Saturday, 24 March 2012

Really funny how things transpire. Can't wrap my head around it.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Why We Cheat

This is a fascinating read, written by Lisa Taddeo for Esquire. More than the ideas themselves (she's bold for her claims), it's the inch-perfect use of sensual imagery:
More than I believe in the sanctity of union and promise, I believe that everybody cheats. If you have not cheated yet, it's because you are still too grateful to be secure, or you have not yet had the opportunity, or the right color of red hair has not come along and sat down at the bar on a Tuesday when the jukebox was playing Leonard Cohen and your manhattan tasted like the future.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

When I was younger, I harboured the idea of being an illustration artist. That materialised somewhat into a service I provided before I entered NS in 2005, where I'd draw caricatures for clients. The novelty was that I'd use MS Paint to a large degree to do these drawings, for a fee.

The idea proved to be far too impractical, because MS Paint is obviously one of the slowest design tools one can use (although I like it because it is one of the easiest and most powerful design programmes). I didn't want to continue doing it. But after a handful of completed assignments, word got around about my service and til this day I still have friends asking for a drawing, and I'm still complying and still churning out those pictures. It's hard to turn many of these requests down because there's always a heartfelt reason behind why they want it done - as an anniversary gift, to salvage a relationship, to bid their closest friends goodbye - I've often pulled through these time-consuming works because I somehow feel the anticipation they have for that moment they show it to whoever they've wanted to include in the picture. It's too much of a letdown to refuse that. And I don't think I've ever failed to meet a deadline.

So, on Monday, a friend of a friend asked for a drawing. She needed me to draw her and her 7 colleagues, which she will then give to them as a parting gift as she's leaving Singapore for Africa. It's the craziest deadline I've ever been presented with, but I took it up. After 3 insane days, I delivered the drawing to her 5 minutes before 6pm, which was the time she absolutely needed it by.

I usually do not mind taking my time to draw and design, even if it takes waaaay too long by most other peoples' standards, because I do enjoy drawing. After this episode though I will think harder about taking up such time-tight assignments.

I don't think I did a great job and in fact I couldn't include some of the effects that, I think, make my drawings unique. Those effects take very long to accomplish. While I'm not proud of this (most artists will know how knowingly delivering subpar work feels), I knew that having the drawing was more important than the quality itself to her.

Most of the people I draw now are people I do not know. The social distance between me and the client is often something like a friend of a friend of a friend. But drawing faces and caricaturing them makes me intimately familiar with each person's face. If I see them on the street, I will recognise them, and they have no idea what I know. It's a strange feeling.

Also, in the case of my work, my drawings are nicer when they do not reflect accuracy. In the end it comes down to imagining what each person is remembered for, and then emphasising that.

Now that this is done, I can finally take a break.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Egocentric Update

Since this is a personal blog afterall I will change tack from the usual abstraction of ideas to writing a toast to my own recent life.

One could measure his days by the books he reads. For my recent past, I have the following to offer:

Rob Kurzban's Why Everyone (Else) is a Hypocrite
Doug Kenrick's Sex, Murder and the Meaning of Life
Stephen MacKnik & Susana Martinez-Conde's Sleights of Mind
David Buss's The Murderer Next Door
Mark van Vugt's Naturally Selected
Tony Clink's The Plan
John Townsend's What Women Want - What Men Want
Kay Hymowitz's Manning Up
Paul Davies's About Time
Desmond Morris's The Naked Ape and The Naked Woman
Geoffrey Miller's Spent
George Orwell's 1984 (yes, very late, but better late than never)
Robert Ornstein's The Evolution of Consciousness
Richard Wrangham's Demonic Males
Richard Wiseman's Quirkology
Ernst Gombrich's A Brief History of The World

A more concrete narrative of my life would probably revolve around the time I graduated from SMU and the whirlwind period between then and now, marked by the heady days of cheerfully preparing my graduate school admissions applications, the trip to San Diego for the SPSP Conference, working at Behavioural Sciences Institute, all the interesting little politickings happening in the academic office, and the anxiousness of not getting the most ideal responses from those graduate programmes I wanted to go to.

I can't quite complain about the life I've had from August last year til now. I've got a job that pays me a decent monthly salary that allows me to, kind of, do whatever I want, whenever I want. I've got great colleagues - all budding academics with egos so huge they want nothing to do with you unless you've got something to offer, which is great. I've been encouraged so much, particularly at that now distant and somewhat faded period of time between November and December where recommendation letters from my professors poured in, and I'm grateful for them. I looked all set to go - I published a paper in Personality and Individual Differences (which is still in press now but forthcoming soon) which I adapted from my honours thesis. On top of the award I received for my thesis, I also clinched the Baylis & Smith Oxford University Press award for the best world politics essay. That was a surprise. I was also given an Oxford University Press book voucher, which I used to acquire John Lewis Gaddis's We Now Know - Rethinking Cold War History.

Then the rejections started coming in. Anxiety, to some extent, reared its small ugly head for the first time. I'm never one to be fazed by things, so I tided through that phase, hoping for the best. Nothing came along. From 8 schools, I was down to 2 last options. Then things got both buoyed and complicated by an acceptance letter from SMU (which is not included in those 8 ideal schools). I was back to having to make a decision. That period of time from February to March made me see some of the strangest behaviours in my professors. And then I learnt the reason why I kept getting rejected - one by one, all the prospective mentors I sought after and emailed vehemently started deciding they did not want to accept students. Almost all, except for UPenn. No surprise there with its ivy league status. Now, that was irritating. What do you do when you ask a prospective mentor if he's taking students and he says yes, and then after you've done up all the documents and paid the hefty registration fee s/he says that s/he's changed her mind?

So now it's down to 2 schools left, or SMU. SMU isn't all that bad, but it can never offer that experience of training and living abroad for at least 4 years.

My salary, although decent, can never be enough. I do so much stuff on the side, drawing, writing and editing.

I'm meeting people every other day, exchanging so many ideas and hearing so many perspectives, it's fuckin' good times. Some days I work up to 18 hours, but it doesn't feel like work at all. And then yet I still have the freedom to visit my old friend, Le Baroque, every now and then. These days, guestlists are a common fixture and unless I'm invited to VIP, I'm a spoilt slug.

While I'm on a high with my projects, publications, awards and social life, the one thing that will determine my future is caught in a jam right now. But I have a month left to decide. Let that slowly come, but when it does, I'll put my foot down on it. I believe that life is measured by one's regrets, so choose wisely, don't sweat the small stuff and regret nothing.

Friday, 9 March 2012


If that's all you will be,
you'll be a waste of time

And she said, "keep trying, don't give up."

The time is nigh to decide.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Can't keep this thought out of my head. Can't put it aside; just keeps creeping back. Stood in the way between consciousness and sleep so many times. A novel feeling, a new notion, but a dangerous one, this. Learning, realising. Becoming reminders.

Its importance. Entitlement. The meaning of staying, caring, and love. How the rest fare in the absence of it. What a union entails. Youth. Hanging on. The echo of desire. Aching.