Thursday, 28 August 2008

LOUIS ARMSTRONG: "What A Wonderful World"

"When was the last time you did something for the first time?" I like that sentence, ever since I heard it for the first time in a commercial for a Middle Eastern airline company. Strange, how a few words can appeal to somebody, how they can make you frown your eyebrows at first, before a smile of recognition appears on your face. Recognition, as you realize that much truth and wisdom is captured inside them. Recognition, as you realize that sometimes joy in life has been hidden beneath the surface all along, like huge oil reserves, patiently waiting to be pumped up from their hiding place.

"When was the last time you did something for the first time?" Words that tease you, challenge you, make you halt for a while. As we grow up from childhood, we may loose our innocence and naive belief in the world. However, we should try not to loose our curiosity in life. Just like a child repeatedly asks the question "why?" all too many times, perhaps we should, more often, ask ourselves the question "why not?".

So when was the last time YOU did something for the first time?

And when was the last time somebody said something to you that truly touched you? Words that moved you, that made you look at things differently than you ever did before. Words that lingered in your mind, like the morning haze over the meadow. Words that nourished you, like a drop of water on a forgotten plant. Words that ignited the fire in you, made you dream of more. Words that painted a smile on your face, for all of a sudden they made your complicated life seem so simple. Words of that special person, that would never have meant the same if they were not pronounced by that very same human being.

When was the last time somebody did something for you that truly touched you? A gesture catching you by surprise, a ray of sunlight peeping behind scary dark clouds. An insignificant breeze for humanity, but a whirling hurricane for you. When somebody shows you he/she would do anything for you, just because it's you. When somebody gives, without expecting to get in return. When the desire to see you blossom inspires the other to move mountains.

There are few words in life that we carry along until the end; there are few gestures of others that we will remember for ever. But don't we all search for those moments every single day?

BUGGLES: "Video Killed The Radio Star"

"Television is a medium, because it's neither rare nor well-done."

Monday, 25 August 2008

MARCO BORSATO: "Nooit Meer Een Morgen"

The man on top of the mountain didn't fall there. Nobody ever said life is easy. Goals can not be achieved without efforts. But the view is sure worth it. People all want to be happy, but many don't want to become happy. For change requires effort, and certainties need to be abandoned sometimes. Many people feel a bit low, stuck in the dullness of their daily routine, as they think they don't have any other choice.
They feel as if they only play a secondary role in the movie of their own life. However, life is no rehearsal, you better live it directly the way you want it. Life is too short to spend it dead. We will all have plenty of time to be dead eventually. And if you don't decide for yourself, time will decide for you.

But hey, don't worry. We are all just amateurs in life, there is no degree for it. We get a manual with all kinds of electrical appliances, but we don't get a manual for life. We just drift, do as we think best. We get experience only after we need it. People often say: "This thing that happened to me was no coincidence, there must have been a reason for it". But perhaps the opposite is true: what happens to you, will only get a meaning when you do something with it. You may feel guilty for things that happened, or you may feel regret. But finding out about guilt or regret is only useful if you think you can still undo the past. If not, then it can only cause you grieve and pain.

Others should accept you the way you are, you should accept the others the way they are, but you need not accept yourself the way you are. So don't fly on automatic pilot any longer. Re-direct, change course when needed. At the same time, don't rush in life, for you should never go faster than your guardian angel can fly. And please don't be mistaken. Happiness is not scarce at all. It's not such thing of which there is less left for you, if the other has more of it. Making people feel good, makes you feel good yourself. It's odd mathematics, actually: when you divide love, you actually multiply it...

R. KELLY: "I believe I can fly"

I felt excited after I improved my personal best and went well below 50 minutes on the 10K at yesterday's Safra Bay Run. Then I went home and watched the final kilometers of the Olympics men's marathon event. I saw them completing four times the distance I had just run in only about double my time. "It's not about crossing the finish line, but having the courage to start", I read in today's newspaper ad for the upcoming Standard Chartered Marathon. I couldn't agree more.

Saturday, 23 August 2008

WHAM: "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go"

Driving back at about 2 AM last night after an Emerald Hill drinking session, I spotted the car that had come to a complete standstill ahead of me. The lights were on. Nobody seemed to be stepping out, nor was there any sign that the car would get moving soon. I looked aside as I overtook the motionless vehicle, and I saw the driver's head resting on the steering wheel. He had just fallen asleep in the middle of the road, for god's sake! How on earth to do that?! Sure he was drunk. Of course, I would say. So in his condition, I could imagine him falling asleep when waiting at the traffic lights, for instance. But not at a random spot in the middle of the road. It was a surreal image in the nightly silence: he and his car were like struck by lightning and frozen at a random point of time.

I stopped my car in front of his, stepped out and walked back. There he was, alone in his car, sleeping peacefully on his improvised pillow. I knocked on the window. No reaction. I tried to open the door but it was locked from inside. I knocked again, harder this time. But still Sleeping Beauty did not move a single inch. I knocked even harder.

All of a sudden he woke up with a shock. He opened the door, stepped out and just like he would have done if we would have been at a posh cocktail reception in a five-star hotel ballroom in stead of being at this deserted residential street in the middle of the night, he greets me formally, shakes my hand and says "Good evening, how do you do?". Just as if nothing had happened. Hahaha.

Strangely enough, he didn't seem that drunk actually. But of course, the subjective impression of how drunk a person is can be very misleading at times. And the fact that 10 seconds ago he was still in dreamland did not plead in his favour. My sense of responsibility made me suggest driving him home. He refused, claiming that he would manage to go back on his own. I insisted and asked him where he lived. Without going all too much into geographical details and without showing in the Singapore street directory, let me just put it this way: switching on the GPS system in BMW would have prevented him from getting lost in this area of town, which was totally out of the direction where he was supposed to end up. Or perhaps the invisible lady giving him the GPS instructions had fallen asleep as well...

Friday, 22 August 2008

U2: "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For"

Don't search for happiness, for you won't find it. It will find you.

KREZIP: "I'll Be Gone"

Perth (Australia) There must have been a few hundred of those small little messages, one below the other, tiny building bricks of straight newspaper columns. Printed in black and white, the colour of mourning on the colour of hope. A name, in bold, then a few lines in memory of the person who passed away. A spouse, children, friends, family, colleagues. Small words capturing big stories. Short sentences, telling long lives.

Newspapers around the world do have obituaries, yes. But then they usually come in a box, with a name, the name of relatives, a picture. They always seem to comply with some unwritten, universal rules of how to write them in a typical, formal yet appropriate style. They balance on that fragile line between announcing mere cold facts about the deceased and the attempt of those who are left behind to balm their sorrow by expressing the warm memory they treasure.

So until I grabbed the newspaper from the wall in this Australian bistro, I had never seen this style of messages in a newspaper before. At least not in this format, a few pages in between the real estate announcements and the classified ads for second hand cars. “We will always remember you.” I am lucky that I have not yet lost anybody, who truly meant something to me, to death. I am sure it is not easy to deal with. “One year since you have left us, but we still think of you every day. Frank and Wilma.” After you die, will your beloved remember your birthday or the date you passed away? And then another one. “Finally rest. Dad”, I read. Well, I guess so. Turn to the next page. “Total relaxation.” Yes, I believe that must be how you feel when you are dead. But hey…this is another section already: the one for escort services…

VANILLA ICE: "Ice Ice Baby"

Word on the street: after the earphone, they now seem to have something called the eyephone...

STIFT HEILIGENKREUZ: "Chant - Music for Paradise"

Thursday, 21 August 2008

FIVE FOR FIGHTING: "100 Years to Live"

Unlike a tree, you can't tell a man's age from the rings on his face. True age is more than just a number; it's a countless experience, lived in a dreamless slumber.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008


I took a new identity recently. People call me with the weirdest proposals to invest money, they send me messages in secret code language, hinting at past events that I can not remember at all, they address me by a different name when they talk to me. And the confusion doesn't seem to stop. Did anybody put some pills in my coffee? Do I suffer from memory loss after a very bad car accident? Can Alzheimer’s disease occur at thirty-plus? Help! Who am I?

After my company moved their office to another location a while ago, I changed my mobile phone subscription to another phone company. I am the first to admit that I am not an early adopter of new technology, but I do understand that a mobile phone is still supposed to work even if you move to another place. That’s why they call it “mobile”, right? So the move itself was not really the trigger, rather it was the lack of network coverage in the new building. It’s amazing, how there still seem to be areas in this country where the invisible radiation of telecom operators does not seem to reach. And it’s not that my office building is located on top of a 5,000 meter peak, or in a mineshaft 100 meters below the ground level, not even at the outskirts of the country. Nonetheless I soon discovered that my phone frequently lost lasting connection with the mobile network. So rather than bearing with it and let frustration grow bigger by the day, I simply subscribed with another operator.

At first, I was intoxicated by the glory of victory. I, the disgruntled little consumer David, had shown his discontent to the mighty operator Goliath and had taken revenge for the poor service offered by this greedy giant, by simply turning my back to him. From a military point of view, turning your back to the enemy might well be considered a euphemism for “fleeing”, but it surely did not feel that way to me. I felt I had conquered!

Very soon regulation will change, but up until today you will get a new phone number when you change your telecom operator in Singapore. At most, you can opt for any calls to your previous number being re-directed to your new number. And this is exactly what I did.

But then the stalking started…

Apparently, the new number that was assigned to me had been used by somebody else before. And gosh…that guy must have been a heavy user, a hardcore phone addict. I get calls for him every day, I get messages around the clock. People from all kinds ask for him when I pick up their call, and yet I still don’t know what kind of person this must be. Or…must have been. Who knows what the exact reason is that he is no longer carrying this number. Has he passed away? Or was he dissatisfied with this new phone operator of mine and switched to the one I ran away from, perhaps? Now that would be funny. Did he advertise this number for a business that went bankrupt? I don’t bother to ask the callers even. I just reply that I am not the person who they think I am. I suspect that with every call, my rudeness level goes up, especially when yet another operator from a far-away call centre tries to sell something to that increasingly frustrated person, who happens to pick up the phone to find out that, once again, he is merely an anonymous number on yet another prospect list.

In life, it is hard to find out for ourselves who we truly are. And changing phone number is adding even more complexity to that never-ending search.

Monday, 18 August 2008

ZOOKY: "Lift Your Leg Up"

Humour at the Olympics:

- Mr Armstrong, despite his name, not able to win a medal in the men's

final shoot out...
- Ms Walker, by contrast, winning the 400 meter hurdles event, despite her name...
- Ms Schwarzkopf, as blonde as blonde can be...

Saturday, 16 August 2008

DIRE STRAITS: "Brother in Arms"

Bhagan (Myanmar), a few years ago. A smile is all we have to keep our short conversation going. I don’t speak your language, and neither do you speak mine. The lines drawn on your tired, tanned skin reveal your age almost as precise as the rings in the bole of an old tree. Or perhaps the harshness of your life has made you look older than you actually are.

The waving of your hand is an open invitation for me to come near. Like all too many other people in this remote place, you try to make a living by selling souvenirs and books to the few tourists who find their way here. I would not be surprised if sometimes, one day goes by without you selling anything at all. There you are. And here I am, a young man who, unlike yourself, is so fortunate that he has escaped the small circle of his own hometown, and has the chance to explore undiscovered worlds across oceans and mountains. Life must not have been fair to you. Still I hear the cheerful voice of your daughter chatting with her friends in the unfamiliar words you pronounce. Still, in your eyes I read the laugh of your grandchildren playing outside in the sunset. You seem to be an endless well of happiness.

You give me a small, wooden frog, and a little stick. When you rub the stick over the back of the frog, you can hear a sound that imitates the sound of a frog. I refuse to accept at first. I can’t buy at all stalls I pass by. But you insist. I take some money and want to pass it to you. Now you are the one refusing to accept. So I insist to pay. And you keep refusing to accept. You put your hand on mine, and gently push my hand away. You don’t want my money, it’s a gift.

You don’t seem to have much, and still you give.

You must be a goddess. You deserve your own temple amidst the thousands of ancient temples scattered around here. Your humble gesture of goodness is greater than you can ever imagine. I walk away. I turn my head. We look at each other and smile, as to seal our secret. I turn around again and leave you behind me, probably forever.

Until today, I still have the wooden frog. Sometimes I rub his back with the little stick. And while I hear the sound of a frog, I remember the happiness in your eyes, princess.

There are many different worlds on this one, single globe. I still don’t know which of these worlds is the happiest one to live in…