Once in a Lifetime

It was 3am, and the outside temperature was hovering just above -10°C. For the 100000000000th time since we woke up to catch our 15-hour bus ride out of Ushuaia, I found myself asking Jo… “WHY THE HELL ARE WE DOING THIS AGAIN???”

We were heading for El Calafate, and we had a choice between taking the Infernal-Bus-Journey-with-the-Ridiculous-Border-Crossing AGAIN or we could take a two-hour flight (at a more humane time) that would not even require us to go through international customs.

The obvious answer to my rhetorical question is… “Because we are cheapskates”.

It’s easy to convince ourselves we are doing the right thing when we see how much we’ve stretched our travelling cash by taking the “stupider” option, but there is always a part of me that is nagging… “You are on a Once-in-a-Lifetime trip around the world, why are you pinching pennies??”

“Once in a Lifetime”…. it is a phrase I’ve come to hate since the hordes of flyer-waving bridal studios sales staff swarmed us with over-inflated wedding packages when we were planning our wedding all those years ago. #anotherstoryforanotherday

On some level, I do understand that this is probably the only time in my life that I will be travelling like this, (probably) the only time I was going to get married. I would also only be celebrating my 18, 21, 30, 40, (insert-other-culturally-significant-age-here) birthday once. 

However, I also believe that every moment is an opportunity for us to do something that we will only do Once In Our Lifetime.

For example, I only got to write this because I am going to be stuck in a hellishly long bus ride to El Calafate for the only time in my life, just as you choose to read this (and I hope you are) for the only time in your life. (It’s ok if this is not the first time you are reading this… I don’t judge…)

I guess my point is.. outside of the “significant” birthdays, you are only going to be XX years, XX months, XX days, XX hours and XX minutes old once in this lifetime. I think it is easy to lose sight of how precious every moment is if you only focus on those supposed once-in-a-lifetime “milestones”.

At the end of the day, it is a personal choice to make any moment your personal milestone.

For us, we chose to travel. We think it is the lazy man’s way of making almost every waking moment a milestone (without trying exceptionally hard).

But I guess a milestone could be as simple as deciding to spend more time with the people that matter, or as difficult as saying “sorry” because it is stupid to spend time being resentful and angry. It could mean telling someone how much they mean to you. It could also mean standing up for yourself and finally saying “no” to unnecessary drama in your life. Or saying “fuck it” to the opinions of random strangers and just boogie to that catchy tune coming through your earphones right now.

You can choose to be happy, or you can choose to sulk and make every moment as mundane as possible. Truth is, no matter what moment it is, you are almost certainly never, ever going to get it back. Every moment occurs only once in your lifetime.

That is why… after this rant, I think I am going to get immersed in a world with two moons, secret Japanese cults and beautiful assassins in Murakami’s incomprehensible 1000 page monster “1Q84”.

Why? Because I can.

Also… because I think both Jo and I are secretly at least a little masochistic. (Jo had decided to take on the challenge to sleep through the whole bus ride)

Why else would we choose to spend 15 hours in a bus?

Keep the Faith

mary jane hit jackpot

Yup… This is exactly how I’ve been feeling every morning for the past three years since we got married… (Fine… I mean the mornings when I can actually get Jo to get out of bed on time)

A bit of history: We had been dating for eight years before we eventually got married. During those eight years, we’d been on some pretty wild adventures and did a fair bit of travelling together.

You’d think that there would no longer be any surprises after the wedding… that nothing would change, except that we would have an additional marriage certificate with our names on it.

Boy, was I wrong.

Almost immediately after we took out a mortgage on our new place, I started floating the idea of leaving our jobs and going for an extended trip around the world. (Impeccable timing, I know…)

But kudos to Jo for listening to me calmly, taking it in her stride and said… “THAT SOUNDS AWESOME! LET’S DO IT!!!” (sidenote: Jo is not exactly the best person in the world to talk you out of an impulse buy)

And that’s basically our story for the last three years.

At a time when we are supposed to “settle down” and build a life together as “responsible adults”, Jo encouraged the whims to run away together and live a life that we dream about. She suggested ways that we could (further) thumb our nose at the established norms of what married life should be like and set out to blaze path that is strictly our own.

But more than being just a cheerleader and co-conspirator of our many harebrained schemes, Jo has this seemingly unshakable faith that things have been thought out and that things will work out for us (even if it involves 30-hour bus rides, forays to remote villages, getting into dark vans with burly strangers or sleeping at the oddest of places).

Even at times when I am not sure what the hell we are doing, she would be there with the belief that all will be well. I get the warm and fuzzy feeling that she believes that I will make the “right” decisions for us (except for the one to wake her up in the morning), and this drives me to dream up bigger and wilder adventures.

So, as we start on our fourth year together as a married couple, I would just like to thank Mrs Toh for being the rock in the marriage. This faith (and that slightly insane streak) is what allowed us to embark on this truly crazy journey.

Happy Anniversary, Mrs Toh.

To fly a Flag

Love should be easy… except when it is not.

This National Day, I really want to hang the Singapore flag from my flat. Want to. I stay in a HDB unit that is facing the main road and I used to work in the government sector, but NO ONE ever suggested (strongly or otherwise) that it is something I should do.

It’s something I want to do simply because I think and believe we are in a good place.

I really do.

I know a large and vocal group of you (39.9% based on the 2011 General Elections results) will read the last few paragraphs and immediately dismiss me as a “pappy”, “sinkie” or brainwashed drone of the government, but like I said, give me a chance and hear me out.

We’ve been around a bit and I think I’ve mentioned before that we don’t think there is anywhere else in the world we would rather live in.

I stand by that statement.

There is something to be said about being able to walk down the street at 2am in the morning for my favourite bak chor mee and not have to worry about getting mugged. I am comforted that I need not worry that someone might run off with my handphone if I leave it at the kopitiam table for a short while or that my pocket will be picked on a busy bus/train (I’ve got a bit of a track record).

The peace of mind from not being in a constant state of alert is something that we did not know we’d missed. We did not even know that we lack this “fear” until we encountered it first hand in some of the places that we’ve visited. In some cities, the prospect that we might have a parang around our necks or a gun pointed at our faces if we were not careful is all too real. Now imagine living in that climate 24/7 your whole life.

I like the fact that when I want to make new friends in Singapore, I am not defined by my race/religion/job-or-lack-of-one.

We cannot afford a car but we are still thankful that we have a roof over our head and getting three square meals a day is normally not a problem.

I know these are bread and butter issues, but I think that they are things that are so common for us that we’ve started to take them for granted. I don’t think many of us can even imagine what life would be like without them.

Are we perfect? Hell, no. Can we do better? Definitely!

For one, I really wish that the communication channels could be better between the Ruling Elite and the Common Peons like me. And I believe it is something we need to work on from both ends of the table.

And to do that, I think we need to raise the level of public discourse.

I think the government needs to be aware that it is not all frivolous chatter out here. I think they need to know that there are credible people on the internet who are voicing very real concerns and they need to take them seriously. I think we’ve reached a point where a credible online forum could potentially provide much better feedback than any meet-the-people session can.

The Government needs to realize that Internet chatter is here to stay and sometimes, prosecuting anyone who shares a dissenting view just lends these voices credibility which they might not have in the first place. Sometimes, truth is the absolute defence. Instead of charging people with lawsuits, maybe there needs to be more transparency in the system so that we the people could make more informed decisions and judgement.

To do that, we need real “experts” that can objectively make sense of the raw data and provide their personal (even biased) opinions. Setting up OB markers and general directions on what is reported in the national media is not a means of “controlling the media” anymore. That proverbial ship sailed a long time ago. Any attempts to assert any authority on what is reported now just makes the mainstream media more of a joke than it really is. Furthermore, any credible journalist with a modicum of professional pride would never want to work in this kind of environment either. As a reader, it is hard to take the opinions of any “journalist” who choose to stay in this kind of environment seriously.

So yes, I believe the mainstream media needs to wake the fuck up, but so do the alternative news media websites.

There is just too much static online. The (more) rational voices (such as the Yawning Bread) are drowned out by idiots posing as news sources (such as the “Real Singapore” and “The Heart Truths”).

You know that there is a saying “If it is on the internet, it must be true”?

It is NOT true.

Just because some assholes used the words “the evidence shows”, “the people think” or “statistics have clearly shown”, what they blogged/wrote does not miraculously become quantifiable and true. To be a credible alternative source of information, there actually needs to be some HARD work done – some fact checking,research and double checking. “A friend of a friend of a friend” and “Another-Person’s-Blog” are NOT credible news sources.

Statistics and evidence clearly shows this. A friend of a friend told me so.

From this, I think that as a people, we need to be more media savvy. We need to STOP believing EVERYTHING some random idiot with an internet connection puts online.

Because of our “Like”-ing and “Share”-ing these shocking “Truths”, we are starting to come off as a nation of entitled, complaining assholes whose first response to everything is to blame the government. Yes, our ministers are the highest paid in the world, but they are not God, they cannot solve EVERY problem for you (cool trivia: the ministers in Singapore are earning infinite times more than what God is earning) (I said God, not pastors), and neither can ANYONE you put into office – no matter how much/little you pay them. Call me idealistic, but I sincerely want to believe that no one in office now is intentionally malicious. I think they all believe that they are doing the right thing and the best they can for the country.

I hate that we are becoming increasingly polarized as a nation. We’ve reached a point where we are all too quick to label someone as a “idiotic pro-opposition zombie” or a “brainless government lapdog”. The fastest way for me to lose faith in humanity is to glance through the comments section of Yahoo! News. I don’t think it is healthy for us to define ourselves as one or the other. I don’t agree with every one of the PAP government’s decision, but I don’t think the Opposition’s every fart smells of roses either.

In spite of all that, I am still going to fly the Singapore flag this National Day.

At the end of the day, I think what I want to say is that I am glad I am living in Singapore. We’ve got a lot of issues we need to settle, but I think we’ve built a great foundation to do that from. I am proud to be here and I am thankful for all that has been done so far.

And that’s the reason why, for this National Day I will be flying the flag proudly… even though it cost me $2.70 from NTUC.

How come the Government never give away free flags ah?

I want my heroes back!!

Ladies and Gentlemen, I need to interrupt our regular programming to send an urgent message to the assholes who are in charge of big budget Hollywood superhero movies: Stop Emo-fying all my Heroes!

This is, of course, my totally biased rant about that new Superman movie, Man of Steel.

We all know that Christopher Nolan did an amazing job with his Dark Knight trilogy. The story telling and directing were amazing, but at the centre of it all, we have Batman.

Batman

Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na

Batman, of course is a total bad ass when it comes to kicking ass and taking names. But the thing that brings his coolness quotient through the roof is his predisposition to skulk in the dark, brooding about the different ways he could make the bad guys eat their teeth for supper.

If you think about it, Bruce Wayne actually has a legitimate reason to mope in the dark. It is probably not a very good idea for him to charge at armies of gun-toting goons in brightly colored costumes and spouting wise crack, seeing that he is a puny, squishy human bean… He is one stray bullet away from a very permanent retirement from his role as the King of Emo Hill.

Also, I suppose seeing his parents killed in front of him…. and then spending years wandering through the wilderness… and then having extended stays in rundown prisons in the shit end of the world… and then living with batshit crazy ninja assassins… just so he could train to become Batman. These things normally do something to a person’s outlook in life.

Now, enter these two douche bags:

the emo heroes

They woke up one morning, realizing that they’ve suddenly developed super strength/speed/agility/senses/pouty lips/abs and the screenwriters of The Amazing Spiderman and Man of Steel make them bitch about it for the rest of the movie like whiny teenage girls who’d gotten a bad outbreak of acne.

Young Clark2

It does not make any sense!

But then again, perhaps it does…

For the past half decade or so now, Hollywood had been down with a serious case of “AppealToTeenageGirlsandCrazyMumsAtAllCost-ilitis”, or in layman’s terms “The Friggin Twilight Syndrome”.

Even a pop culture idiot like me knows that muscle bound, strong leading men like Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, Harrison Ford and Sean Connery are passé. Even metrosexual types like Brad Pitt, Keanu and Johnny Depp are not that “in” now too. The type of guys that have the most appeal now are the hipster emotional type who spend too much time staring gloomily into the distance with a hoodie over their face.

1000 years from now, an archaeological expedition will unearth a collection of films (pirated hard disks?) from our era, pop those babies into uber-cool holographic drives and wonder why their male ancestors were such pussies.

Anyway, my point is… the emo thing fits Batman like a glove because he is THE Batman. Along the same line, Peter Parker is the inspiration for nerds and geeks everywhere and Superman stands for truth, justice and the American (as understood by a British actor) way.

Superman is the Ned Stark of the comic book world. He has a code of ethics so strong it borders on the stupid, but that’s what makes him so appealing. He is the anti-thesis of Batman. He is the embodiment of hope and his innate faith in the goodness of humanity is what makes him Superman.

To crush all that beneath the platform shoes of teenage girls and try to make him more like a certain mopey vampire is wrong on so many different levels.

So please…. give me my heroes back!!

Corny (and slightly loserly, I know) as it sounds, when I was young I had heroes that taught me “with great powers come great responsibility”, that it is not possible to be fearless but it is important to have the power to overcome great fear, that “any dream worth having is a dream worth fighting for” and that there is a universal answer to all questions that you cannot answer (“I’m Batman”). (seriously, try the last one. It is FUN).

I am VERY sure that not all teenage boys need a hero who tells them that “Bella, before you, my life is a moonless night”. (Yes, I Googled the shit out of that and I hated myself immediately after…)

Give me my heroes back!!!

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Also… SPOILER ALERT… I’ve obtained a secret copy of the entire screenplay of Man of Steel which I shall share below:

<Opening Credits>

CRASH BAM BOOM PEW PEW PEW

Amy Adams making googly eyes

CRASH BAM BOOM PEW PEW PEW

Henry Cavill takes off shirt. (Pew Pew Pew)

CRASH BAM BOOM PEW PEW PEW CHI BA BOOM CRASH BAM BOOM PEW PEW PEW CHI BA BOOM CRASH BAM BOOM PEW PEW PEW CHI BA BOOM CRASH BAM BOOM PEW PEW PEW CHI BA BOOM CRASH BAM BOOM PEW PEW PEW CHI BA BOOM CRASH BAM BOOM PEW PEW PEW CHI BA BOOM CRASH BAM BOOM PEW PEW PEW CHI BA BOOM CRASH BAM BOOM PEW PEW PEW CHI BA BOOM CRASH BAM BOOM PEW PEW PEW CHI BA BOOM CRASH BAM BOOM PEW PEW PEW CHI BA BOOM CRASH BAM BOOM PEW PEW PEW CHI BA BOOM CRASH BAM BOOM PEW PEW PEW CHI BA BOOM CRASH BAM BOOM PEW PEW PEW CHI BA BOOM CRASH BAM BOOM PEW PEW PEW CHI BA BOOM

<Roll Credits>

<THE END>

You Got To Take The Shot!

I was gonna start this post with “Recently, I was playing FIFA on my PS3”, but Jo, in her infinite wisdom says that AT LEAST half of you would read that line and close the browser window immediately. Also, “Recently, I was playing FIFA on my PS3” would probably not be the best line to start my first post of 2013 with (now the first line of 2013 that I am writing in this blog has “Jo, in her infinite wisdom” in it. Go figure…).

Anyway, trust me, there is a point to this story.

So…

Recently, I was playing FIFA on my PS3.

I was using the best team in the game (Barcelona) with (arguably) the best player in this part of reality (Messi). I was playing against the AI-controlled Norwich City (yeah, I cheat, so what?) and I was dominating the game so much I was able to try to play the “beautiful game”. I passed the ball around.. OK, actually, I passed the ball to Messi every time I could and tried to razzle and dazzle my way near the goal area to take my shot. You should have seen it. It was beautiful!

Yet somehow, throughout the game, I never managed to get my shots off. I would get tackled just as I was preparing to shoot, or, more often than not, I would dribble past the touch line for a goal kick to Norwich. I was waiting for a perfect chance.. for all the factors to line up perfectly before making an attempt at goal.

Norwich, on the other hand, took pot shots whenever they could and by the end of the game, they had 15 shots at goal and 2 goals. My Barcelona, on the other hand had a 75% possession rate and ermm.. 1 goal from 1 shot at goal (I have to emphasize that it was a shot where everything fitted together – where, I swear, I could hear choirs sing and see angels dance, a moment in time when the Universe seemed magically aligned)

And the point of this whole story?

I had an epiphany watching computer-generated Messi’s dejected face on screen.

You GOT TO take the shot!

No matter the circumstances, you GOT TO take the shot.

It is true that sometimes Reality will shift to make everything fall perfectly in place for you to make your move. Most of the time, for most of us, we just gotta take the swing and hope for the best, because at the end of the day, you need to be a bit of a fool (or have Messi on your team) to wait for that perfect moment.

And sometimes that Perfect Moment never comes.

And at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if it’s Barcelona or Norwich, we all have the same 90 minutes to make our mark. And sometimes, when/if you wait too long, the game would have ended and you would have lost your chance to score forever.

See! A point! And They say video games corrupt the brain…

In that sense, 2012 was an awesome year.

I had the chance to take swing after swing after swing.

See… the key words in that sentence was “had the chance”. I did not succeed in scoring knock outs with every attempt (actually a lot of the punches were what they call in basketball – “nothing but air”), but I’ve never felt more alive. I tried, I failed, I try again. There is something liberating knowing that the world did not end just because I hit a dud.

Life goes on, the world continues spinning, fleas continue to attack dogs.

And that’s it. You brush off the dust, get up and try again. And with every try, you learn a little bit more about yourself. About what you are good at, what you are not. And perhaps, more importantly, about what you like and what you do not.

What I am saying is, Screw Yoda, the worst thing you can possibly do is not to try at all.

So, here’s hoping I get another year of trying and trying and (hopefully) succeeding in some of the tries.