term field fertilisation experiments were used to study the effects of boron on the below-ground and above-ground growth of Norway spruce seedlings and trees.
In the short term pot experiment, B treatments were applied in the nutrient solution. Three different levels of boron supply were used ranging from deficiency levels up to optimal ones.
Furthermore, a drought period of nine days was imposed to one half of the seedlings at the end of the experiment.
The results of this experiment clearly showed that low internal boron decreases the number of fine roots and root dry weight in Norway spruce seedlings. The seedlings grown with adequate internal B had more root tips than those receiving the lower B treatments, when needle B concentrations at the lowest B supply were 16–17 mg kg−1, which has earlier been considered as a sufficient B level. Boron had only a slight effect on above-ground growth of the seedlings before the drought treatment.
However, the seedlings with low internal B grew significantly less when exposed to drought, which indicates reduced drought resistance in these seedlings.
These are the few habits I have observed in highly successful people.
(1) Speak as little as possible of one’s self. People who are accomplished do not need to blow their own trumpet all the time or need stupid laws to protect their legacy.
(2) Mind one’s own business. Never indulge in gossip or be kaypoh. Avoid people who like to stick their noses in the private affair of others.
(3) Learn to accept the world and everything in it AS IT IS and not WHAT you and others think it should be.
(4) train your mind, body and spirit to co-exist peacefully with the many contradictions and paradoxes of this world. If you are unable to seek resolution, then go elsewhere and live without those contradictions that cause you hurt and make angry all the time. Never stay and yet complain. That what children do. Go!
(5) Be forgiving of those who slight, forget and speak badly of you.
(6) Treat others the way you want to treated. Be thoughtful, considerate and try to get along with others.
(7) Never be a slave to your ego. Remember the world does not revolve around you. No one cares how successful, wealthy and influential you are. So don’t go and do stupid things like buy expensive things to show off to others that you are a man who has figured out the mysteries of life. No one cares lah!
Learn to live a simple, frugal and bullshit free life.
‘Many people see loneliness as purgatory….suffering…imprisonment. They don’t see it as an opportunity to get to know themselves better. As we have always been brainwashed into believing loneliness is a form of psychological torture that we have to avoid at all cost – that is why solitary confinement is considered a very severe form of punishment.
That is understandable as man is after all a social animal. So it’s only natural for him to aspire towards fellowship and understanding with his fellow man.
But when man begins to invest so much of his inner worth, self esteem and sense of importance outside of himself and he doesn’t know when to hold back – that is the beginning of all his miseries.
Suddenly this man becomes self-conscious. He begins to compare himself with his peers – what car is he driving? What district does he live in? How much is his salary? Is he using a iPhone 6? Which university did he graduate from?
Do you see how we diffuse our energy on meaningless pursuits when we do not know how to deprogram ourself from being swept away by the tsunami of self-consciousness.
All we are really doing is demonstrating symptoms that we don’t know who we really are or where we are heading in life. That to me is suicidal lah!
As your very self-consciousness is proof that you still a stranger to yourself. That you have not found a home in yourself yet!
Worst of all self consciousness makes you malleable and easy to manipulate. You are like a remote control toy. That is what invariable happens when you are a stranger to yourself. You will always be very shaky, because you do not have something true, enduring and timeless to anchor you down to who you really are and where you want to go!
You are like dust taken by the capricious wind. That means your happiness will always depends on others, it cannot never from within. As there is nothing there…it always in Akan Datang status. So you are always looking to what other people are saying and thinking about you. And you are always changing your mental, physical and spiritual outlook to gain the approval of others. You are always trying to satisfy their insatiable needs to turn you into someone who you were never meant to be…taking you further from yourself. You are always trying to live up to their impossible standards even if they make you suffer.
Recently a girl told me with great pride, I ate maggi noodles for six months to save up for a branded dress. I asked her, how does your branded dress look on you after destroying your body for six months – thereafter she realized how stupid she had been.
The same thing happened to my neighbor. He has been driving the same tractor happily for over twenty years. But since all his friends recently bought brand new tractors with all forms of lights and gizmos. Suddenly the tractor that he once loved doesn’t look so appealing any longer and recently he has been neglecting it by leaving it out in the rain to rust. As he has been seduced by self consciousness thoughts of buying a sexier tractor.
So one day I asked him sarcastically – since you do not seem to care about your tractor any longer. Can you please give it to me. Then he asked me in a surprised tone: why do you want this old tractor, it doesn’t even have power steering or pneumatic suspension. Then I told him in a scolding tone’we are farmers, we do not need power steering and suspension….do you think we are office workers!…..besides it is not whether what you own is the newest, rather it is how well you take care of it!
Then as if an evil spell has suddenly been lifted, this simple farmer came to his senses and muttered, ‘what was I thinking?’
Do you all see how when we fashion our ego into a God. All we are doing fashioning a hell that makes us go around in ever decreasing circles.’
May 26, 2015
Many years ago I parted waves with a very good buddy under acrimonious terms. When he asked me for moral support to marry a woman. I told him quite plainly, he was making the world’s biggest mistake by marrying a woman who in my opinion did not genuinely love him and was just a cunning gold digger – I even shared with him my premonition he would have three stellar years followed by three years of grief where at the end, he would end up heart broken, sad and penniless. As his tin pot wife would scoot away with all his money.
After that my friend never contacted me again. He took my frank assessment personally. He never asked me to attend his wedding. On one occasion when I fell into a spot of trouble four years ago and sought his help. He even cold shouldered me. So eventually all contact between us ceased.
As predicted. In those three years my friend lived like the Shah of Iran. Business was booming. Money was no object. And soon he found himself surrounded by parvenus, apple polishers and crooks who only told him what he wanted to hear. It all probably went to his head faster than 40% proof alcohol. I suspect he even went into business with these lackeys who screwed the shit out of him. In the final chapter, his wife, who was the keeper of all his money ran off with another man.
Worst of all he disregarded my parting advise to him before we broke – that he should buy a one kilogram gold bar every six months (since his business was doing well and he could easily afford it), trek up the mountain and bury it in the place where X marks the spot.
I told him then in a serious tone – when the shit hits the fan. That would be your second lease of life. You will need it!
He called me a cretin who should have been born in the age of sails, muskets, pirates and candles and even had the temerity to lecture me on wealth management with the opening words,
‘Who in their right mind these days buys physical gold and buries it like Captain Hook?’
Today everything that I predicted came to past without even the slightest deviation – it’s 100% with no margin for error – he has been declared a bankrupt, his wife has scooted off with whatever little cash he has. He lives in a broken house without a roof and he commutes to work in a bicycle.
I don’t even know where he is – he doesn’t even want to contact me and I don’t know why. As only I can put it all back together and make it all go away. This is not the first time my friend has crashed and burnt – without contact, there is absolutely nothing I can do because I don’t even know how deep in debt he is or for that matter what has transpired all these years when we lost contact.
‘I am by nature a ultra paranoid person. That if you must know is the secret of my success. I take nothing at face value. If we ever get to sit down for coffee. 9 out of 10. Trust me. I already know everything there is to know about you – 9 out of 10, that entire conversation is recorded and it will be replayed at least twenty times to filter for any unusual inconsistencies against your body language. In our second encounter those areas of contradictions will be further probed to find out your hidden agenda.
If your mission is to infiltrate me. I can more or less guarantee you. You will be put thru every aspect of your training and much more and there will be zero margin for error. You will sweat hot blood!
I never keep to a schedule. My daily movements are random. I never take the same route twice if possible. I never walk into a building unless I have the blueprint in my head. I always arrive 30 minutes early to check out a place before an appointment. I pay special attention to where and how I park my car. It’s rarely ever out of sight.
I drink only plain water, eat only in places where I know the chef intimately and carry a strip of charcoal tablets, just in case I am poisoned – if he’s on leave, I settle for vacuum sealed biscuits.
I trust no one. I work on the assumption everyone is out to kill, cheat and deceive me, even if they show no outward motive to kill, cheat and deceive me. Nothing is regarded as benign. Everything is suspicious. Everything is a threat and duly security vetted.
I am a person whose impossible to get close too. There are too many layers of defense. I never volunteer information and if I do 9 out of 10, it’s probably disinformation. I am never taken in by flattery or by people who play on my greed and wants. I am always guarded about my designs and it’s virtually impossible to read my intentions as I have a habit of masking my true emotional state. I wear sunglasses all the time, rarely speak unless it’s necessary, seldom display enthusiasm even when something piques my interest, much prefer to ask probing questions while listening attentively – I am always suspicious and much prefer to act thru my army of lawyers and proxies anonymously in land deals.
No one really knows me well enough to allow anyone to approach them to ferret out any details concerning my life or to gain insights into my character, modus and financial status. I am an unknown quantity. Ultra low profile.
If anyone tries to assemble a picture of me. There are plenty of dead ends, trap doors and endless corridors of mirrors to waste their time and money along with confound and mislead them thus blunting even the best attempts to character profile me accurately.
Even my actions are frequently unpredictable. There is no discernible pattern. They are formless leaving endless possibilities along with impossibilities so that strategy formulation remains difficult.
Threats do not work on me. As I have mentally conditioned myself to function very effectively in stressful conditions. I can keep my cool and get the job done like a professional.
I live smack in the middle of nowhere. The roads leading to the house is bobby trapped. They are rotated daily. There are 5 layers of defense – even if a brigade armed to the teeth storms my house. The death count will be so high, it’s unlikely they would ever break thru to the last layer under their own terms. If George Yeo wants to spend a night in my plantation he will sleep sounder than Obama in the White House, that’s how safe it is.
It’s impossible to get close to me. Or to even attempt to influence me. Thru the years I have trained myself to function very effectively alone like a secret agent. I am immune to pretty girls with big tits, flattery, alcohol, emotional blackmail etc etc. I used to be a sucker for free home cooked food on account of my unusually high metabolic rate. But since this lack in character threatens to imperil me. As it’s not unusual for me to frequently encounter pretty women who regularly bribe me with home cooked food and expensive gifts of power tools and hardware equipment.
These days I keep my fetishes under strict control by having a strict policy of not succumbing to home cooked food and unsolicited gifts of power tools from women. I have put a bullet into that bad aspect of my character – it no longer exist.
I’ve trained myself thru the years to be comfortable and effective in living a simple, celibate and frugal life like a Templar Knight. There are no excesses in my existence, everything is striped down to its basic form and is 100% free from affectations.
The only luxury I allow myself is a cup of gourmet coffee that I cherish during my quiet moment very early in the morning when I sit and watch the sunrise with my Doberman guard dog who has just completed his night shift. My expensive mountain bike isn’t a luxury, that doesn’t count, it’s a high performance mechanical horse.
I have not had a holiday in 5 years. I don’t need to.
Above all I never trust myself with money and power and influence – that is why at any one time I only carry $50 with me and often pretend to be an inconsequential person with no authority whatsoever to make any important decisions.
The only time I broke this golden rule was four years ago when I had a wad of cash with me and a pretty girl in a short skirt who worked in a hardware shop offered me home cooked soup and successfully sold me $3,000 worth of power tools that I only use once every two years.
That one incident filled me with so much revulsion for my lack of self control, it continues to be a source of acute embarrassment till this day and merely confirms my long standing belief – I can never trust myself completely, when it comes to money – there is no shame in admitting this, that’s why I only have a habit of carrying $50 dollars in my wallet. That way I can never get up to no good even if I want to.
These are things they should teach every businessman in Harvard, but you know what? They don’t. Now you know why so many Americans who used to earn 5 figure salaries are living in their cars and shiting in plastic bags. I can almost guarantee you – you will never ever read about these keys of success in the Harvard Business Review….never.
Only remember this! Understand this completely! Only the paranoid survive and thrive. Failure is not an option. As Business is war!’
Cars are likely to be less affordable to the average Singaporean who own HDB flats. This means as time goes by many of the multi level car parks in HDB’s will begin to empty out.
The rate of emptying out can be very easily computed to provide a fairly accurate projection of how many acres will be available for commercial farming.
There are of course constrains in farming in multi level carparks, height limits the type of crops along with material handling complications. But all these are not insurmountable problems.
Light for example can be harvested and piped just like water with fiber optics, mirrors and intelligent tracking devices. Hydroponics dispenses with the need to use dirt and manure keeping HDB’s clean and orderly. The availability of overhead structures facilitates automation.
There are many opportunities for commercial farming in Singapore.
‘If I farm in Singapore. I would grow coffee. I know the crop like the back of my hand. Coffee is a very Kwai Kwai tree unlike oil palm or fruit trees. It does not shed its leaves . They are on the tree year round. So they are like cats. That makes them ideal for strata cultivation. With the right farmer, you can train them like dogs to grow only 5-8 feet tall and still be very productive. They don’t need pollination either so there are no bugs. The coffee cherries are turn bright red when ripe, that’s good. As robots can very easily be programmed to pick red stuff. They are pretty flexible and there is a lot of room for improvisation – in terms of ROI, coffee offers the best bang for the buck – world coffee consumption is likely to double with Arabica taking the lead closely followed by robusta.
But as I said, the farmer is very important. As coffee trees are like children. They can be very playful and mischievous, if one doesn’t know how to love them with the right balance of discipline and affection or know how to bring out the best in them – for instance, they can boycott the farmer, if they don’t like him. They can also produce male flowers that never ever turn into coffee beans.
But the real joy of coffee is it’s a very adorable crop that most people will always want to know more about. You can crush a dried coffee bean and bring it to the nose of someone and they would smile, purr ‘mmmmmhhh!’ and follow you to the ends of this earth. Or infuse it with deep mystery by gently heating it in a skillet over charcoal embers till it crackles and pop like popcorn as everyone watches mesmerized by the release of aromatics and colloids – grind it into powder and serve it there and then pipping hot with a Jaffa biscuit.’
May 25, 2015
The emerging El Nino unfurling somewhere in the Pacific even as I write this is likely to be a historical event.
By all reliable accounts, it will sharper than the 2009 event possibly rivaling the 1997 event.
There will be less rain this year.
Without rain I can’t work my magic. It’s no good.
If this event stretches out three to four months. I could put up a good fight. I reckon. But anything thereafter and we are in lose/lose territory.
The question now is how do I manage my loses so that they remain small.
I believe only the Israelites might have the answer. They are after all, the undisputed magicians of the farming world who can even commercially produce sweet and heavy oranges even in semi arid conditions.
The Jews have no fear El Niño. The farmers in Israel are very serious businessmen. They don’t waste their time dabbling with mumbo jumbo such as rain dancing, cloud seeding or holding out wire hangers to look for precious water in the desert.
Their Tao is the mathematics being able to thrive under abject conditions of resource scarcity. They accept these impossible operating assumptions as the basis of their agricultural policy – this is why they can regularly yield 2.75 tons per hectare of succulent grapes even outstripping the French.
The Israelites have the answer – but they keep their farming secrets very close to their hearts like the blue prints of wonder weapons. As they don’t want to empower their Arab neighbors to grow commercially, it’s geopolitics….strategy….warcraft…statecraft. That I can understand.
The answer is with the Israelites. Only they have the key. As for us, it is our faith in Mother Nature that fails us.
‘It is May 25. Yet it continues to rain. How is that possible. Early this morning dark clouds formed – since the wind was still from the Westerly direction. This confirms, the trade winds have weakened this year. But this still doesn’t explain why it rains at a time when it should already be bone dry.’
May 24, 2015
June is the seasonal equatorial midpoint…it’s the proverbial half way mark….the unsettling period when the seasons begin to change. The time when one season steps in and another bows out. The wind pivots only in June. Rains always fall straighter. Rooms appear longer and bigger. Razors blunt easily. Door knobs sting with a barb of static. Dogs howl often.Water from the tap runs warm. Clothes dry indoors. Canned food warps. Rubberbands snap easily. Bubble wrap pop crispier. Matches light effortlessly. Stubborn doors close without gaps. Window frames torque. Cats disappear for days on end. Snails travel less far. Copper acquires a greenish patina. Brass dulls. Stars appear to be further away. Roof tiles loosen and frequently fall from the eaves. Slippers are less stick. Socks fluffier. Toilet paper feels like sand paper. Knives loose their edge faster. Paper curls at the edges. Books unhinge from their spines. Batteries die out before they are supposed to.
June is when everything in and around the man acquires an almost supernatural quality.
The morning light in June is not the suffused wooly light of January or April. It beats down fierce and hard, leaving nothing to the imagination. There is no fairy tale lingering mist during day break in June. The flight of the swiftlets are broken. They dip from side to side – it’s the effect of thermals that makes it difficult to maintain balance in flight. They, the birds chirp two stanzas again and again, Kee and Yee, as if to herald the arrival of that primordial season of uncertainly. Either that or to mock the proud sea eagles who glide high above them in arcs during this time of the year.
In June, the man who lives on the hill installs himself on a rattan chair during the copper tone evenings. He wears only khaki during this season blending into the bronzed landscape. The laces of his boots are turned outwards to allow the leather uppers to breathe to keep his feet cool during the hot season. They say the man learnt this from the ever wandering Foreign Legion in Africa along with other such things that only those who know of the revolution of seasons.
Or maybe this simply gives a tone and hue to the man’s ever changing thoughts during June. Like his much rumored nocturnal soirées where the man will drink himself into a maelstrom and knuckle fight thereafter round after round till the early morn only to lumber back and slip back into his life of sobriety, propriety and respectability.
When anyone ask why the man’s face is always scarred like a prize fighter only in the month of June.
Everyone just shrugs their shoulder and mutters, ‘it’s the heat….it makes men do stupid things.’
No one knows why this man who lives on the hill likes to pick fights only in the month of June. Probably not even the man himself. As in June, the heat renders it almost impossible to hold on to the barest morsel of thought….as everything melts away leaving a melange of nothingness except maybe the man who stands alone watching the before, during and after of all and much more that could only be his mistress of torment called June.
‘I never talk about it. Never. I should, I reckon, get it off my chest that is. But for some inexplicable reason…I keep it secreted from the world.
I always know how it’s going to start. Usually, with the belief it will be different this year. But as the days creep imperceptibly towards June and the air begins to be hollowed out – he steps right out of my skin.
It’s easy when one goes out to look for trouble. You see I am always in control. Or shall I say he is. But I can’t stop him. Not even when I have the power to walk right out of the door. Not even when I am slowly wrapping thin strips of rubber to turn my fist into a club just before one of those fights where men are all laying bets on whose going to be left standing when it’s all done.
He’s not afraid what happens to him in the ring. He doesn’t even care. It’s as he’s steered me here thru out the whole evening and I am only there for the ride, this is all he ever wanted out of the night. To fight. As for the rest, or what comes thereafter – he just don’t care.
I take a look at the mirror just before I step out – I say to myself, stop this! But there’s always a louder voice that tells me – this how it will go down to tonite and you are powerless to stop it.
He steps right into the ring. There is a swagger about him. Someone offers him whisky. He takes a swig and kisses a girl with big tits for la effect. It works. The crowd is in a frenzy.
It’s a human ring formed by men who would either make the circle bigger or smaller depending on how the fight goes – when the boxers get hit and fall back, they get pushed back into the fight. No rules here. No count downs even. No referee. Just the brutality of whose left standing when it all over. That’s the way it is in kampung rumbles. That’s the way he prefers it.
The sound is deafening by now – the crowd is laying down bets fast and furious. He does a Mohammad Ali jig, two jabs, left…left…right followed with a lightning upper cut and caps it off with a pirouette with both hands held up high. It drives the kampung crowd wild. Someone smears Vaseline mixed with Tiger Balm over his forehead, it cuts the pain. Another oils me him down with coconut oil and the bell rings.
Then it begins…..
Somewhere in this choreography of screaming men and women, spit, blood and sweat suddenly the world slows right down to a crawl – I can see myself in the ring shadow boxing. I shout out, ‘stop! Please stop! I am afraid. I want to go back home now!’ But it’s only a whimper somewhere in my head. As I watch in horror as this monster tears right in with teeth gnashing when it begins. He takes a couple of hits, but he’s to deep in the gyre to feel a thing – ‘stop! I beg you please stop! But it just goes right on like some terrible nightmare. The crowd is going wild…the lights of the lorries…a girl flashes her tits…a smiling man with a row of gold teeth…he’s covered in blood. His eyes are all swollen. But I can just make out that he’s relishing every moment of it, as he flashes me a crazed look of a tortured soul.
Please stop!….please. I am afraid. Please I beg of you. Please stop now and let’s go home together. Please. I am afraid. Stop. Please stop….I just want this nightmare to stop.’
Life is intrinsically meaningless. It’s like a empty room. But what makes life rich, varied and interesting is what we are prepared to bring to the table of life. When I was younger I used to preoccupy so much of my time and energy asking – what is the meaning of life? why was I born in this timeline?
Now when I look back, that was such a waste to be asking those nonsensical questions, as all the while, the answers were always in me and not outside to be discovered.
‘Some time back ago. I came across a distressed chauffeured driven car parked by the side of my lands. When I approached the car. An elegant plantation lady stepped out briskly and asked me in a very anxious tone – ‘do you happen to know whether the world’s greatest troublemaker lives in these parts?’
I looked at this woman for a very long time who by now seemed rather perplex as to why I did not supply her an answer. In a while she asked the question again,
‘Do you happen to know whether the world’s greatest trouble maker lives in these parts?’
This time I ignored the lady completely and turned my attention to join the driver who was hunching over the hood desperately trying to figure out why the car had suddenly stalled. Since it was already getting dark. I told the lady, if we cannot fix it before sundown, my lodgings will be made available for her. To which she looked most relieved. Fortunately from the looks of it, a branch had snagged the wire to the starter and it took just a while for me to get the car started again.
Thereafter the lady asked me for the third time – ‘do you happen to know whether the world’s greatest trouble maker lives around these parts?’
When I asked why such a question is so important – she replied that her father (who happens to be one of my many business enemies) had warned her to be careful of trespassing the lands of the world’s greatest troublemaker….as it would probably be very troublesome and the last thing she wanted was trouble.
That was when I told her, ‘madam, the worlds greatest troublemaker is standing right before you now.’
The plantation lady laughed and replied in a half mocking tone ‘but that cannot be sir. You are after all the Good Samaritan who rendered us assistance in the hour of need and even offered to put us up for the night.’
But as soon as she uttered these words, her once serene features began to change to an expression of grave concern. Perhaps it was the dying light that imparted such an impression. Or maybe she had recognized a distinguishing feature that her father had once recounted about the world’s greatest trouble maker. The faint bullet scar just above his right eye that ran the length of his face marked him forever in plantation high society as an incorrigible duelist. Perhaps it was his trademark copper colored sunglasses that he never ever took off even when the light waned – as many villagers believed the man who lived on the hill was not of this world and possessed supernatural powers to steal souls by just one look into his fiery eyes. It’s very hard to say, as there are so many rumors and different accounts surrounding the world’s greatest troublemaker.
Before the plantation lady’s car drove off, she wound down her window and asked in a tone of curiosity,
‘Are you really the world’s greatest troublemaker?’
I merely replied with an air of languor, ‘sometimes madam, the questions we ask of others are often the very answers we seek.’
After that she lowered head in deep reflection for a very long time and when she had raised it again as if to ask me another question or to say so something – that was when I signaled the driver to drive on. The car drove off into the bronze sunset. All I remember from that one encounter was the look the lady gave me from the rear window.
How shall I put it…..
It was an unalloyed expression of utter relief of not having the misfortune of encountering the world’s greatest troublemaker.
May 22, 2015
Metaphors are very powerful tools to facilitate understanding. They can provide us with a clear vantage to see ourselves in relation to the greater world without any embellishments thereby allowing us to gain deeper wisdom into the mysteries of life.
For example, it’s not uncommon for many of my regular readers to ask – why do I use the metaphor, ‘to turn the wheel of life’ to describe my work as a farmer? Or why do I sometimes refer to myself as the keeper of the wheel of life when I speak about my role in relation to my community?
I guess one reason why I feel the need to be a windbag is simply because I find it quite difficult to relate meaningfully to the word, work. To me, it’s not a word that’s able to go beyond it’s dictionary meaning to adequately describe how I truly see myself in relation to my work. It lacks something…textural…spiritual..soulful…sympatico….the feel is just not right.
The wheel as a metaphor on the other hand is an image that allows me visualize very clearly what and how I do that constitutes work (I don’t much care for the word, work). Work if you think about it is like a man turning a wheel, there is no beginning or end. It’s both litany and joy. Perdition and salvation. All rolled up into the metaphor of the circle.
The wheel is also geometrically pleasing to my eye – it’s form has always been very calming to me, denoting wholeness, totality and balance. It represents perhaps the subconscious way in which I see myself beyond the whole idea of work to even overach to nature and beyond to the greater universe – as the wheel is the natural symmetry of the cosmos, it describes the movements of planets, cycles of the seasons and most things that cycle thru my life – the seasons…the chastening passage of time….how I need to pay my bills regularly every month otherwise the pudgy utility man will give me disparaging looks of disapproval.
Well it’s not a perfect wheel. The one I have in my brain that is. It’s a bit wobbly and there are even a few decent sized balaku’s to give it a wabi sabi tradesman feel. Enough at least to remind me from time to time nothing is exact…perfect…it’s like me. In this manner even with all it’s imperfection, it is still the essence of all that is natural, primordial, and inescapably a central part of who am I and probably how I see the rest of humanity.
The wheel to me symbolizes so many aspects of the dao of the frontier man that makes possible the classical idea of a man to make his fortunate in a strange foreign land – grit, fortitude, courage and yearning for a better tomorrow. Everything is rolling all the time, held together by superglue and ductape, everything comes full circle for better or worse, good or bad, they are all treated as one of the same reality as only the metaphor of wheel is able to embrace this multitudes of paradoxes and contradictions that orbit my strange mind – since as far back as I am able to peer into my own history, the wheel has been one of the central visual metaphors for my being….I constantly draw wisdom and strength from this imagery of the man turning the wheel.
But what, exactly, makes this simple round shape so powerful and so timelessly alluring to me still remains a persistent mystery – or even why I have come to see it as an indelible symbol of my mission in this world….the man who always oiling the sprockets, putting his ears to the manifold to check for unusual squeaks and vibrations….this is how I see myself. But like I said, it is really a mystery….for now at least. But rest assured, if I continue to turn this humble wheel….one day it will all be revealed…of that I am assured.
I wonder what is the metaphor that stands out most in your life and how do you see your work?
‘General Yeo is a three dimensional man. A very well rounded man like the very pleasing lines of a circle. Perhaps one of the smartest card carrying members of the PAP oligarchy. A man of all seasons – not like the migraine inducing octagonal shaped Zorro Lim who is like a robot or the perplexing nutty professor hexagaonal form of Eight ball Tharman who provokes a state of confusion. As this confuser delights in using so many words to say absolutely nothing weighty, substantial or meaningful. It’s just a drone…like the sound of my tractor.
So when general Yeo uses the metaphor of the Bonsai, Banyan tree and Tao to describe his book, it is probably a compressed and weighty metaphor that I am certain is able to encompass many geographies of thoughts.
The Bonsai is a microcosm of nature that is nurtured by the gardener. It can refer to Singapore per se. It can also represent the individual. Here you have the imposition and scale…it’s tiny…and also constrains as well. As the Bonsai lives in a small pot.
The Banyan tree on the other hand is the antithesis of the bonsai, it’s huge, it’s all encompassing, pervasive in its capacity to overwhelm everything within it’s preamble . This could be the world at large along with the many forces that are currently in play such as globalization and inter digital connectivity. It could even be seen as the name and face of officialdom and the broader context of Singapore past, present and future as well. So it’s a very malleable metaphor…but once again size matters here.
The Dao contrary to populist belief is not the way – that may well be the literal translation. But what it’s refers to is arcanum in the form of philosophy and wisdom that makes possible the means to perpetuate ‘the way.’
When all three metaphors are combined together – there are many levels of understandings of interpretations.
In the prophetic words of the third stage guild navigator, ‘I see plans within plans.’ It could even be a rebuke of the status quo ante. Bear in mind this fellow is a top drawer diplomat, so he is adept in the elegance of the art of war, where a repartee can be as powerful as a round hook. It could be he sees himself as the bonsai. After all General Yeo was a product of state nurturing and we all know he was certainly constrained by ritualized internal politics of the PAP.
So there are many layered meanings here and this is where I shall stop. As I don’t want to talk rubbish. I think it’s best that I read the book first.
I want to thank General Yeo for writing this book. As when he left politics abruptly and joined the private sector. The profundity of his scholarship and breadth of experiential knowledge as a world citizen certainly left an intellectual vacuum in the ranks of the PAP. That in my opinion left them without a functioning brain. This Byzantine lost I am sure was felt most acutely by the intelligentsia and many blogging compatriots in Singapore. Now all that we regularly have to bear is the pain that comes from the peculiarity ofleaders who indulge their free time writing lousy code on how to play Soduku and Pokeman. Majulah Singapura.
Yes…this book will fill my evenings very nicely…I am sure it will be both pleasurable and a rare privilege to peer into inner mind of General Yeo.’
Whenever evil people try to intimidate, cheat or make my life miserable. I will leverage on the wonder weapon of community power.
It is very simple. I’ve done it about three times and on each occasion it works like a charm.
I will fill up an empty bottle of Johnny Walker with Jia Jia Liang teh (as it’s the hot season). Mess up my hair and loiter around the village Kuan Yin temple and lament aloud like a sad man drowning his sorrows.
‘I have renounced evil…..but it seems being good is so very difficult.’
Whenever the temple patrons ask me, who is making it hard for you to be good? I will roll my eyes white and convulse as if possessed by an evil spirit – everyone will begin to shudder and run away exclaiming,
‘Evil has taken over the farmer…we will all be ruined.’
After staining my eyes with charcoal and looking like a Panda. I will amble to the Tamil quarters like a drunk Panda and sit all day long in the village chettynad drinking my Johnny Walker. From time to time, I will pick fights with the burly patrons, demand more free food and threaten to sing rude Indian songs if I am not given free Guiness stout and when I sense the curious onlookers has grown large enough. I will secretly put some Colgate in my mouth in the toilet, shout out at the top of my voice for all to hear,
‘I have renounced evil…..but it seems being good is too bloody hard.’
Before anyone can ask, ‘who has been making it difficult for you?’ I will convulse on the floor, go round and round like a break dancer while my mouth begins to foam.
When all the patrons see this, they will all say, ‘Aiyo yo!’ and runaway exclaiming,
‘The farmer is becoming evil again….we will all be ruined!’
During the cool of the night, when latex is runniest and the Malay rubber tapers make their way to the estates with their wife’s thru the darkened plantation roads. I will wear my skull mask and ride at breakneck speed like a mysterious Orang Minyak with my black Doberman in tow. All the while wailing in an unearthly tone.
‘Bo ho ho ho…I have renounced evil…but it seems being good is so hard.’
Whenever the Malay rubber tapers hear this. They will murmur quranic protection verses and this always sends shivers down their spines as they look at each other muttering,
‘The farmer is becoming evil again….we will all be ruined!’
On other occasions. I will use a faint blood red whiteboard marker and scribble 666 on my forehead and pay a visit to the only physician in the village who is a staunch Christian and ask him, ‘I have developed a strange rash. Can you tell me whether it is a mosquito bite?’ That’s the cue for the nurse, who is also a Christian fundamentalist to whip out the huge stainless steel crucifix and placed it on my forehead. I will pretend to be burnt, roll my eyes white and shout out in a deep and strange voice,
‘I have renounced evil, but it seems being good is so hard!’
For days thereafter the villagers will feel so disturbed and anxious. Many will not be able to control themselves. Eventually the pressure will mount only for all of them to march to the house of the person who bullied me to burn it down.
The moral of the story: never fuck around with me in the kampung.
May 20, 2015
Every year without fail, usually just before the onset of the dry season. There will be sightings of the dreaded man eating tiger. Whenever this menace makes it’s appearance. The entire village is paralyzed by fear. Since fainting is still very fashionable with the kampung ladies, it’s not uncommon for two metric tons internal beauties to suddenly crash like timber without warning whenever the subject of the man eating tiger is mentioned.
Every year without fail. During this period of strife, I suffer from chronic backache as I often have to catch falling timber. Either that or I have to be mindful to remain nimble so as not to be flattened like roti prata.
Every year without fail. The Tamil rubber tapers will be so anxious and fearful nothing ever gets done in the estate. The chickens will stop laying eggs and the cows will refuse to come out from their pens to graze. Even the womenfolk will shut the shutters and all the kids will be kept indoors.
Every year without fail. Life in the kampung is turned upside down. Work comes to a complete halt and all the villagers are popping Panadol like candy.
Every year without fail. The villagers will make the long journey to seek out the great hunter. Thereafter, the hunter will go through a long ritual that usually takes a whole day and a bit to step forward and say his piece. During the investigation when all the villagers are sitting quietly beneath the shade of tree – some will recount the tiger is as big as a horse. Others will insist, the man eating tiger is tracking then. Then there will always be some who will insist there is more than one man eating tiger. The accounts vary every year, but on every single occasion everyone is vehement they have seen the man eating tiger.
Every year without fail. After the lengthy interrogation of the villagers comes to a close. The great hunter will venture into the jungle with a couple of stout men with handle bar mustaches armed with shot guns.
Every year without fail just before night closes in. Two shots will rent out in the hour of hesitation. The period when the cows return to their pens and the first tongue of light in the village temple is lighted to signify good triumphing over the forces of darkness.
Every year without fail. After all the villagers are convinced the man eating tiger has been slained by the great hunter. The village Brahmin will ring the temple village bells, offer alms to the deities, bless a sacrificial goat and very relieved villagers will whip up a hot curry dish with lashing of tiger meat and kampung moonshine called ‘tuak’ to celebrate thru the night.
Every year without fail. Though no one has ever seen the carcass of the dead tiger – it’s not unusual to come across kids holding up a piece of curry meat and boasting. This is the man eating tiger’s heart. That is it’s liver and so on and so forth.
Every year without fail kampung tradition demands that I go thru this convoluted ritual and every single year without fail it begins and ends exactly like the last year. And finally every year without fail, despite all the claims of man eating tigers prowling around restlessly – there is never any sign of such a mythical beast.
‘When I first watched Ang Lee’s movie – the life of Pi. I never had any reason to doubt the Indian boy spent 227 days marooned at sea with a tiger called Richard Parker. That’s really how it is when a story is narrated in the medium of film. It’s linear. So there is no reason to question beyond what’s actually represented.
It was only in the last segment of the movie when the two Japanese insurers who interviewed Pi expressed disbelief that there was actually a tiger onboard – that was when It occurred to me. Coupled to the fact, there were after all no witnesses beside Pi who could collaborate his version of what transpired…that was when it occurred to me, maybe I was watching a depiction of what was played out in Pi’s mind during his 227 days ordeal….could it be the tiger was actually a figment of the boy’s imagination.
There was no Richard Parker on board was there?
In truth it’s impossible to answer definitively whether Pi actually spent 227 days with a tiger. The real question is – which story do you prefer? Interpretation is subjective but the question is intended to serve as a moment of reflection on what we consider real or make belief. Are you a person that prefers to believe in things that you can only touch and feel? Or are you a person who prefers to believe in the unbelievable.
There are no right or wrong answers – just an opportunity to find out more about yourself. The key word here is ‘yourself’ as in this very special narrative, you the spectator have the prerogative to wordsmith the narrative….that to me is one of the most interesting dimension of this movie.
But I digress. Do allow me to continue. The mystery of the man eating tiger in Pi account is further heightened when the main protagonist openly admits, he much prefers the story with the tiger, and when one juxtaposes this flippant statement with the Japanese investigators, who in their closing report remarked on the feat of “surviving 227 days at sea……especially with a tiger,” with a obvious tone of sarcasm – then what happens is suddenly, we the audience are compelled to choose which version of the story, we prefer to believe in. If we sit on the fence. Then, we would have to settle for a Bo Kum Buan open ended conclusion. Here once again not are we recruited into the narrative as the final scriptwriter as I mentioned earlier. But there is an additional gloss that suggest, we may even have the creative license to see the man eating tiger as an indelible aspect of who we are.
It’s a perceptive leap of faith. A long shot you might even say. I don’t think it’s that curious a matter for the perceptive reader of this entry to consider the philosophical question: do we all have the ability to summon a primal force within us? Are we really civilized when pushed to one corner where our mortality is imperiled?
To be quite honest. I don’t believe most viewers or readers ever experienced such depths of cognitive dissonance while watching this movie. To some extent this attitude stems from our prejudice that the movie context can at best only supply a very kitsch version of spirituality when compared to the sobriety of books. Besides the perceptive shift was executed in such a subtle manner that there were virtually no cues to prompt us to question whether the man eating really existed at all.
And that I suspect may well be the reason that accounts for the persistence of the metaphor of the invisible man eating tiger along with how it is able to root itself so strongly into the folds of human psyche.
As when we reflect on the many challenges in our own lives – some of them have the malevolent power to maul and in certain cases even chew us up like man eating tigers……hence thru our many layered unexplained fears, trepidation and anxieties concerning our jobs, health, ability to craft a better tomorrow for ourselves or even whether it would all end happily….with the sheer power of fear, we conjure…the terror of the man eating tiger.
In the final scene when Pi reaches the shore of safety after his 227 days of ordeal. There is the intense speculation – why did the tiger no look back at Pi before it disappeared into the jungle?
For me, the not-looking-back scene confirms Richard Parker did not exist at all. It made me think of how to thrive and survive at times. We all subconsciously summon the primal instinct of the cool indifference of the man eating tiger. As this is a form of super power that allows us to do the things we need to do when we are usually pushed against a corner. So when the tiger walked into the jungle without ever once looking back, it simply a metaphor for moving on for Pi himself.
Perhaps one day, when and if we ever have the opportunity to me face to face…..you will tell me the story of your own invisible man eating tiger.
You really must! I insist. After all, I am the great hunter who regularly shoots invisible man eating tigers.’