Sunday, July 30, 2006

The Leaf Mystery - Solved!

So I was smoking on my back porch, trying to finish my cigarette before the rain came in, when I noticed this.

As the winds stepped up in intensity, a tall tree about 50 metres away was releasing its dead leaves into the air. Each time a strong, prolonged gust hit it, leaves were shaken off, and it all looked like a huge dandelion after someone blew on it. They danced their way over towards me on the air currents before falling into my porch like confetti.

It was the most beautiful thing I'd seen in a while.

It also explains the mystery of where all those leaves in my porch and backyard come from.

As I write this, the rain is hammering down.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

A Letter to My CEO

I realize that you'll probably never get to read this letter, unless by some freak accident you happen to come across it online. Even so, you might not recognize this as your company. But then again, who knows? It might very well apply to all companies, so this exercise may not be entirely in vain.

You must know that recently the company concluded its appraisal process and handed out promotions and increments. From what I've heard, you also know that lots of people are unhappy with what they've been given. But unfortunately, you may not understand why. Here's my understanding of it.

The company is full of middle management. Seriously, how many fucking VPs and department heads do you really need? Throw a rock and you'll probably hit someone who does nothing besides sit in meetings and nod. And what about your stable of "talent"? Honestly, how many of these are real talent? Middle management and "talent" are sucking up all of the money and leaving nothing for everyone else. It's really sad when you value your creative personnel so much less than a pretty face. It's that simple. With one of their salaries you could hire ten or more of me. Why not do as other talent management companies do and simply take a cut of their earnings instead? It's much more cost-effective. And don't even get me started on middle management - at least the "talent" look good.

Has anyone taken a good, hard look at the appraisal process itself? It's inherently unfair when the only appraisal you get comes from your supervisor. True, in an ideal world it would work, but in most situations supervisors have no clue what goes on at ground level. They aren't the ones getting down and dirty, they can only rely on gossip and misinformation to somehow convey messages to them. What they see is a distorted picture; it's all too easy to perform for their benefit and appear like you're a super worker. This is commonly known as "wayang". But what about people like me, who find the very concept of "wayang" disgusting? It goes against my very principles. I believe that good work speaks for itself, but what happens when my supervisor is blind?

The solution? Have peer appraisals. No one knows how you work better than the people you're working with intimately, i.e., your peers. If you're a fucker, they know. If you talk big but don't deliver, they know. If you do good work, guess what, they know. And while we're at it, how about a system where we get to evaluate our bosses as well? That'd keep the fuckers on their toes, wouldn't it? At the very least they'd have to show some form of competency.

While we're on the subject, I'll have you know that the appraisal process for my department was a travesty. No one sat down with anybody to discuss things. The appraisal form was filled up and submitted in complete secrecy. We only received a slip of paper with some ticks in boxes, saying what grade we were allocated. No reason, nothing. And we then had to sign that slip of paper, no questions asked. Sure, they pretended to answer our questions, but they did nothing to help, they gave no answers. I didn't sign my slip. But yet HR could go ahead and give me whatever they wanted based on that slip. This entire process is so slipshod it would be laughed out in a fucking secondary school. Honestly, I've seen ECA elections more competently run.

And what about the promotions? Well, let me enlighten you about a situation that we have over here. Our department head is an incompetent woman whose only capabilities are blatant ass-kissing, bad lying and outright manipulation. She has a group of people that she calls "her people", and these "chosen ones" are the ones that get promotions and increments without fail. You want stats? Out of 5 promotions in the department this time round, 4 were "her people". That's 80%. Let's forget for one moment the idea of competency. Even if "her people" really were so much better than the others, it still looks very bad in the eyes of everyone else. It doesn't help that many of "her people" are, let's face it, incompetent. She has a senior producer who's well-known for running around in skimpy clothing, yelling at people, and delegating all her work. This person has never produced a single thing in her entire life. And she's a senior producer.

Furthermore, this department head not only plays favorites, she's also petty as hell. She can dislike you for the silliest reasons - and trust me, she's an actress, albeit a bad one, and we all know how bad actors who think they're da bomb can get. When you get on her hate list, she'll consistently take pleasure in bad-mouthing you in front of other people, and putting you down in person.

We thought this might come to an end when someone was brought in to oversee her and our sister department. But guess what? We were wrong. The two women appear to have become bosom buddies, agreeing with what each other says all the time. Perhaps this is meant to present a unified front to the staff. But you know what, it makes her look bad, when she sides with a hated figure all the time. It's also hard to overlook the fact that she's an admin person who's brought in to head a creative department. It's just not right. I am a person. I am not a tool that you have to "utilize fully". Such dehumanizing terms sicken me, and as a result, HR, and the company sicken me.

But I digress. Here's a little story that I heard off the grapevine. I can't vouch for its authenticity, but if it were true, it'd be rather shocking. There's this old warhorse who's been with the company for over thirty years. He'd gotten really sick and tired of the whole "her people" thing, and so when the new supervisor came in, he took the opportunity to speak in private to her and say what he thought of the whole thing, that it was unhealthy for the others, and for the department in general.

Guess what her reaction was? She told him, "Wait here," then went next door and got the department head in question into the room. Then she told the old man, "Now please repeat what you just said."

Is that any way to handle a situation like that? Of course not. But then again I don't know how accurate this story is, so don't quote me on it.

Now where was I? Oh yes, the appraisal process. It makes me laugh (bitterly, of course) how they proclaimed it was transparent when it was the most opaque process I'd ever seen. They explained away any complaints by attributing it to "the bell curve", which also dehumanizes by reducing people to mere numbers and statistics.

My specific appraisal was so bewildering and ridiculously bad, I arranged to have a meeting with them to talk about it. Yes, I'll admit that my pretext of wanting to find out how I could improve was false, but the appraisal was such bullshit that I just wanted them to explain it. Instead, it very quickly turned into a full-fledged attack as every single thing I said was twisted around and used against me. Apparently I'm arrogant, a know-it-all, too individualistic, have low integrity, and create nothing but trouble for them. I'm accused of being picky because I want to do creative work. Is it wrong to want to contribute positively? When I said that feedback was not given to me, I was told that I had to ask for it, or none would be given. Projects and achievements of merit were conveniently forgotten, and most importantly, nothing was mentioned about the quality of my work, just quantity. But let's put it this way: How can there be quantity when they don't assign it to me in the first place? The bottom line is, they can say anything they want, because the entire process is so subjective.

Honestly, I don't give a flying fuck what they think. Like I said, good work speaks for itself, and there are plenty of people who want me to work on their stuff. But unfortunately appraisals affect promotion and pay, and that's where I have my biggest beef.

You see, after two years, I'm still at entry level pay and title. That in itself is a big issue. But I've been doing work far beyond my level for close to a year. Sure, a trial period of a couple of months is fine, but to refuse to raise my pay or position at this point in time, and continue to exploit me for another year - now that's just plain wrong. I'm not grateful for a pay increment of S$30, I'm downright insulted. It's disgraceful and disgusting, like leaving chump change for a tip.

I don't like to say this often, but I'm a fucking scholar. How you treat your scholars is a reflection of how the company values people and invests in them. To send them abroad and pay for their education, yet to ill-treat and exploit them consistently when they return is an abuse of the entire scholarship system. We should be in key positions, assisting decision-makers in their jobs, not doing shitwork for crappy pay. It seems to be that we're a mistake of some sort, like a deformed child, to be hidden away in the closet until it dies. Am I unhappy? You bet. Do I regret signing on the dotted line? You bet. What can I say? I was young and stupid, and I fell for your recruitment lies. If you don't know what to do with us, just admit it. At least we'll know that much, and can kill all our expectations right now.

The bottom line is, there's no point in my working seven days a week, wringing my brains out for this kind of pay. When banks call me up and their agents approach me on the street, I resent the pity they give me in their looks and voice when they realize how little I actually earn. And I don't even know what lies ahead for me because HR insists that knowledge of the different levels of pay and titles is classified information. How then do I have a career plan for myself?

Is this the kind of environment you want your company to have? Where bootlicking is rewarded, and hard work, good work is not? Why do you say you need new blood when your only intention is to suck us dry and dispose of us? Are people staying on because they're good at what they do, or because they've run out of options? I love what I do, but must I be punished for it? You may mention that a good deal of satisfaction comes from taking pride in a job well done, but I must say this: Pride does not put food on the table. Pride does not pay my rent and bills. Pride is useless to me if I'm poor.

Maybe management doesn't really feel this way. Maybe management really cares for everyone and wants us to be happy and productive. But you know what, it doesn't help that the people you hire to be middle management are incapable of managing people well. To us, these are the people who are your representatives, and when they are incompetent, by extension, you appear incompetent.

Making us happy requires a substantial shift in company policy. Perhaps you are the one to set things into motion. We can always hope.

Say What? 2

Spotted in Saturday's Straits Times:

"I think every decade has an iconic blonde - like Marilyn Monroe or Princess Diana - and right now, I'm that icon."

So says Paris Hilton.

I shan't even bother to comment. The quote speaks for itself.

Say What?

Spotted on an electronic sign at an MRT station:

Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy. Seen anything suspicious? Contact our station staff or call 999.

Yes, and sometimes two sentences can sound so wrong when put together.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Ebay Thief

Someone listed golf clubs on Ebay using my account, obviously without my authorization. The scary thing was, they were able to keep on adding listings even after I changed my password. I tried to remove them as soon as I saw them added, but eventually some poor sucker bit before I could respond in time. I pity the fool. There goes his US$180.

What I wanna ask is: What the fuck is up with Ebay's lax security? According to Gmail, my password is rated "strong".

The Picturehouse Post

So The Picturehouse has been up and running for quite a few months now, and more than a few movies have taken their turn on its screens. I've tried my best to see everything it shows (apart from festivals - I can't possibly see every single movie in a festival), so let's see how the hits and misses rack up.

Note: A good portion of the following has been cut from earlier posts and moved here instead. Apologies if you've read them before.

最好的時光 (Three Times)
Much like Eros, in that starts off splendidly, then goes downhill from there. Why do directors of triple-bills insist on putting the worst shit right at the end? The first segment was sweet and full of beautiful, wistful longing. I also loved the camerawork here, which took its time reframing the actors as they moved around a pool table, catching the stolen glances and flirty looks. Rarely has a mere holding of hands seemed more beautiful in its completeness. The second was OK if a bit slow. But the third was simply atrocious, full of simpering characters I hated who were completely self-absorbed and annoying. Having the lovely Shu Qi singing in incomprehensible English with psuedo-intellectual-but-ultimately-crap lyrics also upped the hate factor for me.

Verdict: Almost-hit

Invisible Waves
A hitman, like, kills a woman, right? She's his boss' lover. Only, like, she turns out to be the hitman's lover too. And then he, like, runs off onto a boat, and he's there for, like, a really long time. Then stuff happens, and he ends up in his boss' apartment because he realizes he's been double-crossed. And there are, like, speeches about true love and shit. And, like, he's seriously moved, 'cos, like, hitmen are people too. Both by the speeches and by his boss' cooking. And, like, I think he dies in the end. But seriously, apart from the fact that Chris Doyle shot it, I can't think of any reason to see this painfully slow, vaguely comprehensible movie with terrible dialogue and flat acting.

Verdict: Misses by a mile

Lelaki Komunis Terakhir
(The Last Communist)

Doesn't quite know what the hell it wants to be. Unfocused and kinda all over the place. But there were several memorable characters interviewed, and some decently entertaining music video interludes. But what are they doing in a documentary about a communist? I know, defenders will say, "But that's not the point!" Well then, what is?

Verdict: Miss

(Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles)

Zhang Yimou proves that he should stay away from kungfu epics and just stick to small human stories, because, well, he excels at the latter and kinda stinks at the former. Very human and very moving. The lead actor reminds me of Bill Murray, in that he can simply sit there and not do anything while the lines on his face do all the acting for him.

Verdict: A definite hit

L'Enfant (The Child)
Honestly, I didn't get what all the fuss was about. Some gripping sequences, but I really can't remember all that much about it now. Spot on depiction of characters though, and I appreciate that the camerawork is much less nausea-inducing than in their previous film.

Verdict: Hit, more or less

Viva Cuba
(part of the Cuban Film Festival)
Probably could've benefited from tighter editing, but the central relationship between the boy and the girl makes for a touching coming-of-age tale. There's some wonderful acting from the cutest kids you ever saw here, outshining all the adults in the film, and some scenes are done to perfection. Case in point: When the kids decide to run away from home, the entire scene is shot in a crane-around the pair as they sit on a rooftop at magic hour, in one long take. Gorgeous. The bad thing is that the humor feels forced at times, and the cartoony special effects used to indicate "kids' POV" were entirely unnecessary and cheapened everything else. Oh, and trying too hard to force the kids to represent a country's issues.

Sidenote: Doesn't the boy look exactly like a young Gael Garcia Bernal?

Verdict: Hit

La Vida es silbar (Life Is to Whistle)
(part of the Cuban Film Festival)
Ooh! Magic realism! Ooh! Overt Symbolism! Ooh! What a drawn-out mess! Ooh! I don't care! Ooh!

Verdict: Miss

No self-pity, no wallowing in despair. If anything, these quadriplegic athletes have more attitude and aggression than most. A helluva sports movie, and I only wish it could've gone a little more into their psyche and explored a couple more characters in detail. Whatever emotional beats that are present are solid, just that there could be a little more of that.

Verdict: Hit

U-Carmen eKhayelitsha
Very brave; some would say foolhardy. Adapting Georges Bizet's opera Carmen into an African setting with lyrics in Xhosa is no mean feat, and I admire the filmmakers' balls. Whether or not it works, though, is another matter altogether. Musical numbers often drag on for far too long with no development in plot. Take, for instance, Carmen's first number. Basically that song sets up her character, that she's a gurrl with attitude, and whoever she's got her eye on had better watch out. That does not take over 6 minutes to do, especially since the lyrics start repeating themselves fairly quickly. While the plot stands still for the musical numbers, it rushes by during the dramatic segments, to the extent that there are huge gaps in narrative logic that are never explained. An exotic setting and actors giving their all really can't save a production that neglects a decent script to begin with.

Verdict: Sadly, a miss

So there we have it. Out of 9 films, we have 4 Hits, 1 Almost-Hit and 4 Misses. Really, not too bad for an arthouse cinema at all.

The seats still suck serious ass though. Designer chairs = Pretty but completely nonfunctional and uncomfortable.


Monday, July 17, 2006

The Lost Bat

An honest-to-goodness bat was flying around in the area between our kitchen and bathroom just now, banging into windows and mirrors until we opened the gate to let it out. It even took a dump in the kitchen. The question is, how the hell did it even get into the house?

I swear, the drama never stops here.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Hauntings: Addendum

We got a tall ladder yesterday, and I climbed up, opened the skylight, and stuck my head into the space between the roof and the ceiling. Using a digital camera, I snapped pictures of every corner.

There was nothing there. No body, no gold bars (Z had dreams 2 months ago of the spirit leading him up and showing him rows and rows of gold bars tucked away there).


So much for investigating.

Butt What the Fuck?

Those who know me know that I'm not much for organized sports. I find most of them boring to watch, and I can't play for nuts. The sport I probably have the most patience for is basketball, because, honestly, which other game has the score change every 10 seconds? (I know there's tennis and shit, stop being a smartass) Football, of the US variety, bores me to death, with commercials every 20 seconds or less. The other football, of the sort the whole rest of the world plays (which is still the only real football - apparently in the USA you use your fucking hands to play football. What kind of a joke is that?) bores me too, but not as much. 22 men chasing a ball back and forth over 90 minutes or more, with total scores seldom exceeding 5, is really not my idea of entertainment.

Which kinda makes me an anomaly, I suppose, in soccer-mad Singapore. After all, this is a country where people profess undying allegiance to teams and players half the world away, whom they've never met, and probably never will meet in their lives. But it's not as if I haven't tried. Way back in 1990, I tried watching some matches in the World Cup, and stayed up to watch the finals, which saw Germany beating Argentina 1-0. I bought the sticker book and lots of overpriced packs of stickers. Hell, I even got the game Subbuteo, which is quite possibly the lamest game in the entire history of mankind. I really tried.

But nope. Couldn't do it. All of those were just attempts to get into a game that I absolutely did not care about. And to be honest, I wasn't the only one. My friends then were all into basketball. They were on the school team and played amazingly well for primary school students, regularly beating other schools in tournaments. Naturally, they were into the NBA. And when you're a kid, your tastes are pretty much determined by what your friends like (you could say that also holds true for adults, but to a lesser extent). No one really gave a shit about the World Cup, but we'd watch the NBA Finals together, cheering on our favorite team, the Chicago Bulls (but of course). It was The Age of Jordan, and we were his little groupies.

To be fair, I suppose our school conditions played a part. Having a tiny compound near a red light district meant that we didn't have a school field, but several basketball courts paved in rough concrete instead. When I think back, it kinda looked like the exercise yard of a prison. Anyway, no field = no soccer. And if you've never played soccer in school, how can you be expected to like the game?

Which brings us to the recently concluded World Cup.

I'd been kind of avoiding the whole damn thing, which was hard to do since huge posters everywhere screamed out promotions and tie-ins related to the event. But I was adamant. I didn't like soccer, and I had better things to do with my time. Then a day came, probably around the semi-finals, when I was bored and continued reading the sports pages in the paper instead of skipping past them like I usually did.

I'll say this about the sports journalists - they're really good at what they do. Given that I know how boring the damn games can be, they wrung every last bit of drama and emotion out of the games they were covering. Of course they followed a certain format, but it was simple enough so that the layman could follow it, and most articles contained flourishes and phrases which would make any writing teacher proud. And ironically enough, I became a closet fan - but only of the writing. Secretly, I devoured the sports pages in the Straits Times every day, while maintaining a nonchalant attitude about the whole thing on the outside. Gradually, I even began to root for certain teams - and all this only through reading, having not watched a single match.

I know it's lame. It's like preferring to read erotic writing to watching porn, or even (gasp!) doing the actual deed. What can I say? I'm a geek, through and through.

When the finals rolled around, I'd read enough that I wanted to watch the live telecast at 2 am. Stephen said he was having people over to watch it, so I kind of semi-invited myself shamelessly. To really get into the spirit of things, I even had my cousin place a S$10 bet at Singapore Pools for me. It was on France to win. What can I say, I love an underdog.

I'd brought my laptop along, intending to do work during the game because I thought I'd be bored. Yeah, right. That never happened.

We had a little pool of money going as well (with everyone chipping in S$10), and since the people at Stephen's were pretty much split equally on who they supported, it was a lot of fun. But the match itself was the most dramatic match I'd ever seen (not that I've seen that many - you can probably count the number on both hands), and my work was quickly forgotten as I got into the highs and lows of the game. Zidane scored in the 7th minute for France, then Italy responded with Materazzi's header shortly after. The attacks went back and forth, with France pretty much in control from the second half on. I thought that France really had a good shot at the title.

I'm a terrible predictor of winners and things like that because I tend to pick with my heart instead of my head. And as it turned out, the heart was wrong, as it had been on so many occasions before.

The game went into extra time. And then it happened.

Photo by John MacDougall/Getty Images

Zidane's infamous headbutt. And we all stared at the screen, dumbfounded. What. The. Fuck.

(If you follow the link for Zidane, you'll get a short recap of the incident, as well as his career. It's probably better than anything this non-fanatic could write)

And even though I tried to keep rooting for the French, inside I knew it was all over. Without their leader, and with their best players all substituted out and on the bench, the most France could manage was prevent Italy from scoring any more goals.

Everyone knows what happened in the penalty shootout. Again, Zidane's absence hit them hard. They were without one of their best penalty takers, and it affected them emotionally as well.

It was over. And with that, went my S$20.

But you know, the money didn't bother me. It's just the price of a CD. No, I just felt bad for Zidane. What a horrible way to end a World Cup. What a horrible way to end a career. It's strange how a week ago I didn't even care who won or lost, and here I was feeling bad for someone I didn't know at all.

It also hit me that sports, like everything else in this corrupt, commercialized world, had lost what it was about in the first place. Fair play, honor, esprit de corps. I'm not saying Zidane didn't do anything wrong. He did something stupid in reaction to being provoked (in a later statement, he said Materazzi insulted his mother and sister), and in the process committed hara-kiri with his team's chances at the title and his reputation. But fucking hell, I've done something along those lines before, and I can understand how he felt. It's just the thought that a team would resort to doing something this despicable in order to win, that a manager would urge his players to do such a thing... that disgusts me. Where's the honor in that?

But perhaps I'm just too much of an idealist. When wars are fought not by men charging at each other on the battlefield (not that that was a particularly smart way to fight), but by bespectacled nerds hitting buttons in faraway bunkers, blowing up faceless targets and taking out innocent civilians as collateral damage, it's really a silly notion to expect sports to hold on to the pillars of fair play and honor.

That's why I'm a geek, and a cinewhore. I don't need honor in a movie. And maybe I should just stick to movies in the future.

Friday, July 14, 2006

I Am So Fucked

Was supposed to meet my boss to ask for a promotion and pay raise.

It was perfect weather for sleeping - cool and raining. I hadn't had a full night's sleep since my mom got her heart attack. But why, oh why, did I have to get my full night's sleep last night, of all nights?

I didn't hear my alarm go off.

I only woke up when his secretary called at 9:40 am; I'd been scheduled to meet him at 8:30.

It's not so much shooting myself in the foot as blowing it clean off with an anti-personnel mine.

I am so fucked.

Hauntings: The End (We Hope)

So we went to Far East Organization to ask about the history of the house. Like I said before, it'd been built in 1902, and the lady, K, felt Far East was the original developer. Whether that's true or not is irrelevant, since we're pretty sure there've been plenty of tenants throughout the years. The only definite bit of history we managed to find out was that all the houses in the neighborhood have been unused from 1998 till about 2005, due to the property slump. And we were the first tenants in after the market picked up.

Because of the high turnover rate of the employees, no one was around that could give us any more information. Everyone who could've known anything had left the company. The supernatural does not figure in official company records, so it was no point trying to go through them. Bottom line - not very much information at all.

K was spooked by our story, and she agreed to send someone around to check out the area between the roof and our ceiling. Perhaps something really was up in the beams. He was supposed to come yesterday afternoon, but he didn't show.

It doesn't seem to matter as much now, because we found out yesterday that J had seen something. A priest guy had come in the morning after and chanted some verses. Apparently their function was to calm the spirit down and possibly help her on her way to reincarnation. He had gotten the entire family in there to chant along with him (sans me, for I was busy blogging - what an idiot).

During the chanting, J saw her standing next to the priest, and also sitting on top of the closet (which are over 2 metres in height). She seemed calm. When the chanting was done, she walked out (through the door that had been boarded up for those few hours) onto the porch, where she disappeared.

Is she gone for good? Or is this merely a temporary leave of absence? Only time will tell, but let's hope it's the former.

Nothing else happened last night.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Hauntings: The Morning After

Well, it's the morning after, and everything appears fine. We got a priest-guy to come in and do some chanting, and made some offerings of food, incense and joss paper, so hopefully things settle down a little.

I'm also going to the Far East Organization office with Z to ask about the history of the place. Perhaps there might be something we can do to help the spirit.

Meanwhile, here are some pictures to illustrate my previous post better.

plastic strip
The plastic strip that was ripped off from the ceiling.

light n cable
The ceiling light, with the cables exposed after the plastic strip above was pulled down.

the door
The door in question, boarded up for just a few hours, and now clear again.

3 choices
The three choices. The chopsticks in the centre, for "Money", appear to have been moved just a tad.


Some of you may know that there's a spirit in my rented house. We know because my youngest cousin J has "the eye" and is able to see the dead (Please, no "I see dead people" jokes). Thus far, he's seen her a few times. She's a Chinese woman, dressed in a long white silky dress. The sightings are few and far between, and it makes no difference if it's day or night. Normally she just walks around in the master bedroom.

After we moved in, J became aware of her presence. His eldest brother Z also had some bad dreams about her. I never felt or saw anything, which I think is a good thing. Well, except for one time when I was coming home at night and thought I heard someone whisper in my ear, but I was also on the phone at the time and it could've been my imagination. Anyway, we tried several ways and means to try to invite her to leave. Christian prayer blessings, blessed paintings, luring out with food and offerings, the works.

It seemed to work. J didn't see her for quite a while.

But tonight something else happened.

This afternoon my cousin Z, his eldest brother, had the idea this afternoon to rearrange the furniture in the room. He was following the advice of a fengshui master who'd recommended boarding up one of the two doors to the balcony. So he used some foam boards and blocked the door off. He also moved the beds and desk around, took his "sacred scroll" (long story) downstairs, and removed the crosses that J had hung on the walls.

Just past 1 am, I came out of the shower to find J sitting on the stairs, trembling with fear. He told me what had just happened...

J had gone into the room minutes earlier, and was shocked to see the spirit jumping on his desk. She used it to leap towards the ceiling and pull down a strip of plastic that we'd used to hide some cables. Then she went to the boarded-up door and started yanking at the foam boards. But Z had stuck them on with industrial-strength velcro, and they didn't give. J freaked out and dropped to his knees in prayer, but that didn't help. He felt his chest tense up and he couldn't breathe, so he ran out and sat outside the bathroom waiting for me.

I went straight to the room, not knowing what to expect. True enough, the plastic strip was dangling from the ceiling, exposing the cables. I gave the boards on the door a light tug. They still held fast. As we went downstairs to look for Z, J told me that she'd been right beside me. But I hadn't felt a thing, and actually, I'm glad I can't sense such things.

As we were discussing things downstairs, another crash came from the room upstairs, right above where we were. We looked at each other, but continued the discussion. J got so freaked out he started tearing.

We decided to return upstairs with some food, and apologize for boarding up the door. When we entered the room, the plastic strip was on the floor, entirely off the ceiling. Of course, it could've been gravity that did it. But J's "sacred scroll", which had been on the table, was now lying on the floor.

We apologized, and explained that we were only renting the house for two years and didn't mean any harm. If she didn't like the boards, we'd tear them down right away. We hoped we could all get along together, and that she'd leave us alone. If she needed any money, or had any difficulties, we'd try to help. I even wrote phrases like "money", "investigate upstairs" (there's an additional level just below the roof that we don't have easy access to - who knows what's up there?), and "want to leave", and left chopsticks that she could use to indicate what she wanted.

Then the food was taken downstairs and left outside the back door, we hung up J's "sacred scroll" in the room, along with some of his crosses, and we all squeezed into my room to spend the night. No one wanted to remain in the master bedroom, and for good reason.

I never used to believe. I mean, I know J has "the eye" and all, but it's hard to really believe in spirits. Once you make up your mind to accept one supernatural incident, it kinda opens up the door to a whole mountain of stuff, bullshit included. Now, after this, I can't pretend these things don't exist anymore.

Let's see what we find in the morning.

Addendum: My room's safe though, for those of you who've visited, or are thinking of visiting. So it's still cool.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

(Very) Belated April & May Movie Post

This has got to be the tardiest review post I've done, and in all honesty I can hardly remember some of these at all. But whatever. We soldier on.

Keeping Mum
Decent enough for a distraction at the movies. Good premise, but somehow the execution (no pun intended) doesn't quite live up to it. It all seems so "safe", with hardly any surprises. I wish Rowan Atkinson would stop playing the bumbling, well-meaning guy in his movies. He's hilarious when he's nasty (see Blackadder), and he should do that more often. Apart from that, the cast is uniformly good, with Maggie Smith especially delicious as the murdering housekeeper. Patrick Swayze shows surprising comic flair as an over-the-top obnoxious American - stereotypical and annoying, but he works in the role.

Where the Truth Lies
Kevin Bacon playing a Jerry Lewis-like character - good. Alison Lohman playing a reporter - not so good. In fact, she seems a little out of her league, and watching her get intimate with the men feels kinda like watching an uncle hitting on his own niece. Ugh.

黑社會: 以和為貴 (Election 2)
Good, dark, talky, yet has moments of intense, operatic violence. And anyone else feel like they were watching a political commentary on Singapore as well?

The Da Vinci Code
Overlong, boring, and the CGI bordered on the ridiculous. Ooh, glowing and floating numbers to get us "into" Tom Hanks' mind... Ooh, Tom Hanks' hair has a mind of its own... Ooh, Ian McKellan camping it up... Wait, the last bit was good.

Mission: Impossible III
Probably the first M:I movie that I really liked. Great action setpieces, intense pacing, and the deliciously evil Philip Seymour Hoffman make you almost forget that you're watching Tom Cruise prancing around. Someone please give Hoffman more baddie roles; he's awesome here. Oh, and Maggie Q is hot.

Paradise Now
Overly preachy at times, but nonetheless gripping when it gets going. Pity it takes a rather long time to build up. Plus it would be nice if it didn't seem like the characters were spouting pre-written political speeches in their dialogue.

Over the Hedge
Steve Carell is a freaking genius. Doesn't quite go into Pixar's level of "oh-my-God-this-is-a-good-script", but entertaining enough nonetheless.


Saturday, July 08, 2006

Back Home

After clarification from the doctors, it turns out my second assumption was correct - they were referring to the arteries that delivered blood to the heart itself. Which makes sense, because if the damn aorta is blocked, you really have zero chances of survival.

Anyway, she's discharged today, and will be home just as soon as she's done visiting her mom - the nonagenarian has been blissfully unaware of the drama of the past few days... or maybe the wily old lady just isn't letting on that she knows anything. I'm willing to give her credit for that.

I'll be moving back home for a couple of days until she settles in and feels a little better, so my next script revision will have to be done from home - which sucks because I don't write well there at all. We'll see how that goes.

Meanwhile, people in the East, feel free to call me for supper or World Cup viewing. Personally, I find soccer boring as hell, but if the world's watching it, I'm willing to give it a shot, as long as I have a couple of beers in me. But more on that in another post.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Hospital Update

Her condition's much more stable now, so they transferred her out of the ICU this afternoon. I think she's recovering well - at least she looks a lot better today than she did yesterday, and should be discharged this weekend.

Out of the three main blood vessels (I'm assuming by this they're referring to the superior vena cava, inferior vena cava, and aorta - as indicated here) leading to and from the heart, one of them is 30% blocked, another is 75% blocked, and the third was 100% blocked. That is, until they did the procedure yesterday. What I'm wondering is, if it was 100% blocked, then how could any blood have gotten to other parts of the body (since they said it was an artery, i.e., the aorta)?

Or maybe instead of the blood vessels leading to and from the heart, they meant the blood vessels delivering blood to the heart muscles and not the rest of the body. That makes more sense.

Anyway, she will need to do a further procedure a couple of weeks later to try and get rid of the 75% blockage, and then will probably need to be on medication afterwards.

Man, it sucks when you get old.

Thanks to everyone for their well wishes and support.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Fourth of July



CINEWHORE and DARK PRODIGY board the bus and stand near the entrance. The bus is packed.


Shit, my phone's ringing. Hold for me?

He passes the Big Gulp to Dark Prodigy. Takes his phone out. It's stopped ringing - one missed call. He checks, and it's his mom's number. He calls her back.

Hello?... WHAT THE FUCK?

The entire bus turns and stares at him, but he's oblivious to it.

OK... How's she?... I'll come now.

He hangs up. Dark Prodigy looks at him in concern. He looks away, biting his lip.

The bus stops at the next stop. He thinks, then steps towards the entrance.

Sorry, can I get down?


They get off the bus.

Are you OK?

My mom had a heart attack.

Oh shit.


Cinewhore and Dark Prodigy sit in the back of the cab.

My brother drove her to hospital, and she's conscious, which is a good thing.

Dark Prodigy nods. Beat.

When I said, "What the fuck?" just now, the whole bus looked at me, right?

I've only sworn in public once, when I lost my wallet and phone at the gym. I was so angry I said very loudly, "Cheebye!"

I tend to say "fuck" more, but that's more for shock and surprise. When it comes to anger, nothing beats the Hokkien lah.


Cinewhore and Dark Prodigy walk towards the A&E Department.

You wanna get something to eat? I can't do much anyway except wait.


I'll just talk to my brother for a bit, then we can go for dinner.

I'll wait outside.

Cinewhore enters the A&E.


The brothers, Cinewhore and 법학교, sit in the hallway.

I'll tell you what happened, but don't get angry.

Cinewhore nods.

법학교 (CONT'D)
This morning Pa was going on and on again, and she yelled at him and said she'd never been so angry in her life. Then during the day she got these chest pains on and off. When I came home she asked me to buy dinner. So I went out again, and when I came back, I saw her downstairs. She told me she was in a lot of pain, so I drove her here.


So basically we have to tell Pa to stop it.

To shut up.

But we can't tell him about this, or he'll feel guilty and depressed.

So we'll just say it's so he doesn't aggravate her condition lah.



Cinewhore and Dark Prodigy eat.

So you found somewhere to watch the Germany-Italy match later?

Not yet, see how lah.


Your friend picking you up?

Yah. I'll make a move first. You take care.

Yup, sure.

Let me know how things turn out. Take care.

OK, bye.


Cinewhore finds his brother 법학교, FATHER, UNCLE and AUNT talking to a NURSE. As he approaches, the nurse goes back inside the resuscitation room.

Sorry, can you quickly run through what you just told them?

Basically she had a heart attack. An artery was blocked, and we are doing an operation to insert a balloon in it and open it up again. We've already moved her to the OT. It has to be done now, or more heart muscles will die.

(to Cinewhore)
That's why her hypertension has been worse lately.


Cinewhore and 법학교 wait for their turn. Meanwhile, Uncle is being a nuisance.

Must ask them to check the CSC card, see if she's entitled to A class ward.

That's not important right now.

No, must ask. This is what she's entitled to, so she must have it.

I said, that's not important right now. Look, why don't all of you let the two of us handle the admissions process? You can wait outside.

He turns away in disgust.

Can ask them what's the background of the doctor? Must get a good one.

(under his breath)
He's saving her life, not coming for a job interview. Cheebye.

Can check or not?

Cinewhore can't take it any more. He spins around.

Everyone just leave it to us. We know how to do this better than you do, so everyone just SHUT UP, OK? Go and wait outside.


Cinewhore stubs out his cigarette butt and lights up another. He dials a number on his phone.

Hey... I'm just standing outside Changi General, smoking... My mom's in hospital. Heart attack... It's moments like these when you crave cigarettes the most... No, you give out cigars when you have a baby, not cigarettes.


Father eats some takeout food while everyone sits around on benches. Cinewhore comes back out from the A&E Department.

They say they've finished the procedure, and she's in the Cardiac Lab now. After this they'll transfer her to the ICU. But we can go there and wait outside now.

I'll drive home and give this food to Cloud. I need to get my phone too, I don't have it 'cos I was only going out to buy dinner. Message me the ward number.


법학교 leaves. Cinewhore looks around.

Shall we go? It's Lift Lobby B.


The waiting room is packed with families waiting to see their loved ones. There's a big sliding glass door at a corner of the room that leads to the ICU. Cinewhore tries it, but it's locked. He presses the intercom button. No response.

He sits back down and reads The New Paper, for lack of better reading material.


MONTAGE: Finger presses intercom button repeatedly. No response.



Cinewhore goes to the intercom again and presses it. Miraculously, someone answers.


I was told my mom would be coming here?

What's her name?

He tells the nurse her name. A pause while she searches through records.

Yes, she's come in already. Just wait a little longer and when we're ready we'll let you in.

OK, thanks.


Uncle passes some pamphlets to Cinewhore, who's reached the Sports Section of the paper, all the way at the end.

Read this. It tells you all about the operation they did on her.

Cinewhore takes it and flips through it while Uncle returns to his seat.

(under his breath)
This isn't the operation... It's just a fucking test procedure.

He gets up and goes to the intercom. No response again.


Cinewhore finishes the paper and puts it down.

Go and try again? Just now half an hour ago they said she's in already. Why so long?

Cinewhore goes to the intercom and presses the button again. No response.

They're not answering.

Aunt gets up, strides over to the intercom and starts pressing the button repeatedly. No one answers.


Suddenly, a voice comes through.


Can we come in now?

OK, I'll let you in.

The glass door slides open, and suddenly everyone in the waiting room is aware. They all crowd inside the narrow hallway beyond.


At the end of the dark hallway is a door.

Two Malay men try the door.

Locked leh.

Cinewhore tries the door.

This is so stupid. Why would they let us in only to have another locked door?

Eh, got switch on the wall.

True enough, there's a red switch on the wall next to the door. Everyone looks at it, but no one dares to press it, perhaps for fear of shutting down the entire ICU.

Ah, fuck it.

He presses the switch and holds his breath.

The lights come on in the hallway.



법학교 returns. Everyone is still crowded into the hallway, standing around like fools.


The door's locked.

법학교 tries it. He turns the handle all the way down. The door opens.


You damn cock lah. You just need to push the handle all the way.

Suddenly the waiting room comes alive again as everyone streams into the ICU.


Rooms with glass doors are on either side of a large counter. The family looks around. Cinewhore walks on ahead, looking into each room.

He sees an old man, lying in bed. An old lady that looks like she's almost dead. Then he stops. He's not sure if the woman lying in bed is his mother. It looks like her, but yet, is so unlike the mother he knows.

He turns around and sees a nurse talking to his Father, gesturing towards the room in front of him. He steps in.

His MOTHER looks frail and tiny. Only her head is visible, the rest of her body tucked under a blanket. As the family enters, her eyes open.


Her voice is weak. Cinewhore tries to smile, but he's not sure if he succeeded. He reaches down for her left hand, but no sooner does he touch it, than she pulls it away.

Tubes there.

He smiles apologetically. No need to try this time.


법학교 and Cinewhore hold the fingers of Mother's right hand. Aunt clings onto Cinewhore's other arm.

... I just walked out into the carpark when 법학교 call me.

Then when I heard her cry, I almost started crying myself.

(to Aunt)
Are you going to cry now?
(to Mother)
This madwoman is going to cry again.

Aunt laughs.

(to Cinewhore)
I know you won't cry. You're cool.

Cinewhore has no reply to that. Is he, really?


ONSCREEN: Superman saves the plane and steps out to cheers from the stadium.

In the audience, tears roll out freely from Cinewhore's eyes.


Cinewhore shrugs.

Aunt goes to a corner of the room and answers her phone, whispering.

I thought I told you guys to turn off your phones?

It's off what.

Cinewhore takes the phone away from her.

Then why is yours still on? Silent mode is not turning it off, you know.

Har? I don't know how to turn off.

He shows her how to turn the phone off, sighing.


Father, 법학교, and Cinewhore discuss things with a DOCTOR.

Now that there's a precedent, the likelihood of another attack is higher. That's why we have to observe her here for a few more days before transferring her to a normal ward.

The family nods.

I also want you to be fully aware of this: We will do our best, should she have another heart attack. But different people react differently, and you have to know that we might not be able to save everyone. She should be fine, but you should also be mentally prepared.


Father stands a slight distance away, not touching the bed.

Are you hungry or not?

I had some barley water just now. I'll ask them for some Milo later.

Nevermind. I ask them now.

He approaches the Nurse outside.

Cinewhore looks at him talk to the nurse.


The family wave goodbye to Mother. Father goes to the Nurse again.

Can you turn off the light so she can sleep?

Cinewhore looks at him as the nurse turns down the light, and he thanks her.

It's always been the way he shows concern. Never touching, never saying soothing words, just by doing things.

Cinewhore smiles sadly. He can see it, but he's not sure if that's enough.


Father drives Cinewhore back to his rented house.

I still have some work to do.

OK, you call me tomorrow if you're going to the hospital. I drive you.

No need. I can go there myself.

The car will just be sitting there anyway.

See how lah.


The car stops, and Cinewhore gets out.

Go home and sleep early.

Call me tomorrow.


The car drives off. Cinewhore enters the house.


Cinewhore stubs out one cigarette and lights up another.


Cinewhore sits in front of his computer. Long pause.

Ah, fuck work.

He logs in to Blogger.

And types: FADE IN: