A Frenchman, A Spanish Dude, and Two Singaporean Guys walk into a club…

After more than a week of trying to self medicate my cough, I decided to throw in the towel and see a doctor.

I was so close to the end of the tunnel though. I could see the light of health on the other side. Finally,  I can go back to being a gymhead and lift heavy things up and put them down. Finally, I can go back to subjecting myself to the mind-numbingly and torturous routine of dragonboating.

But it was not to be. My descent into the pit of sickness was not over.

A flu brought me down.

FLU

 

The doctor asked if I wanted some of my medication to be of the slightly drowsy kind.

I was like, hell yeah, I need those. I need my sleep after hacking out cough after cough through the night.

Okay I didn’t say hell yeah. But I gave her the affirmative that drowsy medication is the way to go.

Unfortunately IT’S NOT WORKING ON ME. I took those medication 2 hours ago and I’m still wide awake. WHAT THE FUCK, THIS IS FALSE ADVERTISING.

Talking about advertising, what happens when a Frenchman, a Spanish dude and two Singapore guys walk into a club?

Take a guess before you scroll down.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have you guess yet?

Keep scrolling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Almost there.

 

 

 

 

 

You got this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BAR SCENE

 

Nothing happens.

Cause they’re all from the social media team busy with social media stuff.

As one of my colleagues love to say: “We’re from social media but yet we’re anti-social.”

Wiser words have never been spoken.

Now I’m gonna watch stupid shit on YouTube.

 

____________________________________________

I realised I haven’t been sharing music videos I’ve watched. So here’s a blast from the past. The Taiwanese singer/rapper is called Ah Liang. I can’t remember the girl’s name but she was a popular Taiwanese singer/actress. Don’t ask me what the song is about. I don’t understand Chinese. Seriously, did you not read the About Me section?

Enjoy the shitty compression.

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A failure in story structure

Take a look at the video below.

 

Can you tell me what’s wrong with the video? No? Well I’ll tell you. I was not impressed. Maybe it’s because I’m an emotionless robot but the video failed to hit that sentimental mark. The idea was there, but when it came to executing the idea, it fell flat.

“But Zareth,” you say, “This video is about a 13-year-old boy sacrificing his childhood to run the household while still scoring top marks in a nation-wide examination! And it has a piano driven background music! How is this not sentimental? Stop being such a cold-hearted asshole.”

True… it has all the makings of a sentimental video, but still…

Let’s analyse the video, shall we?

 

Beginning

So the video begins with a voiceover from the 13-year-old teen. He proclaims that basketball was his first love. With that, the protagonist of the story (and his ‘first love’) is established.

 

OBSTACLE!!!Shit just got realThe obstacle is also introduced early in the video. So now we’ve got a hero (13-year-old teen), his first love (basketball) and an obstacle (his mom’s stroke) preventing him from being united with his love.

Classic hero storytelling structure. But we’re still missing something. Something that adds a bit of a spice. Something, or more accurately, someone who is a counterpart to the hero. That’s right, we need a motherfucking villain. Enter the dragon.

 

VillainA coach so evil that he is willing to kill 13-year-old boys who miss basketball practices. A coach so evil that our hero has a thousand yard stare from the many painful memories. Well, those memories will be painful when your coach is this guy:

 

Coach

Image credit to FailedCritics.com

“Do you know how to bounce the ball? Do you fucking know how to fucking bounce the ball??? ANSWER ME!”

Now we have our hero, his first love, his obstacle and the villain. All of which are established within twenty seconds of the video. So far so good. The question now is how will our hero overcome all the adversity to be reunited with his one, true love (i.e. playing basketball so that he doesn’t get killed by Terence Fletcher)?

The next few scenes are montages of our hero grocery shopping, buying lunch for his disabled mother, and managing the household finances. In the voiceover, the hero said that he “had to learn to run the family”. At least we’ve now established that our hero is being dragged away from his one, true love by the time-consuming task of taking care of his family at a young age.

We’ve also established that our hero is a filial son, which is the premise of the entire story. It’s also the title of the video.

Which brings us back to the main question, how will our hero overcome this adversity while still keeping his moral core intact (being a filial son)?

This is where the story starts derailing.

After the household montage, the video cuts to a scene showing a new dawn on the horizon:

 

A new dawn. Or is it?Is this it? Is this where they show how our hero overcome his adversity??? Will we get awesome training montages with Terence Fletcher screaming abuses at him? OMIGOSH!

Nope. Trololololol.

Instead it’s another household montage. But what irrationally pissed me off is when the hero said this in the voiceover:

 

WHAT THINGS???WHAT THINGS??? WHAT THINGS??? AND WHAT OTHERS???

To be fair, ‘some things’ implicitly refer to taking care of his mother and running the household. But that was already established in the first 20 to 30 seconds of the video, so why repeat them? I’m more confused by the ‘others’. You mean our hero has more than one love besides basketball? Man, Terence Fletcher is gonna be more than pissed.

 

Coach

Image credit to FailedCritics.com

BASKETBALL IS NOT YOUR FIRST LOVE! IT’S YOUR ONLY LOVE, YOU FUCKING INGRATE!

So after the second household montage, we get another soft-focus shot of the sunlight:

 

Here comes the sun, again.This must be it. It definitely must be it. We just got another sunlight shot, people. It’s coming. The training montage. I can even hear the Rocky music with Terence Fletcher screaming over it.

 

 

 

 

 

Annnnndddd scene:

 

Terence Fletcher can go sit on a basketballWhat.

A homework scene?

But that’s not the weirdest part. No, what’s weird about this scene is that our hero’s friends are pissed that he’s missing training. After introducing the villainous coach at the beginning, I was expecting the basketball coach to kick down the door and drag our hero away from his home.

 

ME ANGRY! ME COACH! ME COACH ANGRY!

Image credit to TwitchFilm.com

RARRRR! THIS IMAGE IS COMPRESSED AS FUCK!

Instead of watching the door get kicked into splinters by a sociopathic coach, we get a bunch of passive aggressive Whatsapp message from some angsty school kids.

By now it’s nearing the end of the video. And we still have not answer the main question of how our hero will overcome the adversity of his mom’s stroke to play basketball again while still remaining filial.

In fact, the question never gets fully answered. Because these are the next couple of scenes:

 

Actually I don't know how to bounce a ballOur hero looking longingly at a basketball game.

 

What's this round thingy?Our hero getting rewarded with a basketball for scoring top marks in the nation-wide examinations.

 

The video wasn't really worth it.And the end scene.

I was also irrationally pissed off by this scene. The problem with this scene is that there’s a huge gap between “Some things became more important than others” and “But I guess it was worth it”. Both sentences are crucial in showing that our hero willing sacrificed his love for basketball because nothing is more important than his mother (Terence Fletcher might dispute that).

Yet, both sentences are separated by more than a minute of filler montages. So when the last line “But I guess it was worth it” appears, it sounds like a non sequitur.

Ultimately, my biggest gripe is, you’ve guessed it, the non-appearance of the coach.

 

I've enough of this bullshit

Image credit to USAToday

Look at those steely blue eyes.

So at the end, I’m not feeling what the video wanted me to feel (i.e. reaching for the tissues). Instead, I’m left with a case of sentimental blue balls (i.e. not reaching for the tissues).

“Now, Zareth,” you say, “it’s easy to criticize another person’s work. I bet you can’t do this. So just shut up and sit down.”

Now don’t get your underwear in a bunch. I’m not mindlessly criticizing this video. The story has a lot of potential. Done well, it could actually be a very heart-wrenching video despite its very common concept.

The problem with the video is that it makes the rookie mistake of trying to squeeze in too much within a short timeframe. There’s something called ‘Chekhov’s gun’. Everything in a short narrative must be essential. So if you introduce a hardass coach, you better be sure that coach makes an appearance. As a result of not keeping the story ‘tight’, the video feels aimless and does not really tug at the heartstrings.

“So, Zareth,” you say, “what could you have done better?”

Well, I would have remove all mention of basketball. (And the two useless shots of the sun).

 

I've enough of this bullshit

Image credit to USAToday

Oh no you fucking didn’t.

“But, but, but”, you stammer, “isn’t basketball central to the story? And Fletcher is making me shit my pants.”

Nope, it’s not. The problem with the video is that there were two competing narratives: basketball and achieving top marks in the nation-wide exams. So either the video concentrates on basketball or on being studious. In this case, the narrative of being studious won. So basketball is out.

 

upset

Image credit to CinemaBlend

Fuck you.

So why did the narrative of being studious won? Well, it’s because there was nothing at stake in the basketball narrative. What do I mean by that? If basketball was central to the story, then there should be more at stake. It means that our hero would have to quit the top national basketball team and lose his basketball scholarship just to take care of his mother. But there was no mention about any of that. So if our hero stops playing basketball, the most he suffers is an abusive physical, emotional, and psychological beating from Fletcher.

 

Abusing people is my passion

Image credit to Ricky’s Film Review

On the other hand, there is everything at stake in the studious narrative. If our hero get top marks in the nation-wide exam, he can get into a good secondary school. And if he gets into a good secondary school, he can receive a stellar academic education. And if he receive a stellar academic education, he can get into a top university, graduate with honours and get a good job. And with that job, he can look after his mother.

If he fails at the nation-wide exam, well, given Singapore’s education system, he’s kinda fucked.

See, not only is there more at stake, it’s also playing to the Singaporean audience’s psyche. And if you read the comments on POSB’s Facebook page about the video, quite a number mention about our hero’s filial piety (and to a certain extent, his academic achievements). Basketball, and sports in general, just does not have a big presence in the Singaporean’s mind.

It seems that basketball was shoehorned into the story. It is as if the writer or filmmaker is embarrassed of showing our hero as some nerd and introduced the basketball motif to make our hero seem less nerdy.

“Maybe it’s not that,” you say, “maybe basketball represent our hero’s childhood and the loss of it.”

Okay, then why even talk about basketball as our hero’s first love or even mention the coach? There’s better ways to do that. Maybe show a shot of our hero watching kids having fun through his bedroom window. It’s a lot more effective than establishing an entire useless backstory about basketball.

In short, the story structure failed. There’s a beginning but no middle (conflict) and no climax (conclusion). Everything just kinda died down.

The video should have just stuck closely to the source story. It was a lot more focused.

Look, I’m not shitting –

 

Shut it

Image credit to Pictureland

Shut your shit spewing mouth.

Thanks Fletcher.

As I was saying, I’m not shitting on the video. With some rewrites, revisions, and attention to the story structure, the video will definitely be a tearjerker. And a good example is this tearjerker ad by NTUC Income:

 

BUT SHE JUST WANTED TO GO TO POLY. Sniffs.

 

upset

Image credit to CinemaBlend

I know, kiddo, I know.

 

Last Song for LKY

When we entered the Parliament House to pay our last respects to Lee Kuan Yew, I scribbled down a short poem on the back of my friend’s farewell card.

From dust to dust
The sands of history will pass.
But you have left your mark,
In every Singaporean’s heart.

I came up with the poem on the fly, after queuing and walking for almost 9 hours throughout the humid and overcast night.

It’s a pity that I did not take a picture of the poem, because for the life of me, I cannot remember if the second line is: “The sands of history will pass” or “The sands of history will be passed“. The former make sense and sounds better. But I have a feeling that I might have actually written the latter after a marathon queuing session.

And I cannot remember if I wrote the last line as “In every Singaporean’s heart“. I think I might have wrote something else entirely.

Well, time will tell after the millions of tributes and condolences have been shifted through.

On another note, I wanted to talk about Amos Yee and Singaporeans who jumped on others in defense of LKY.

But then I thought otherwise and decided not too – no point joining the fray.

Lee Kuan Yew 1923 – 2015: End of an Era

Lee Kuan YewTaken from The Straits Times special edition cover

 

Lee Kuan Yew, the founding Prime Minister of modern Singapore passed away in the early hours of the morning on 23rd March.

He passed away five months before the 50th year of Singapore’s independence, an independence that was handed to him and the Old Guards of PAP (People’s Action Party). They went on to lead and develop the then fledgling nation-state of Singapore into one of the world’s financial centres and a leading metropolis within a generation.

Marked by a strong-will pragmatism and a farsighted vision, Lee Kuan Yew was the first among equals of a very talented and capable team that guided and built the modern Singapore of today. A modern Singapore that is shaped according to his vision through his numerous and sometimes controversial policies and actions. A modern Singapore that has, over the years, become synonymous with the man himself. Lee Kuan Yew has become so ingrained in the national psyche that to mention his name is to mention Singapore and vice versa. As Tommy Koh, Singapore’s Ambassador-at-Large, succinctly stated: Lee Kuan Yew is Singapore’s George Washington.

Yet even with his larger than life stature, Lee Kuan Yew eschewed any statue or national monument in his image. And there is no need. For the Singapore today is his national monument.

After he stepped down as Prime Minister in 1990, he turned his focus to the wider geopolitical arena, and became the elder statesman whose political insights and comments were sought by others around the world. However, Singapore and its survival on the world stage, still remained his top priority.

As the day comes to an end, obituaries and tributes flowed and continue to flow from various world leaders, international news agencies and online media, not to mention the various tributes and condolences from Singaporean politicians and populace.

As a young Singaporean who did not live through his premiership but yet felt his strong presence during his years in Cabinet as Senior Minister and then Minister Mentor, I may not agree with many of his decisions and his actions but I respected him for dedicating his entire adult life to Singapore. Given his international reputation, Lee Kuan Yew will always remain a controversial figure. It is and it will always be difficult to divorce the man from the legacy, to separate the myth from the fact.

But now is neither the time nor the day to debate his legacy. That time and day will come later. Now is the time for reflection and a moment of silence for the passing of one of Asian’s leaders and with him, an era.

 

Baby Drop

I know, I know, I’m a year late. Last year, I promised that I would write a post about an incident relating to a baby drop. Not the kind of baby drop where you leave a baby at the doorsteps of an orphanage and that kid grows up to become a hero/heroine (they always do). It’s more about the physical act of dropping a baby – or a toddler to be more exact. I actually wrote the post last year, but never got around to editing and posting it. So since this incident took place during last year’s Lunar New Year, and with the 2015 Lunar New Year a couple of days away, I’ve decided to post the entry (edited and recut).

So let’s start from the beginning, shall we?

It was a couple of days into the Lunar New Year when I attended a lunch outing with the extended family on my father’s side. I was the sole representative of my branch of the family tree as my immediate family was scattered across the four corners of the world. If I wasn’t alone, my dad would have probably went: “Zareth, put the baby down, now.”

Well, unfortunately I was alone.

Anyway, lunch was good and we celebrated it with yusheng or lo hei, also known as the ‘Prosperity Toss’. It’s one of the customary dish of Lunar New Year that is popular in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and some parts of China. Consisting of a number of raw ingredients, the aim of lo hei is to toss the ingredients as high as possible while screaming lo hei, lo hei, lo hei. The result is often a great big mess and a dish where the ingredients never really get mixed properly. Still, it’s quite fun.

Before the toss. Excuse the horrible drawing. It actually looks quite appetizing in real life.

 

After the toss. Three quarters of the ingredients usually end up on the table. And you end up apologizing to the waiters for the mess.

 

So what’s the point of tossing the ingredients apart from the sanctioned mess? Well, the height of your toss is proportional to the growth of your fortune. So if you want to get rich quick, you better fling that piece of raw salmon into the air and hope that it doesn’t land on your grandparents’ heads.

Lately I’ve also come to realized that most of the messes are due to the fact that each diner is trying to toss their way up to prosperity until the whole thing denigrates into a chopsticks battlefield. This is made worse when you consider the fact that each person is using a pair of extra-long chopsticks. Extra-long chopsticks = extra ammunition and rage.

The thing about lo hei is that if you attempt to sit and toss at the same time, you’re already cannon fodder.

 

So we lo hei-ed and hei lo-ed and ate and drank the whole afternoon long. After feeling sated, we decided to leave the restaurant (this decision was expedited by the restaurant closing for the afternoon). My relatives and I stumbled out of the air-conditioned interior and into the hot haze of afternoon drowsiness.

We ended up standing in the heat for about 15 minutes while everyone had a lengthy debate on whose house we should retire to for the afternoon siesta. The contenders had quickly come down to two of my aunts but the general consensus was still lo hei-ing back and forth without any conclusion. So while I waited for my relatives to settle on a decision, I surfed through Facebook.

“Is that a museum?” one of my uncles interrupted my mindless Facebook surfing.

“Eh?” I said.

“That building. It looks like a Chinese museum.”

I was a bit puzzled because we were in Clarke Quay, Singapore’s clubbing and pubbing nightspot. Granted, there might be a few museums in the general vicinity. But we were standing right in the heart of clubland and even with Singapore’s addiction to constant change, I don’t think a museum would have just drunkenly danced its way into Clarke Quay.

I turned to the general direction where my uncle was looking at and immediately said: “Oh, no, that’s a club.”

“Really?” He was incredulous.

I nodded with the accumulated wisdom of spending too much time in Clarke Quay during my younger days. “Yeah, it’s a club.”

“Oh,” he said and laughed, “it looks so much like a museum.”

Not a museum. (Taken from Linbery’s Panoramio account).

 

The impasse was finally broken and an agreement was reached. We were heading to one of my aunt’s house – a decision that was to be reversed barely 10 minutes later. Since my relatives had parked their cars at different areas of Clarke Quay, we decided to split into groups (that took another 5 minutes of deciding). I was tagging along with the uncle who asked if the club was a museum.

I was about to walk away when I saw my 18-months-old first cousin once removed (who’s also the grandson of abovementioned uncle) staring at a plastic container filled with dirty cutlery from a nearby restaurant. He was staring at the cutlery with rapt fascination. Apparently the cutlery represented an art form that spoke right to the heart of an 18-months-old toddler.

Nothing like an aquamarine background to complete the drawing.

 

So I walked up to him and said, “Hey M___, let’s go. Your parents are waiting for you.”

He kind of ignored me and continued to be fascinated with the plastic container. Maybe he was waiting for Finn and Jake from Adventure Time or Spongebob Squarepants and Patrick. Or whatever cartoons that toddlers watched nowadays. I took M___’s hand and sort of encouraged him to walk. It didn’t worked. He was still waiting for the wonders of the plastic container to reveal itself while my relatives had started walking away to their cars. So I decided to take advantage of my considerable strength and picked up M___.

M____ had no idea the fate that was going to befall on me. But mostly on him.

 

I had my left arm wrapped around M___’s chest while my right arm sort of hooked underneath his diaper-clad bottoms. In a way, M___ was sitting on my right arm with my left arm securing him to my chest. Everything was fine and dandy as I walked towards his parents.

About two seconds later, M___ realized that I was neither his mother nor his father. He glanced back and gave me a “who da hell are you?” look. Granted, neither his mother nor his father had facial hair so I guessed I failed the facial recognition test.

M___ decides that I shall not be his carrier

 

M___ was not happy. He wanted out of my arms. And he figured that the best way was to start wiggling around. I thought I had him secured in my arms but you know, toddlers. So somehow M____ was starting to break free of my bonds and was on the way sweet freedom.

I reacted by holding on to M___ tighter.

M___ continued to struggle.

I struggled to balance M____.

M____ continued to wiggle around.

It went back and forth and by then, I was losing both my balance and my grip on M___. I mean, try holding a toddler who does not want to be held while trying to maintain your balance. It’s apparently a much better core workout compared to standing on an exercise ball while lifting a pair of 20kg dumbbells.

So while I was focused on maintaining my balance, M___ broke free to freedom.

But M___ miscalculated. Instead of pitching himself forward so that he’ll land on his feet (but with a chance of landing on his face too), he decided to throw himself backwards. And across my body. With the full strength of an enraged 18-months-old. Up till today, I have no idea how the hell he executed that maneuver.

I think M___ actually flew over my shoulder and not across my body as depicted in the picture.

 

So the only thing I could do was to twist my body around and follow his trajectory while trying to break his fall as much as possible.

Of course I failed to do that. Otherwise I wouldn’t be writing about this.

baby-drop

 

The gif above kind of accurately depicts the fall – but remove the rugby player, the sportscaster, the football and the playing field.

There was split second of silence while both M___ and I stared at each other in shock.

The first thought that went through my head was:

“Oh fuck, I broke my cousin’s baby.”

Then an ear-splitting wail filled the entire empty quay. My relatives turned around and saw me half kneeling and squatting, trying to comfort M____ who was looking very, very distressed.

Apparently no one saw the entire incident since they were already walking away. So they only heard and saw the aftermath.

My cousin came up to me and asked what happened.

What else could I say? I couldn’t say, “M____ was practicing his flying triple kick but missed. He has potential though.”

So I said, “I, er, I dropped M____. It was an accident.”

Fortunately the facts of the case were established and my cousin told me there was nothing to worry about*. On the way to their house, my uncle and aunt told me not to feel bad and that kids had the tendency of falling off people arms. I also think my uncle made a passing remark that I fell out of people’s arms one too many times when I was a toddler.

Huh, so this is karma, I guess?

A couple of days later, over Skype, I told my father about the incident. There was a long pause as he contemplated on what to say. Then he gave me this advice:

“In future, you shouldn’t carry other people’s kids, wait till you have your own kids and then you can carry them.”

Thanks.

Oh, and M____ turned out to be fine. So all’s good. He still needs to work on that flying triple kick though.

 

*My cousin told me he trained M____ how to fall properly. Basically that consists of putting his arms out to break his fall. I guess that’s why M____ didn’t faceplant the ground when he tumbled from my arms.


I think the lyrics is quite apropos for this post.