The Hexacoto

Listening to the sound of one hand clapping

Tag: frustration

Wandering to get to the far side of the desert

As my foot lands, a gentle swirl
exhales from my shoe as it crunches into the ground —
a breath aspirated with every step.
Rubber soles against
fine, particulate sediment
strum a succession of crunches
— an arpeggio that
wafts its way up to the ears
but is heard most intently and immediately
by the feet.
“Shrack, krack. Tracht, wrecht,” it sings.
Inventing words are not the sole purview of the lips, tongue and teeth.
Heel to balls articulate
the songs of a journey,
aided by the voice of the earth,
as I venture towards
mountains in the distance laid blue by
sun rays cleft into singularity by
Rayleigh scattering.

I lay down in the sand —
that seems burnt red from above
but shines brown around me.
An itchy embrace, but warm
— is it from today’s kindling
or remnants of yesterday’s flagration?
If my heart beats hard enough
a vibration of random motion,
would I create heat?
Perhaps then I could ignite a passion
so hot it turns the grit around me
into glass — not quite diamonds
but it would sparkle close enough;
bright enough for you.

The arrhythmia would kill me
but then I would at least be human enough for you.

Faith ignites a message that falls on stone ears

Faith

A red glow spreads as
electric lotus lamps burn
from a rosewood altar.

Ignites

Three sticks of incense
stuck into the ashes of previous attempts
to reach you.
I flick the dial of a lighter
and it goes “schick, schick.”
A few sparks and the flame is lit,
a covenant made on one end.

Three sticks of incense
rouse and extend fragrant tendrils skywards.
An extension to the heavens —
patch me through, operator.
The sandalwood dance this way and that,
seemingly reluctant to secure the connection,
but like all prayer,
one speaks regardless
of whether the other side is listening.

A Message

“Tua Pek Gong ah, Tua Pek Gong,
my grandma looked to you
for conferrings of harmony
the pious could achieve.
For those who hold their faith each day
in sticks of burning wood.
Structured sutras calm the heart;
metrical relief.

I washed upon these concrete shores,
a boat with much to give.
And countless leagues I’ve had to cross
to berth my anchors in
a port of gold, or so I’m told,
where dreams are to be had.
But all I have to moor the tide
are merely ropes of tin.

Tua Pek Gong ah, Tua Pek Gong
I do not know the form in which to speak
the words that my ancestors would beseech
protections that would sooth the stormy seas.
But would your red auspices run its course
In lands where red is mixed with white and blue?
Where ships are not the vessels they were built
but kindling from the boards that have been stripped.
I rely on mantras that I borrowed
in hopes of days where boats could be ships

That Falls On

Rectitude is all I have when
circumstances bend my back

My communion withers
as three sticks of incense stand
on their last legs.

Stone Ears

A ceramic smile
glazed upon a statuette
could never waver.

How do I tell you that I had pushed you away to protect myself, even as I still cared for you?

Post-Orlando

It has been a couple days since the shooting happened at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. The conversation has been continuing in the days since the shooting, and we are still feeling the emotional outflow of anger, pain, and shock that something like this has happened again. We’ve seen coverage of self-serving political candidates capitalising on this as a self-promotion opportunity, speculation about the sexuality of the shooter, the nation’s inability to act to prevent further shootings because it is crippled by lobbyists, intense coverage of the final moments as victims died, outrage at Muslims, people defending Muslims, Muslims being outraged, so on and so on and so on.

But amid the whirlwind of content outpouring, I find myself thinking about hate. I find myself thinking about what it must feel like to be living with so much hatred. What it must feel like to hate someone’s very existence without even having known them, hating them because they are labelled as something that goes against one’s “values”.

I tried to imagine hating the shooter Omar Mateen that took the lives of 49 sons and daughters that night in the club and I couldn’t do it. I could feel anger as I imagined what might have happened that night, but I feared that if I found myself capable of hating Mateen, I would be no better than anyone else hating someone else without knowing what they’re about. I thought about how I would have done had I been in that club, how I would have felt had any of the victims had been direct friends of mine. I was very cognizant of how removed I was from this incident, yet how connected I was to this issue at large. I was once again reminded that there were people who hated my for no particular reason, and wondered if I had been guilty of similar hatred.

People claim that this incident shouldn’t be about any individual — the problem is a systemic failure of the society at large. But larger problems are expressed at local levels, and if we don’t deal with problems from the ground up, how much less so can we attempt to solve problems at a larger level? I want to learn more about myself as I ingest this incident and I want to grow from it. From there, I hope to become a stronger person equipped to handle such complex issues and will be better equipped to talk to other people around it, and ultimately effect change that matters.

Seaworthy, But A Worth Not Seen

A ship arrived in the city
No one is aboard
A massive liner that could carry thousands
Not a soul to be seen
The finest luxuries afforded
No silverware even touched
A ship arrived in the city
No one knows why it was there

“Where did it come from?”
“When did it come?”
“How did it get here?”
“Who brought it here?”
“Why did it come here?”
“What will we do with it?”

Perhaps we could scuttle it, said one, use its wood as kindling
Perhaps we could make a playground out of it, said another
Perhaps as a homeless shelter?
No one thought to use it as a ship

And so the city folk took their axes
And hacked the ship apart
They pried plank from frame, steel from heart
The ship wept salty tears
For the ship crossed leagues and leagues of sea
To see a city it has heard of
Of shining ports and great big lights
Where ships could be ships

Unicorns on a unicycle at UNICON 17 Part 2

Previously, on Part 1 of Unicorns on a unicycle at UNICON 17…

I arrived in Montreal, went to a naked bike ride, attended some UNICON events, made some friends.

mtl8

What’s the point of bringing two unicycles into Montreal and not doing a ride, right? A long distance ride was in the cards, because I wrote “Long Distance Ride” on them.

I wanted to go to Habitat 67, because the last time I was in Montreal I got lost and did not make it there. Habitat 67 was my first introduction to Moshe Safdie and his works, and subsequent introduction to brutalism and architecture movements. The best I got previously was a blurry view of the site from a distance in the evening, because the island Habitat was situated on is incredibly confusing.

Anyway, I set off from my friend’s place, with whom I was staying, and realised it was a pretty straightforward ride. However, what was not so straightforward was riding on the roads. Because:

Montreal roads are utter shit.

Seriously, did they pave them out of sugar? Potholes, cracks, and dragons waiting to snare the unsuspecting (uni)cyclist to break their mothers’ backs. I must have broken mine many times, because I fell many times. According to my local friend Mike, this is a local wisdom:

montrealroads

This is how I unicycle in Montreal:

moncafeglace

I dropped an iced coffee while riding Montreal’s treacherous roads. It was half-full too! (Is it optimism if I drop a half-full cup of coffee or half-empty cup of coffee?) I bemoaned loudly my dismay (in French of course, because we’re in Montreal. Come on.) at the city’s lamentable roads.

Lost coffee aside, I did manage to eke out a 51 kilometre ride. Here’s the map of the route, click image for larger picture.

090814

Somewhere early in the ride, I hit a hidden pothole when I was going downhill and I flew forward really hard. I was really worried I was going to land on my bare knees and had to roll on the roads, but luckily I managed run out the momentum. I must have been going at 22km/h. While I was alright, my unicycle apparently bumped around and into the rear of a car, whose family was standing around. Then I had to worry if I damaged his car, but luckily there was no damage. After ascertaining that his car was fine, then he asked if I was OK which I said I was and sped off, albeit more cautiously this time.

mtl9

All that talk about getting to Habitat 67, I finally got there and took pictures like an architecture nerd. Sated, I cycled onto the islands of Parc Jean-Drapeau. I had fun riding around the F1 track and going “broom broom.”

mtl11

I thought I would be able to get out the other side and then find my way out by going north, but then I ran into this:

mtl10

A raising bridge was raised so some private yachts can pass through. Meanwhile, us non-1%-ers twiddled our bicycles (and unicycle) while we waited for the bridge to come back down. I didn’t wait long enough for it to come down, because 15 minutes later the bridge was still up. So I backtracked all the way I came — something I really hate to do — and made it back onto the mainland of Montreal.

mtl12

I had lunch at Beaudry, which was the gay district of Montreal. It was very pretty and gay. I had lunch at an A&W, something I hadn’t seen in years! It also had free wifi, which was great.

mtl5

I cycled back to the college, and then to the apartment where the other Singaporeans were staying, and then back to Mike’s. Here are the final stats of the trip.

Total elapsed time: 4 hours 30 minutes
Total moving time: 3 hours 16 minutes
Total stopped time: 1 hour 14 minutes
Maximum speed: 27.9 km/h
Total UPD’s: Frickin’ SEVEN. 4 times alone on that accursed Rue Sherbrooke. 1 time speeding downhill and unicycle bumped into a car.
Number of potholes dodged: Infinity
Number of iced coffee spilled: 1
Steps counted by the 3DS: About 21,000
Breaks taken: 4

 

Wrap up, Start Over

The year of 2013 was momentous: I wrapped up a milestone in my life where I graduated from university, and was thus to embark on my next, into working life.

Instead, I boarded a ride into an extended period of self-doubt and uncertainty, as I failed to get a full-time paying job.

I learnt to challenge the notion of success and succeeding, and what it takes to succeed. I came to the conclusion that it is not so dependent on how skilled a person is, as it is knowing people and finding channels in which to succeed.

I lost the will to write for a while.

I found a reason to write again.

My year was peppered with moments of anxiety and helplessness, and as moments becomes days, and days turn to weeks, I was cast afloat. Perseverance struggled against despair, attrition reared its ugly face and slowly wore down the smiles, leaving behind a numb sombreness.

When one is steeped for so long in the cesspool of the unpleasant, one learn to be inured to its sting. But in learning to deaden the nerves that feel the unpleasant, so do the nerves that feel the pleasant and joy die out too, for they are the same thing. I have had not a reason to smile, but so did I not grimace as well, as I meandered the course, hoping, no that word is too strong, waiting for the happenstance that something better comes along for me to latch on to, to break this autopilot.

Because it is very tiring not to feel anything. The wilful denial of reacting to anything is exhausting — I’ve held my hand up to keep emotions at bay, and now my arms begin to tire.

Dare I even hope for hope this coming year?

Happy new year, everyone.

So many questions asked, no answer provided

Singapore bus death triggers riot

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Photo credit AFP, taken from BBC News

Most people who have a connection to Singapore would probably have known that on the 9th December, 2013, a riot broke out. Initial reporting from Singapore media Channel News Asia reported on the incidence plus with an advisory to stay away from the scene, stating the number of participants (about 400) and whether there were casualties or not.

That is all very well, but I think as with any credible news medium, not only is reporting what happened sufficient, but some sort of investigative journalism as to why the riot happened is required, isn’t it? Even as things have died down, there is scarcely any definitive work as to the cause of the unrest. Soon, alternative news sources began filling in the gaps where state media had failed to furnish what the people wanted to know.

People on Reddit provided a time breakdown of the chain of events, as did some blogs, although their sources referenced each other. Of course, vitriol against the prevailing ruling party started pouring in on these threads, drowning out possible discussion as to why the riot started.

The Real Singapore, another alternative news source, started editorialising, which in itself isn’t too bad, but TRS having a streak of being anti-PAP, their contribution was a rehash of a populist anti-immigrant stance that disenfranchised Singaporeans had with the PAP’s lax immigration policies. I quote:

On the surface, this could easily be put down to the foreign workers being more rowdy and less law-abiding than Singaporeans but in reality everyone has a boiling point and people are not naturally very violent or blood-thirsty.

The big difference might be that we are taught from young to be fearful of the government and listen to authority.
When foreign workers come to Singapore, they do not have the same “training” and can become more rowdy more easily.
This is particularly a problem when the government brings these FTs (FT: “Foreign Talent”/i.e. immigrant workers) here in large numbers and they bring with them their values and cultures and do not learn from Singaporeans how they should act here.
Last night, this was clearly a problem with a large, rowdy riot breaking out.
Many netizens commented that the photos and videos looked like they were not taken in Singapore and further raised concerns that if this is happening, it is not a far stretch to say that other problems such as higher crime rates and more occurrences of rape might be happening soon too.

Effectively turning the discussion into a “These foreigners are not as well-trained/subservient (double jab at 0our over-policing AND at lacking discipline standards of those overseas?) us, and hence are prone to violence and lustful acts.” The author further adds:

These people must have been stressed out and otherwise frustrated with their lives to so eagerly break out in a huge riot.
This could be due to work-related factors such as long work hours, low pay, no welfare and other forms of exploitation from their bosses. Singapore has many reported cases of foreign worker exploitation so this is really not an unrealistic possibility.
Singapore has no effective workers’ unions and so workers’ complaints and concerns are very rarely heard.
When people are oppressed in such a way with no way to vent their frustration or get recourse, they will eventually boil over. All their frustration and stress is like fuel awaiting a spark to ignite the flame. Perhaps this is what happened yesterday evening.

That still does not shed any more light as to how whatever transpired that night, merely speculation that unfair work conditions and pent-up frustration formed the powder; how, then, was the accident the spark that ignited the riot?

Rather than we all just sit here twiddling thumbs, throwing blind guess, why isn’t anyone interviewing the rioters? Surely the rioters would know best why they were rioting? Without any actual word from those involved, all these theories require a leap of logic from “overworked, unpaid, labourers” to “bus accident killing a fellow national leads to a riot.”

Someone should be asking these questions, to the rioters and by-standers:

  • Did you witness the accident?
  • If yes, what did you witness? How did the accident happen?
  • Did the deceased seem intoxicated? Was the bus driver driving recklessly?
  • Who was the first person who discovered the accident?
  • How did the crowd of Indian nationals gather at scene? Did someone call upon them?
  • Did anyone else other than the Indian nationals gather at the scene?
  • If he called upon the others to gather, why did he do that?
  • Who called for the ambulance/police?
  • What happened while people were waiting for the ambulance/police? Was there a crowd by the time they arrived?
  • How did the police handle the situation? What words were exchanged? Did they physically move people around?
  • Who started the fire? Why did he start it? At what juncture did the smashing and torching start?
  • What were being yelled during the riot?

I’m sure there are a lot more questions that can be asked, all of which would answer a lot more questions than the “coverage” we’ve received so far.

The whirligig of unemployment

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Image credit to NY Times

Jenner Barrington-Ward says that she has been told, “point-blank to my face, ‘We don’t hire the unemployed.’ ”

If there’s a statement that makes no sense, it’s the quote from above. What’s the point of creating jobs, if not to give to those who are unemployed and looking? Where are these jobs going? The news report that unemployment is slowly ticking down, but the majority of those unemployed aren’t seeing any marked improvements in their joblessness situation.

As reported in the New York Times, those who have been retrenched or jobless for an extended period of time find themselves stuck in a rut:

For Ms. Barrington-Ward, joblessness itself has become a trap, an impediment to finding a job. Economists see it the same way, concerned that joblessness lasting more than six months is a major factor preventing people from getting rehired, with potentially grave consequences for tens of millions of Americans.

What’s the psyche behind not giving people who have been jobless for a while the jobs they are seeking, if they are qualified? The Times speculate that these people tend to be in poorer health, or they might have some sort of strained relations, possibly being a liability on the company. This is a system of employment that holds little pity for those they have kicked out, because it does little to take them back in once they’re out.

As pointed out in the article, leaving these people out in the cold has consequences on the economy, such as “lost production, increased social spending, decreased tax revenue and slower growth.”

But companies who are not hiring are not seeing it that way, are they? They are more concerned with their own financial stability, and the additional hiring of anyone is an additional payroll they have to pay out, and many companies are so concerned with their frugality, that the national-scale impact of their austerity is left to the worries of someone else. But if everyone else is doing that (“I can’t afford to hire anyone; I’ll let someone else the hiring to bolster the economy”), therein lies the eventual self-immolation — no one hires, less people have spending power to buy products, companies see a drop in revenue, they cut down on hiring and perhaps even lay off more people to maintain “fiscal health,” cycle repeats.

Finding a reason to write again

Every day, I think of updating, and then the thought hits me, “Why bother?” Why indeed? I created this blog in an attempt to increase my online profile, that I may become more hireable. It has been nearly six months since I’ve graduated, and I’ve yet to find permanent employment.

I am in despair, honestly. I am losing the will to write.

That spiralling fall, first a slow tumble that leads into a plummet. The lurching feeling constantly gnaws away at your stomach, a most unpleasant feeling of unease. That freefall, that pitfall — never a moment of respite and without the solace of knowing if it will end or not; so much worse than  a clean, quick splat.

But after a while, the numbness sets in, and no, you don’t stop feeling the attrition, but you get so used to it being there, you learn to ignore its presence, even as it eats away at you.

The hardest part is not feeling the rage, whenever you look at friends around you being on whatever path they’re on. Maybe they hate their jobs, maybe their lives are listless, but to your lenses fogged up by pain and sorrow, everything else seems cheerier than your own situation, wilfully so.

I am stuck: will writing help unwind me?

I am definitely at a low point in my life, and as I age, each low is a sink much lower than the previous. I have overcome the previous; will I succumb this time? Or emerge victorious, and look back upon this period with un-fond laughter?

I have so many things I wish to write, I have so many tabs on my browser opened with things I want to fill this blog with. Let this post be the key to let them all come in, once again.