Saturday, May 29, 2010

Institutional bias, failed plans and self-inflicted torture

Quite a bit has happened since my last post back in February. Did your world darken while I was away? Or brighten up? Hmm. Don't answer that question, whatever your answer is. I have this niggling feeling that my draftsmanship has deteriorated during my long sabbatical. The only things I wrote during that period were dull law notes taken during revision classes. Hour upon hour of torture. It screws with your head, and not in a good way.
Yeah. I wasn't holed up on some tropical island in the Bahamas sipping on a pina colada watching girls dresed up as mermaids (not the sanitised Disney version- think the Furies ala Homer) frolic with dolphins. I was busy studying, or really, trying my best to study for something I do not like but have no choice but to get through because I've started it and refuse to back off. I'm stubborn like that, I know. But I've already spent one year doing this degree and I'm not planning to throw it away just now.

It wasn't all about studying with a bandanna tied around my head (with 'banzai!' written on it) and vats of coffee to keep me awake. Nah. Life went on, for better or worse. I didn't touch my blog- alright, I did waltz in every now and then to get rid of spam- but I was busy as usual on Facebook- playing Mafia Wars, mostly- but you don't want to hear about that, do you? I sure don't.

A brief recap of what's gone on since I was gone, step by step. Let's begin with the Grand Plan. The Grand Plan was to win a series of contests- one being to win an LG Chocolate phone (Why I Like It Longer. No, Seriously…); two round-trip flight tickets to either ye olde Constantinople or Japan ( As Easy as Cooking Instant Ramen); and Rm 8888 in cash (My Dream in the Year of the Tiger). It failed spectacularly.

For the first contest, the LG Chocolate, I had to post a 'creative post' regarding the phone in question to stand a chance of winning one of three units. I mashed my brains thinking of how best to go about it, and eventually came up with (what I recall to be) a descriptive satire (feel free to rebut me if I'm wrong).

I wasn't all that disappointed that I didn't win. Of course, I don't mean that I didn't care about the prize and joined for the heck of joining. No, I wanted to win, but I wasn't too disappointed for not winning, but more about who won. Now you're probably thinking 'bah, he's just being a sore loser'. I won't deny that. I was a little sore. But not for losing, mind you. If you remember, my entry was all text. A veritable wall of text. Of the three winning entries, one was a a single composite image- a banner of sorts advertising the phone. Another was a series of (badly) photoshopped photos with minimal descriptive text, and the third was, I think, a Flash video. This, and further events, contributed to my darkening thoughts on how the world is just biased in favour of flashy colours over black and white text. More on that later.
As for the next contest, I had to make a video depicting how easy it is to use, Malaysia's national carrier's, Malaysian Airlines, online booking site. The idea for the video came to me quite easily- I don't know if I mentioned in in that post, but never mind- I remembered watching a 3 minute video on Youtube depicting Izumi Konata from Lucky Star waiting for a cup of instant ramen to cook while making weird noises. Really cute.

Anyway, first prize for this contest was two tickets to Istanbul, and second prize was two tickets to either Tokyo or Seoul. I was actually gunning for second prize, believe it or not, but I'd gladly have taken first prize if they decided to give it to me. I didn't win this one either. So much for the Grand Plan: 2/3s in shambles. I think I have the links to the winning videos somewhere- hold on, let me check... this and this. I really thought I'd win this one, which is why I felt a little down after getting the results in my mail. There was something strange, though- it announced that the winners would be going to Tokyo and Seoul. So what happened to Instanbul? Did the Airline withdraw the prize? The buffoons. I didn't feel like spending every waking hour hoping for a second email announcing the winner of two tickets to Istanbul, so I just sniffed and walked away.

The third and final contest. This one very nearly broke me in mind and soul (I'm exaggerating a little, but you're used to that, no?). For this one, I had to write a 'creative post' to be eligible to join 87 other contestants in a run around a shopping mall. It was to be about why I deserved to win the prize. I hashed out an incredibly long post (the total word count went into the thousands- two? Three? I forget) about a backpacking trip to Japan, in which I had the most incredible luck, exploring the country from corner to corner on a shoestring budget, landing a modelling opportunity, and even falling in love. I managed to make the shortlist, which to some extent, served to soothe my hurt feelings regarding text-discrimination. My wall of text was shortlisted! Yay!
But the cheering didn't last for long. I had no idea what I was in for. The run was called the 'Tiger Run', and it was organised by Tiger Beer and Nuffnang (a blog advertising company). I thought it'd be a little spurt with media to record everything. Nope. It turned out to be a marathon run around the perimeter of the mall, some 5-7 circles, with pit stops at every turn. I was at the lead in the beginning, being more accustomed to sprinting, but dropped off to the back of the pack in no time. It didn't help that I haven't been working out for ages. Or that I was wearing a pair of heavy jeans. There's a reason for that- there was a consolation prize for the 'best dressed runner'- I didn't win it anyway.

It nearly killed me. My heart was pounding, my feet burning. The first pit stop was quite unfair. It required us to stop at a bar with 4 laptops, to sign into Twitter and post something about the run. Ah. Free publicity for them. Somehow I felt like a hamster running after a carrot... It was unfair in that those who had wi-fi enabled phones could simply go online and tweet from there instead of joining the queue. I had to wait, obviously. Some people even had to sign up for an account there and then=.=

Another pit stop involved eating a spicy chicken wing at a restaurant-bar- Cafe Chulo, I think it was called. When I say spicy, I mean it- I've never had anything spicier. I could drink an entire bottle of Nando's spiciest peri-peri sauce and it would be like winter melon juice in comparison. Continuing the run, I actually took a little diversion from the path and went to a previous pit-stop where we had to dip into an ice box and pull out a bottle of beer. The staff there remembered me, and asked why I was there again. I grabbed a chunk of ice, told them about the chicken wings, stuffed it into my mouth and went on running.

I passed by a cute little kitten somewhere near the end. It was a most pleasant sight. I wanted to stop and give it a pet, but I didn't want to come in last either, so I ignored it and went on. It wasn't easy, but I finished the run. It left me zombified and in no mood to do anything else. There was an after-run party at another bar. Many people had come with friends and I was probably the only one there who came alone. It's worth mentioning that I've never liked bars. Or thought much of beer. So the free flow of beer didn't really do much for me. I didn't go around chatting people up either- my clothes stank, I was tired, in an emotionless mood (stoned without the help of alcohol) and I've never been one to walk up to strangers and strike up a conversation anyway.

Prize-giving ceremony. As expected, the grand prize went to one of those marathon-addicts. Wiry muscles, shorts, singlet, running shoes and all. Consolation prize for best-dressed runner went to, um, one cosplayer in a blue maid dress and a blond wig, and a guy in combat fatigues. Shockingly, there was a consolation prize for first person to quit the run too. Rm 88 and a six-pack of beer. Blast. I should have quit early on and got some cash. That was bad, but not as bad as the fact that I didn't get the prize for 'most creative post'. That one was especially demoralizing, in light of previous events, as well as the effort I'd put into composing that post. And that's the end of it. So much for my Grand Plan.

Interestingly, when Nuffnang posted a brief write-up on the event on their blog, I was the first to comment. I said something like this: "Didn't expect it to be that long, but it was good exercise, haha" or something along those lines. When I checked back later my comment was deleted. It didn't seem offensive to me when I posted it. Ah well.

Meanwhile, final exams went on from the 12th till the 27th of May. My first paper was Commercial Law- being the first, it usually takes the place of sacrificial goat, but it went alright, I suppose. I managed to throw in a Tolkien reference, in an essay question concerning 'retention of title clauses' in contracts, whereby sellers reserve ownership in goods until payment is made. How did I use it? It went something like this: "Buyers can't be expected to sit on their goods like Tolkien's dragons" or something like that. Actually, it's quite wrong in the fact that dragons don't even enter into contracts in the first place. They just take the stuff and kill the sellers. Or eat them. Which makes them much wiser than human buyers, I suppose.

Second paper was Tort Law. This went a little better in that I've done it during A-Levels and as such had most of the basics down. Nothing special worth mentioning- should be able to pass this one. Third paper was Trust Law, and the fourth Land. Both didn't go very well- hope I can pass them. If not, it could be a referral... or -shiver- I'll have to repeat the entire year. Please no. I went to the bank with my mom after the last paper, to open a bank account and buy some government bonds. There was a cute CSO (Customer Service Officer. Did I just make that up?) who dealt with us, but it didn't help much in salving my irritation over having a ridiculous last paper. I somehow managed to have a jaw cramp during the last paper too- after a particularly vigorous yawn. Managed to push it back into shape with minimal pain.

By the way, my sister has been inspired to start a blog (Styling Bodies), where she posts her artwork. It's amazing how fast she's gained a dedicated following. I think she gets some 30+ hits every day, which is what I had when I was still active on This in itself is another blow to me. Combined with everything else- the failed contests, I see a general trend to discriminate against textual compositions in favor of pictures. I feel for writers everywhere.

Another thing I’ve noted: girls get all the attention. Apparently if you have mammary glands that automatically gives you an 80% head start over the competition. If you’re a guy all you get is spam advertising discounts on Viagra.

Writing the post for the Tiger Run drained me of energy to write. Studying English law encouraged in me an unwarranted and vindictive irritation towards anything related to the British. I blogged all the way up to last year's exams. I even went on commenting on blogs that I read regularly. This time I stopped for real. Zero contact. Evidence of increased discipline, or frustration? Whichever it was, I'm back to normal now, I hope.

That said, I might not be able to post as much as I'd like. I'm planning a few excursions- one with ex-college mates to... I don't know, anywhere. Planning it is murderous. There's another trip with school friends to Penang, although I'm not sure I can make it, as I might be going off to China for a month long trip. I'll either start from Beijing, and work my way down to Shanghai, where I'll catch the ongoing World Expo, head down to Guangzhou (Canton), and down to Hong Kong, before finally coming back. Or I could start in Shanghai, and then take the Trans-Siberian over to Moscow. Getting back from there will be expensive though. Nothing's settled yet though, as I still have plenty of research to do.

A minor event of interest that might be worth mentioning. This occurred sometime during revision- I'd headed to a nearby McDonalds for lunch. It was full and I had to share a table. Sat at one with a Westerner. A tourist, I thought. After a while he asked me if I was from 'around here'. I told him. I thought he wanted directions to somewhere. Why do you ask, I asked him. 'I thought you're Spanish,' he said. That took me aback. 'Do I look Spanish?' He gestured behind me and said 'you look more Spanish than anyone else around here'. I took a look around the place and saw that everyone else looked very obviously Malay, Indian, Chinese, or whatever they were. And there I was, the only question mark present. 'Point taken,' I said, with a grin. It turned out that he was waiting there for a Spanish guy, but had no idea how the guy looked.

Maybe I'll just move to Spain.


  1. @A20-man: Ah yes, back from limbo myself. Temporarily. At least, you've tossed in a few colorful images to soften the blinding intensity of your "wall of text". But I must point out, for a generally cynical guy (based on your sarcastic slant), you're pretty optimistic (perish the thought!) to juggle such high expectations for your contest results... Perhaps too much Newtonian sleep, and not enough cardio "air bicycling" contributed to your destiny? Hmm, only one year along the legal path? I stumbled across 3 years of Architecture before shifting onto the Civil Engineering path. And even after obtaining the bachelor's, I inevitably abandoned the master's road. So it's not too late to rediscover or reconstruct yourself in your own self-imposed or self-inflicted image, eh? Towards that end, your global excursions sound promising! But perhaps, avoid the plains... You know what they say, "The rain in Spain falls mainly in the..."

  2. @Jay: Haha. Welcome back, for now. I'll be off myself for about a month, anyway- back to limbo, in a sense. Glad the images managed to save you from blindness, heh. I haven't had anyone complain about it so far, but I guess if they don't have the patience to read through they wouldn't bother with complaining.

    Ah, you've seen through me. Yup, not enough air cycling (sayyy, I've admitted to that already), but not enough sleep. Or maybe more than enough. Nah, I'm actually flexible enough to be able to temporarily suspend my cynicism whenever it requires- mostly in relation to myself. World affairs and the like remain in a bottomless pit;)

    Oops. Looks like I screwed up there. Not one year, but two years- I've just completed my second year- waiting for the exam results now, which should arrive a short while after I get back. I'm really not inclined to quit it since I've used so much time on it, and unlike you, I was pretty spiteful about falling into law in the first place- so I knew what I was getting into. I guess you thought you liked Architecture in the beginning, no?

    Haha, no, I don't know what they say about Spanish rain. I suppose you're referring to this?

  3. @A20-man: Yup, you got the quote, been around for decades. So like I said, stay away from the "plain" (in all senses of the word), hehe. Yeah, I thought I'd like Architecture, but inevitably, trying to please the esoteric profs or fit in with the artsy classmates wore me down and wore me out. Or perhaps, the lack of engineering and mathematical perspectives felt superficial. Oddly enough, upon switching to Engineering, I stood out as the more artsy one myself. Crossing between two worlds, yet not quite cozy in either...

    Ah, "suspended self-cynicism"... sounds too close to "delusions of grandeur". But not all is lost. At least you have a sister to target the blame! Hmm: "The flaming blame falls mainly on the dame." Whattaya think?

  4. @Jay: Hmm, I've never heard of it before this. Ah well- I'll most definitely avoid the 'plain' while I'm away- I'll be sure to keep watch for the weird, the bizarre, the (hopefully) cheap, heh.

    Architecture... I imagine there was a lot to do with geometry, physics, and the like. Numbers and precision, coupled with the need to be 'different' from the rest of the lot. I guess you can't really be 'artsy' in Engineering unless you're aiming to trump Newton and co. by coming out with some new formula, lol.

    The two do sound rather close... both involve personal separation from one's perception of the mainstream world- I guess the difference is in terms of degree and actions- in the former, I'd actually be working towards achieving something; while in the latter, I might either do nothing, believing that I've already achieved something, or doing something, but in the wrong direction entirely.

    Haha, nah, my sister's just an example I used to illustrate one side of the bias argument. No need to blame her. Nice rhyme there, although I don't think she can be described as a 'dame' yet... though she acts like a duchess at times, haha.

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