Friday, 11 December 2009

Do you have an interesting story to tell?

I read a book "The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs", and as you probably know, Steve Jobs is the CEO of Apple Computers and he's been rated as one of the best presenters in the world (yes... you're thinking "hey, if I had the chance to unveil the iPhone I'd be a great presenter too!).

Anyway, one of the gems in the book was this - the presentation slides are your props in telling the story. They're important, but not anywhere as important as the story you're going to tell. So the morale of the story is to have an interesting story to tell in the first place! The props are just there to support you - not to replace you as the hero of the day.

What has this got to do with the following video? Well... this comedian had a very humble prop, but an interesting story to tell. And that's what matters!

Monday, 7 December 2009

Help Feisty Princess Charmaine fight cancer!

If you're thinking of splurging on something to make yourself feel good this Christmas, stop.

There're other ways of feeling good, such as helping others in need. I came across this blog while surfing, and I was floored to know that there's someone in need of our assistance. Charmaine is only four, and she has been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. Treatment is possible but costly, running at US$350k. It's good to pamper yourself from time to time, but before you splurge on the handbag, dress or gadget that you might buy and use for only a couple of times,  consider using a portion of that fund to help someone else instead.

The treatment is costly and Charmaine's single mum cannot raise the funds alone. Harness the power of the internet and help them raise the funds - it only takes a little effort each to do so. Please spread the word!

Feisty Char needs bullets to fight!

I've thought over it carefully. So here's the deal - I've a IWC Top Gun chrono for sale (brand new in box). It's a collector's item since it's been discontinued. Buy it from me and the entire proceeds ($8800) will go to Charmaine's donation for medical bills. Yes, you read correctly... the entire sum! So if you're looking for a nice watch to buy, this is it. You'd definitely feel much better wearing it knowing that you've helped a little girl fight cancer.

You can write the cheque directly to the account number listed on the blog, so the money can go direct to her.

IWC Pilot Chrono Ceramic TOP GUN edition (44mm)
Mint condition with everything as per AD would supply. Warranty card dated 27th October 2008.

Condition: MINT
Accessories: Complete with boxes (including outer brown box), original IWC strap, instruction manuals, and warranty card
Price: S$8,800


A fellow watch lover Andy at the Singapore Horological Club has kindly agreed to donate a fine bottle of The Glenlivet 18yrs old single malt whisky to the kind soul who purchases the IWC ceramic Top Gun watch! The Glenlivet 18yr single malt scotch received a double-gold medal at the 2009 San Francisco World Spirits Competition, so it's really top grade stuff! Thanks Andy!

Latest update (14th Dec 2009)

The IWC Top Gun chronograph watch has been sold to James Ng, who was only too happy to be able to help someone in need. As I mentioned to him, there's no better way to enjoy his watch than knowing that he has bought someone else time to live on!

This is also a great chance to thank my dear friends Khim, Sean and Cindy, who donated more money to this cause. I'm sure this Christmas will be a great one for all of us, knowing that we've done our part for someone in need. More importantly, we hope that it'll be a season of joy for Charmaine and her family as well!

So comes the good news... we've consolidated a total of SGD10,000 for Charmaine! Yes... I know it's still a drop in the ocean considering the amount that she needs, but it's a step in the right direction. So watch this space... I'll be contacting Charmaine's family to pass them the donation.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Alfa Romeo launches the Giulietta

Alfa Romeo has just announced a new five-door compact based on the MiTo platform - the Alfa Romeo Giulietta. The new car will replace the aging Alfa 146, and this front-drive compact will debut with four engines - two 1.4-liter petrol engines (120 & 170 bhp) and two diesels (1.6-litre at 105bhp  & 2.0-litre at 170 bhp). The name Giulietta means "little Julia" in Italian and is pronounced Julie-etta, and is steeped in Alfa's history as a best-selling sedan.

The new Giulietta shares the same strong Alfa DNA as the other cars in its line-up, with its updated Alfa shield and sharing design elements with the Alfa Mito compact. The car measures 171.3 inches long on a 103.5 inch wheelbase (width is 70.9 inches and height is 57.5 inches), making it slightly longer than a Golf (which it'll compete against) and slightly taller than the out-going Alfa 146.

Sporting enthusiasts will always remember Alfa as the sports car manufacturer, and they will be pleased to know the Alfa Romeo Giulietta will be launched with a 1.8-liter four-cyclinder enine with turbocharged direct injection producing 235 horsepower, as the Alfa Romeo Giulietta 1750 TBi. The car may be compact, but all models will feature a host of technology such as stability control, DST (Dynamic Steering Torque) and Q2 electronic differential (splits torque between the two front wheels to maintain grip and avoid wheel slip).

Personally, I think Alfa is on to a winner with the Alfa Romeo Giulietta (they probably need to work on getting the correct pronunciation out to the customers). The design for a compact car is stunning to say the least, and with the bland (IMHO) styling of the current Golf and Polo, this little number can run circles around the competition (which I felt should include the MINI and Fiat 500). I love the resigned headlight cluster (much more than the MITO) and the creases in the bonnet is a nice touch of muscle. The honeycombed grill reminds me of the previous Golf GTi, which is not a bad thing.

From the side, the Alfa Romeo Giulietta looks equally stunning with the smart crease along the shoulder-line of the car. A unique aspect will be the hidden door handles of the rear doors, which harks back to the Alfa 156. I'm glad they put it back here in the Giulietta because it's a perfect fit for the sporty character of the compact, making it look like a coupe even! And the turbine-blade rims have the killer-look, although I'm sure that you'd probably need 17" or bigger rims for the full-effect. They do look like they're really difficult to to clean though. And yes... the red Alfa brake calipers are heavenly...

There are many cars today which are mismatched - they either have a nice front or a good rear, but seldom both. The Alfa Romeo Giulietta on the other hand, got both ends right. In fact, I'd think the rear is even better than the front! One can't help but think of the Alfa Brera when they look at the swanky curves of the Alfa Romeo Giulietta, so obviously the Alfa DNA runs deep in the family. The end result of teh creases and curves are dramatic, and the tail-lights are styled with a flair for passion, unlike the dead-looking or gawky and awkward looking taillights you find in many cars today. Twin-exhaust for a 1.4-litre car? Definitely a case of aesthetics over technicality, but they do look gorgeous! The keyhole is probably hidden behind the badge of the serpent, delivering one of the most stunning rear design of a car.

The Italian flair for design and passion continues inside with the incredibly stylish interior. The uniquely styled seats take centre-stage with the ribbed design that only Italians can pull off, emblazoned with the Alfa logo in red stitching on the headrest. The official pictures show a huge retractable sunroof as well, which will probably be an expensive option (maybe only available in the 1750 TBi?). If I must criticize something, perhaps it's the headroom which looks pretty tight in the photo, especially for the rear passenger. There're no official photos of the dash board yet, so I do hope that doesn't disappoint an otherwise great design for a car interior.

So if you are looking for a nice continental compact car, there're the usual suspects such as the VW Golf/Polo, the MINI, the Peugeot 207 etc. And then there's the Italian alternative - the Alfa Romeo Giulietta. Darn... even the name sounds sexy already!

Thursday, 3 December 2009

The value of a crushed dollar note

A professor was talking to his class about the lessons in life, when he took out a dollar note from his pocket and asked if anybody wants it. The entire class put up their hands eagerly without a moment's hesitation. He folded it once and asked again, and as expected everyone raised their hands once more.

The professor then folded the dollar note into a small square and asked, "does anyone still wants this dollar note?" The entire class was waving their hands in the air by now, clamoring to be the lucky recipient of the money.

He unfolded the note carefully, and crushed it tightly into a small ball. "How about this? Everybody still wants this lump of paper?" The students shouted, "yes! We still want it!"

The professor dropped the note on the floor and stomped on it with all his might, while the class watched on in silence. "How about now? You guys still want it?"

Before the class could react, a student shouted, "yeah I want it! It's still money!" The professor picked up the note and handed to the student. He turned back to the rest of the class to explain the moral of the lesson.

"Many times in life, you'd be crushed and stomped upon by others. Without a strong sense of self worth, you might end up feeling small and worthless like a lump of paper. But no matter what I did to the dollar bill, all of you recognized its worth as a dollar, so it retained its value even as I abused it to the core."

"Never depend on others to determine your value - know your own worth. No matter how much others try to crush you, you will always know what you are capable and worthy of. Just like the dollar bill, the outside appearance will never diminish your true value."

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Welcome back to Photography Happenings!!

I started a website and e-newsletter service called Photography Happenings back in 2000 when the internet was not what it is today. Electronic bulletin boards were popular, as well HTML websites with blinking text (it gives me a headache just thinking about them!). We were using modems with dial-up speeds of 28.8 kbps, and photography information were more readily available in printed magazine than on the web.

A new dawn? Perhaps!

The Internet has come a long way since then. Fancy flash animation, rapid propagation of discussion forums, RSS feed and blogging have completely changed the online landscape. Now in Web 2.0 where interactivity and social connectivity rule, everyone has instant access to information unlike 9 years ago. When I ran the Photography Happenings site, I had e-newsletters to about a thousand subscribers in a monthly digest format. With so much new releases every other day, a monthly format is no longer enough today. And people today are so well-connected digitally, virtually any news is old news in a couple of days.

Now that I’ve managed to squeeze out some time from my day job (yes, I’ve one), I’m restarting Photography Happenings as a blog. Sure you might have heard some of the news announced already in some other sites, but I’ll add my opinions and comments in addition to the announcements, which hopefully will make them more useful to you.

Welcome back to the new Photography Happenings blog at

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

What's Saab with that?

If you think about continental cars, you'd think about luxury brands such as Mercedes, BMW, Audi or Volvo. If you're feeling rich, perhaps marques such as Ferrari, Lamborghini, Zonda, Maserati, Bugatti or Aston Martin will interest you. If you're feeling mainstream, be sure to check out Volkswagen, Peugeot, Citroen or Renault. If your taste runs a little more niche, you might even want to look at Jaguars, Alfa Romeos, MINI or Landrovers.

But what on earth can possibly compel someone to buy a... Saab?

Saab is the Swedish car-maker that hails from the land which gave us Volvo, Ikea and Abba. But unlike its more famous compatriots, many drivers never even heard of Saab. It's almost akin to saying Lada when you mention Saab to mainstream drivers whose knowledge of continental cars are limited to the big luxurious three (that's Mercedes/BMW/Audi for you).

Saab was the spunky Swedish car company unlike anyone else. For starters, it was initially owned by a parent company company which built planes. Not just commercial planes - Saab AB built kick-ass European fighter jets such as the Gripen/Griffen. But sometime in 1989, Saab automobile was purchased by General Motors and lost its soul, churning out cars which did not possess as much character as the original models. An entire series of corporate mistakes saw Saab's sale tumble.

Don't bother visiting your nearest Saab dealership for these Saab.

But there are scores of motoring enthusiasts who still like Saab cars, with yours truly being one of them. Sure Saab might have lost some of its soul with the GM engine and such, but it still has plenty of character left. I might not like its dull instrument display or the number of buttons on the dashboard, but it has the coolest cup holder I've ever seen (tip: if you're in a Saab, make sure you get the owner to demonstrate how it unfolds). The design of a Saab is distinctive, and it has a Scandinavian handsomeness to it, even though I hate the chrome around the current Saab 9-5.

But what I truly like about it - is how it walks softly and carries a big stick. You see, it may not look like it, but underneath the Swedish gentleman appearance lies the soul of a raging Viking. Saab is one of the strongest proponent of turbocharging, from way back in the 1970s. And the way Saab cars are designed are different - the turbos are not the crude and loud business you find in Japanese rockets.

Looking good topless...

Instead, Saab built the turbos to deliver the maximum amount of torque in the mid-range, which makes it very easy to overtake another vehicle on the move. So while you're driving in the city, most of the instances when you need fast pick-up are during the moments you wish to overtake, and the Saab makes it a real breeze. Say you're traveling at 40km/h behind a truck - simply signal out and tap on the gas, and you'd be hitting 80km/h before you know it. The pick-up in the mid-range is simply unbelievable!

If you buy a Saab, you're either an engineer, architect, doctor or dentist. Or you could be a motoring enthusiast. If you belong to the latter group, you probably tuned your Saab to deliver even more power. The thing about the Swedish is that they're pretty prude when delivering the stock cars, but everyone knows that they're really Vikings in disguise, waiting to be handed their horned helmets and a club. Saabs can be easily tuned by flashing the ECUs with a different set of software, and that reprograms their brains to release the Viking within. By swapping a few parts out and reprogramming the ECUs, some Saabs can achieve in excess of 500 bhp under their bonnet!

By the way, Saab has been acquired by Swedish sports car manufacturer Koenigsegg in 2009, stopping the rot from GM's ownership. I suppose Saab cars are going to get even faster... and hopefully the acceleration applies to its sales figure as well. So if you're thinking of owning a continental brand that does spell yuppie (spelt as mercbmadui), and you cannot handle the flamboyance of a Alfa, consider a Saab. Yes... even if you're not a doctor, engineer or architect.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

When ignorance is bliss

"I didn't know it was impossible, so I went ahead and did it."

Knowledge can pave the way for even greater progress, but sometimes knowledge can become a dogma (a principle or set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true). When you are told that the parameters of possibilities are limited, that knowledge inevitably directs your thinking and actions within the possible areas.

This is especially true in some societies where authority is deemed as the final word, either due to respect or genuine belief in the dogma. When someone authoritative or senior says that this is impossible or ridiculous, people tend to concur and consider options or actions in the realm of "possibility". With the advent of the internet and online forums, this phenomenon becomes ever more acute, with some individuals lording over the online discussions and perpetually dominating the forums with their opinions and silencing dissenting voices with their mastery of the language or sheer dedication to posting lengthy verbiage and discussion beyond what others are willing to commit. Such individuals may not be truly knowledgeable in their fields, but their voices are loud enough for them to perceived as the authority. Their advice might not be correct, but many would be willing to listen to their 'advice'.

The rise of the online community raises another ugly head - which is that of the lazy individual who scours forums/websites for the answer. Rather than trying out the hypothesis to discover the answer, many turn to the keyboards to seek the wisdom of the masses. While searching online certainly can harness the power of other users, many important discoveries in the history of mankind run counter to the beliefs and common sense experience of the masses.

The online forum said, "That darn thing can never fly!" Yeah right...

Had the Wright brothers gone online to seek opinion of their plane design, they would be derided by the others in the forum (fictional of course). Had Eratosthenes conferred with Homer (an authoritative figure in ancient Greece, not the Simpsons!), he would have laughed at his own notion that the world could indeed be round (the Greeks believed the world was flat, and that you'd sail off the edge of the world if you go far enough!). Galileo Galile didn't believe the Catholic Church authorities and challenged their "truth" that the Earth is the centre of the universe.

The point is this - if you didn't know that it cannot be done, you will attempt to do it. It may sound foolish, but the fact is that many "truths" are not scientific or empirically impossibilities. When someone says something cannot be done, think whether the statement was in fact referring to "probabilities" or based on nothing more than the experience of the masses. The next time when you hear that something is impossible, perhaps it's better to turn a deaf ear. If you listen only to the masses and ignore your inner voice, you will only be as good as the masses. Ignorance can be bliss.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Steve Jobs' commencement speech at Stanford

I always believed that life works in strange ways, and I'm sure looking back at how your own life turned out, you'd agree as well. If we can see life as a linear journey starting with birth and ending with our death, the path we take reads like a decision-making chart with numerous forks along the way.

Each decision we make has the potential to change our life in drastic ways.

Looking back, it's easy to see the impact of each of our decision in our lives. "I can't imagine what my life would me had I not done this or that..." That's something we catch ourselves saying from time to time. And yet, without the foresight of an oracle, we can't know for sure the impact of our choices. But looking back in life, it almost seems incredible how the decisions we took worked together in a linear fashion to put you where you are today.

That is why Steve Jobs' commencement speech at Stanford collage resonated very strongly with me. Jobs talked about "joining the dots" in life, and how seemingly trival and unrelated choices came together in his life to make an impact, and how you can never plan to "join the dots". It just happens in life, and the best way to live your life is to do things you truly believe in, knowing that somewhere along the way the dots will all connect to make sense.

Stay true to yourself, and the dots will connect in life for you.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Running a business with your heart

My friends know I love coffee... and Starbucks especially.

It may seem sacrilegious to associate Starbucks with good coffee, since the coffee chain is seen as a mass consumption product rather than the typical romantic notion of a barista pulling perfect shots of espresso behind a bar counter in a Italian coffee joint. But I genuinely enjoy Starbucks - both as a coffee drink and a place to unwind and chat with friends and associates.

But with the bludgeoning popularity of Starbucks, it is becoming more difficult to love it as a coffee place when the outlets are perpetually crowded and noisy. It was facinating to me then, when I came across the book "Pour your heart into it - How Starbucks built a company one cup at a time" by Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks.

The book contains a riveting account of how Starbucks was born - first as a coffee bean retailer and then as a specialized coffee shop in Seattle, serving only coffee connoisseurs. And how Starbucks expanded into the worldwide chains, while coping with the challenges of rapid expansion.

For many companies around the world, growing too quickly is a demanding task. How do you cope with the finances? How do you balance between long-term growth and accountability to the stock market? How do you manage staffing issues? How do you ensure communications within the company? How do you keep morale up while being increasingly alienated from the staff? How do you ensure your customers continue to see you as a coffee specialist instead of a chain food outlet? How do you differentiate yourself from the competition in a playing field as open as coffee houses? How do you make decisions that do not compromise your integrity as a company?

For any one managing a company, this is a great book to read. Howard Schultz delivers a candid account of the growing pains of Starbucks, as well as providing great advices that runs against conventional business wisdom. The truth is - we can run the daily operations with our minds, but the guiding principles should always come from the heart.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Amazing wildlife photos and experience

National Geographic has always been synonymous with great travel and wildlife photography, and this short video about the adventures of a wildlife photographer with National Geographic encompasses everything romantic about the life of the contributing photographers!

"Adventures, excitement. A Jedi craves not these things." said Yoda. Obviously the National Geographic photographers are low in the Force quotient!

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

A new name in the marketing landscape...

This is probably one of the most significant posts in my blog... announce the arrival of a new name in the marketing landscape...

That's right... I've set up a marketing communications company.  What does Orange Cactus Project do? Well... companies provide goods/services to consumers, and while sales push the products to the consumers, marketing attracts consumers to consider buying the product.

When companies approach advertising agencies for marketing their products, usually companies end up expecting ads to sell their products. It may happen, but often you'd need more than just advertising to sell the products. At OCP, we start with the product/service and analyzing the target consumers, and we craft out a campaign idea. Then we propose the right media and marketing tools to help you achieve your marketing objectives.

Click image to see enlarged version

In a nutshell, we're a marketing communications company with the right selection of tools to bring the message across. There's a saying, "when all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail." We have a wide range of marketing tools and the marketing experience to make sure that your company's marketing interest is best served.

Click image to see enlarged version

Visit us at our website today to view our portfolio!


Saturday, 7 November 2009

Multiply your strengths to become the greatest!

"The whole is greater than the sum of its parts"
- Aristotle, Greek philosopher

Michael Jackson was probably the best-known performer of all times. He was a singer, dancer, songwriter and performer all at once, and no other artiste can match his stature in the entertainment scene since. He possessed an incredible and distinctive voice, he could write his own songs, his dance moves were legendary and his rapport with the crowd was unbeatable. The world had never seen a performer like Michael Jackson, and it is doubtful that we’ll see someone like him any time soon…

Steve Jobs, the CEO of Apple Computers, has an incredible life story. Voted by Fortune Magazine as the “CEO of the decade” just yesterday, Jobs founded Apple in the late 70s and was dismissed from his own company in 1985 following a power struggle with the board of directors. He started a couple of businesses (including the computer animation company PIXAR), which were purchased by Apple and he was reinstated as the CEO 12 years later after he was fired. Since then, Steven Jobs revolutionized the music and mobile phone industries with Apple iTunes and iPhones.

Behind the dramatic rollercoaster life events, Steve Jobs is essentially a technologist, designer, businessman and most importantly – a visionary. He’s very much in tune with the latest technology, he loves design (he took calligraphy lessons in college which lead to Mac systems having superior font types), and his business acumen is stunning based on his track record.

And if I were to mention “famous martial artist”, more than half the people asked will immediately think of Bruce Lee. The late Hong Kong movie star was probably best known for his martial arts prowess, followed by his career as a movie star. Bruce was also a philosopher when it comes to the study of martial arts. It was well known that Bruce pioneered his own blend of martial arts Jeet Kune Do by studying and distilling the other martial art forms which he was familiar with. Just like Michael Jackson, Bruce Lee was a phenomenon that stirred the world like never before.

The people I have listed above are doubtlessly incredibly talented, motivated individuals and celebrated as icons. They are considered to be the best in their respective fields, and their works either become the benchmark standards or stand as a legacy of their achievements. However, they compete in areas that are packed with talented individuals. What makes the list of people stand out amongst their competitors? Why are they regarded as exceptional individuals instead of others?

The answer lies in their incredible mix of talents – not just isolated talents, but in the way they have combined and fused their talents to exponentially increase their value. If Michael Jackson had just been a great singer, he would just be one of the numerous notable singers in the world. If Bruce Lee had not combined his love of martial arts and movies, he’d just be another martial artist master. If Steve Jobs did not have a love for design, he’d just be another technologist churning out run-of-the-mill machines instead of great products to change our lives.

So the next time you read about someone exceptional, think deeper about why they stand out amongst those who are merely good at what they’re doing. In all likelihood, the truly fantastic possesses a combination of traits that let them excel ahead of their field. Likewise, you can step ahead of the competition by looking at your strengths and weaknesses, and work not just on reducing your soft points, but on cultivating strengths that will catapult you right ahead of everyone else.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Hey... watch it!

Christmas is coming... and so is your big fat bonus. Thinking of giving yourself a treat? Reward yourself with a IWC ceramic pilot watch. Made from high-tech production process, ceramic is the hardest substance on earth after diamond. So while these watches are real tough, avoid fighting with your wife while wearing them cuz she WILL win with that diamond you bought her.

Let me know if any of you are interested...

IWC Pilot Chrono Ceramic TOP GUN edition (44mm)
Mint condition with everything as per AD would supply. Warranty card dated 27th October 2008.

Condition: MINT
Accessories: Complete with boxes (including outer brown box), original IWC strap, instruction manuals, and warranty card
Price: S$8,800

IWC Pilot Doppelchrono Ceramic - LIMITED EDITION (Ref: 3786)
The IWC Pilot Doppelchrono Ceramic Limited Edition Ref: 3786. Limited to 1000 pcs only - completely sold out.

The 44mm Doppelchrono LE features double-chronograph captures split timings, and it features the cut-open date window found in fighter jet plane displays. The second-hands is finished in striking red for easy reading, also inspired by fighter jet cockpit displays. But the most significant technical advancement in this watch is in the ceramic case, which is very difficult to manufacture. Even the chrono pusher buttons and back are made from Titanium!

Condition: MINT
Accessories: Complete with boxes, original IWC strap, instruction manuals, and warranty card (unfilled – which is a big plus)
Price: S$18,800

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Retro never really went away - fashion revisits itself every 30 years.

Humans are funny… we try so hard to out-do ourselves and make things better. And with technological progress and the digital edge, everything seems so nice and perfect. And we start to bemoan “the loss of spirit” with digital audio CDs and digital cameras. Suddenly everything analogue becomes in vogue and cool again… vinyl records and film are “in” once more!

Of course, if you wanna be with the in-crowd, make sure you’re fashionable all the way. Having some half-xssed film camera from your dad’s drawer isn’t gonna cut it (seriously it only makes you look old-fashioned!). For true retro coolness, you gotta reach into your grandpa’s drawer for his ancient Leica rangefinder. But most probably you’d find something like this…

Say hello to my latest toy… it’s a Canon rangefinder. According to the records, this camera was made between 1955-1956. Japan surrendered in 1945, so this camera was made in the industrial era after World War II. For the uninitiated, the Japanese industrialization took off by imitating/copying the best products/practices from other countries. The Canon rangefinder cameras were virtual clones of the superlative Leica rangefinder cameras from Germany.

If you shoot with this camera, I assure you that you will be the king of coolness during the next photo outing. Sure you photos will probably not be as good as the Canon/Nikon full-frame digital whatever DSLR, but hey the chicks will dig Joe Cool's retro chunk of metal more than a nerd’s DSLR any day. If you don’t have a dog to walk or a baby to carry, a cool retro rangefinder like this is a great way to strike up a conversation with the nice girls you meet. Oh… here’s fashion tip… your clothes should come from the modern era… do not try to match 1950s clothing with the camera. That ain't so hot ya know?

It’s a great camera to play around with, and yes… it still works perfectly when you load film in. And guess what? It’s not that expensive… for the price of a nice digital compact you can own a piece of history for yourself. I guess there’s more to life than being really really really good-looking.

Here’s a website if you want to find out more about the Canon rangefinder cameras.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Super White

I've been busy lately with a couple of business ventures, but when a friend sent me this YouTube link, it had me in stitches. No kidding... I think every Singaporean will get the joke. But hey... if you're a prude or under-18, please do NOT click on the link and complain about this tasteless and crude pun. Remember... it's crude for the prude!

Friday, 18 September 2009

Explore. Dream. Discover.

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

- Mark Twain

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Worries and imaginary fear

“Worrying is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you anywhere.”

I came across this phrase a couple of weeks ago, and I chuckled.

It’s funny – many years ago my secondary school teacher taught us about unfounded fears and worry. He said that many people hold off doing certain stuff or making certain decision because of unfounded fear or worry. “What if…” precedes every thought in their minds. These fears and worries paralyze people, and many whom had tried were amazed to discover just how much of their deepest fears and worries were misplaced and imaginary.

Imaginary fear and worries can be your worst enemies, for they stifle your potential for greater things in life. A little fear is a good thing – it helps you respect your challenge. There is a Chinese saying that “only a new-born calf is fearless of the tiger”. A small amount of fear helps you prepare for the fight and increases your chance of success – it is a good thing.

On the other hand, worrying over unfounded fears stops many people from accomplishing something that they could have succeeded otherwise. Unfounded fears not only stop you from trying, it has that inert ability to come back and haunt you in the later years – “what if I had gone ahead with what I wanted to do?”

Recall the things you did not have the courage to do, especially those which you fussed and worried over the consequences at that time. Do the “disastrous” outcomes seem less disastrous to you now? Do you often wonder what would have happened had you tried, and succeeded? Or looked back at the decisions which you had the courage to make. Would your life be different now had you not had the courage to make that decision then? Would you have missed out on the wonderful results had you shrank from the challenge and let your worry overwhelm you?

Whenever you are faced with a challenge in life, evaluate your own chances very carefully. While it is often difficult to accurately gauge your success rate, it is easier to self-examine your own evaluation of the outcome. People who are leaning towards an appraisal of success in their chances often convince themselves by over-inflating the worth of a victory, and downplay the cost of a failure. And vice-versa, people who think they might not succeed will usually exaggerate the cost of failure and convince themselves the fruits of success are not all they’re made up to be. Be honest with yourself how badly you want to taste success, rather than moderating your evaluation of the rewards according to your chances of success. Sour grapes taste especially bad in the wine of life.

But whatever you do, don’t worry unnecessarily. “Worrying is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you anywhere.” Keep walking fellas.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Miss Singapore? Give Singapore a miss...

I think it’s mean to slam beauty queen contestants. Seriously, if someone came up to you and pointed a camera and mike in your face to ask you for comments, you might stutter and fumble in your answers. And quite frankly, it’s different when you’re in the limelight and everyone is waiting to pounce on you for the smallest error.

HOWEVER, if you intend to represent Singapore, I think it’s reasonable to expect a certain level of standard. Personality bashing aside, being Miss Singapore is to showcase to the world what they can expect from the island nation. There is really no excuse when it comes to representing 4.5 million citizens, and one can understand the outcry and shock when a Miss Singapore who cannot express herself coherently is being sent to represent Singapore. Can we blame her for not being coherent in her speech? Perhaps. But instead of being judgmental on her, I think the judges clearly have issues here – they were the ones who picked her to represent the nation.

In the eighties, there was this long-running joke about “ang mohs” being surprised that so many Singaporean girls were “studying law”. Listening to Ris Low in this interview, I guess Singapore has moved on to the R&D age now that our girls are “stardying steel”. Just be prepared for that moment of mental processing as they try to remember their own course of study. I seriously think we have a problem if the world think that Singapore girls are incapable or enunciating words longer than three syllabuses.

Miss Singapore 2010 judges – please do Singapore a favour and pick a winner who is great with “hospitalarity” and has a strong “personlity”. Oh yes… probably someone who loves “jibras” as much as I do. Until then, I'd probably give Miss Universe a miss. World peace...

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Retribution and revenge

“Retribution is the exclusive revenge for the powerless.”

Let me first qualify - the following blog entry did not come about because I'm angry with anyone or anything. This is purely a philosophical self-discovery piece.

I came up with the quote because I’m always fascinated when people talk about retribution and bad karma. And I realize retribution is a theme that always comes up in those periodic drama, and less so in modern movies. I get attentive when someone around me says, “don’t worry… I’m sure he/she will get retribution for the deed!”

Not being one who’s naturally inclined to religion, the concepts of “retribution” and “karma” do not occur to me other than watching movies and hearing people talk about them. Of course, as a kid I was petrified of the horrific scenes in the 18 levels of Hell at Haw Par Villa. You got to give it to the Chinese – they have a way of making the punishment really visual! Don’t bother going to the temple to confess your sins – it doesn’t work that way. Once a person committed a sin, it’s recorded down in the book of life so the proper punishment can be meted in the afterlife accordingly. You can’t click “undo” or clear the “cache” like other religions. Nice… and they wonder why people are turning to other religions?

Back to “retribution” and “karma”, you’d notice that people only use these concepts when they are not in the position to take revenge? Of course, there are a lot of people who are capable of claim vengeance but not keen to do so, and they also rely on the concepts of retribution. However, people who are powerless to take revenge can only use “retribution” to console themselves, that Heaven will punish the evildoers (in time to come – no less).

Will “Heaven” really punish evildoers? Perhaps not now, but at the opportune moment? That’s what powerless people want to believe, for they are unable to seek revenge with their own strength. They believe divine powers will seek redress for them, and since it is improbable that the redress will happen immediately, they will “wait” for retribution to hit the evildoers. Should something unfortunate befall the evil parties, “retribution” is deemed to have occurred.

The point is – even if some people can get back at the other party they can choose not to avenge any wrongdoings and instead rely on divine “retribution” for redress. The powerless on the other hand, have no choice but to depend exclusively or solely on heavenly punishment, since they are unable to avenge any wrongdoings. So other than being more superstitious, people in the past also live in a feudalistic period where the justice system is subdued under a class/caste system. There is little you can do about the evil and rich upper class other than to curse them with retribution if you’re a poor peasant.

Today we have a much more advanced justice system in place, and society is generally considered to be more fair and just. However, little acts of injustice continues to plague our society, and there are times which we are powerless to get back at the other party. So the next time you wish retribution upon the other party, look deep within yourself and ask if you’re simply powerless to take revenge, or do you seriously entrust the Heavens to mete out the punishment to your tormentors. If vengeance is a commercial product, it’s probably something that a Swedish furniture company can probably sell under a name called REKVENGE perhaps. It’s best to do-it-yourself, and it’s cheaper and a lot faster too!

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Classical music can be fun two

I hate cheap bastardized cover versions of classical pieces. Playing a classical piece with electronic instruments to a faster beat does not make it modern – it makes the music sound like cheap crap. And please… don’t make it worse by mixing it with some Gregorian chat rubbish.

But I was bowled over when I came across this video sometime ago on YouTube. The video featured a kid with baseball cap covering his face, playing Johann Pachelbel's Canon (playing… not playing with… scrub your mind). Even if you’re not familiar with classical music, I’m sure you’ve heard this piece (popularly known as Canon in D major) being performed at some wedding ceremony. Canon (the music piece, not the camera company) is a classic piece that one would normally associate with slow and stately pace. What happens when someone else turns it on its head and churns out a version on the electric guitar?

Normally that would be dog crap, but not in this case. Much to the chagrin of pure classical music lovers, the rendition of this re-arranged Canon in D Major was an instant hit on YouTube, becoming one of the top ten most viewed videos with over 60 million views and counting. Taiwanese guitarist JerryC rearranged the music, and a South Korean teenager Lim Jeong-hyun (known by his online alias funtwo) played the amazing piece on guitar. The new arrangement was now known as Canon Rock.

The success of this hit hinged on several factors. First is the arrangement of a classical music piece that many people played but nobody imagined that it could be rearranged to such an extent. Secondly, the growth of the internet made it possible for unintentional collaboration between two teenagers from different countries who did not know each other to build upon each others’ talent. And finally, the ability of the internet to showcase the immense talent of the teenagers. Both JerryC and funtwo became overnight internet sensation and received coverage on traditional media after the video was posted on YouTube.

For me, I’m just amazed at the clever rearrangement of music and the skills of funtwo in playing the piece. I’ve no musical talent whatsoever, but I believed it took many hours of practice to get to that stage of guitar skills even for a talented individual. Unfortunately, Lim expressed no wish to carry on playing as a professional guitarist, and would rather carry on playing guitar simply as a hobby. Perhaps he understood that once he turned professional, guitar playing would cease to be fun?

Whatever his path lies, the moral behind this story is simple - the fusion of talent and potential of youth is intoxicating. Lim Jeong-hyun may not see it, but many people would die for his talent and fame. If you have a talent, be sure to guard it well and build upon it, and not take the high and haughty stance by walking away from a gift you were born with. Do not worry about handling success; you can deal with it later when it comes. But let success walk through your door first, by welcoming it with your talent and hardwork.

Get inspired. Recognize your talent and take charge of your own life.

Monday, 3 August 2009

Return of the King

You know the cave drawings of cavemen hunting the T-Rex or any other dinosaurs? How about the imagery of the polar bears and penguins mucking around (in the Coke commercial)? People are funny… they like to juxtaposition stuff which never existed together naturally. The truth is that both scenarios never happened – they are divided by time and geography. Dinosaurs died out millions of years before the first man ever walked the earth, and penguins live in the South Pole of Antarctica while polar bears reside in the North Pole of Artic. They will never meet, except in the imagination of mankind.

People are naturally fascinated when two rivals of different era and geography meet. Remember Jurassic Park or Aliens vs Predator? The excitement of pitching highly competent individuals against one another in scenarios which one never thought would be possible sends the pulse racing. Which is apt that fans of F1 racing were thrown into frenzy after Michael Schumacher announced that he will temporarily return to racing to replace Felipe Massa who was knocked out of action in a freak accident.

Michael Schumacher (or Schummy to his chummies) is the living legend in F1 racing. Unlike Aryton Senna, Schumacher is alive and kicking at just 40 years young. Statistically speaking, he is the most successful F1 driver with the most number of wins, podiums and pole positions. At the top of his game, Schumacher retired in 2006 and became the advisor to the Ferrari racing team, sharing his considerable racing experience with the current drivers Felipe Massa and Kimi Räikkönen.

After Michael Schumacher retired, the F1 fans were focused on the strong rivalry between Lewis Hamilton and Alonso. Hamilton quickly became the new darling of the media with his strong billing as a young driving prodigy, who also became the youngest driver to win the F1 championship. There were several F1 drivers who showed sparks of brilliance, such as Jenson Button and Alonso, but the question remained on everyone’s mind – will there be another driver who is as dominant and consistent as Michael Schumacher?

Imagine the flurry of excitement when Schumacher announced that he will return to racing to temporarily replace Massa in the F1 championship! Finally, the world will see a match between “the greatest” and the young turks. How will a 40-year old champion fare who has never driven for 3 years, fare against the zestful and ambitious competition? Can good old experience and maturity win against youth and unbridled drive? Everyone wants to know if young and explosive Lewis can hold up against the brilliant German strategist, to determine if brawn/stamina or brains/experience is the more potent weapon in the high-speed stakes of F1 championship.

But beyond the obvious excitement in the clash of the titans, one can sense how the strength of the Ferrari team lie beyond the simple technical superiority of their cars. Having a world-class champion and a brilliant strategist who stayed with Scuderia Ferrari to impart knowledge and skills, as well as a team of dedicated staff who perform their duties with the precision of clockwork, and such camaraderie that everyone knows their own roles and will chip in to help beyond their work roles. A great car might help a team win a race or a championship, but it is the spirit of a great team that helps a team stay as champions in the long run, even in seasons where their cars are not the greatest. The stewardship of Scuderia Ferrari and their recognition in retaining the best staff and talents is what makes Ferrari great. Any darn fool can make a fast car in one season, but it takes a truly great management to keep the gears of a great team oiled when the season is dry.

Those who know me will understand I’m not just talking about Ferrari.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

IT vs Management

A man in a hot air balloon realized he was lost. He reduced altitude and spotted a woman below. He descended a bit more and shouted, 'Excuse me, can you help me? I promised a friend I would meet him an hour ago, but I don't know where I am.'

The woman below replied, 'You're in a hot air balloon hovering approximately 30 feet above the ground. You're between 40 and 41 degrees north latitude and between 59 and 60 degrees west longitude.'

'You must be in Information Technology,' said the balloonist.

'I am,' replied the woman, 'How did you know?'

'Well,' answered the balloonist, everything you told me is technically correct, but I've no idea what to make of your information and the fact is I'm still lost. Frankly, you've not been much help at all. If anything, you've delayed my trip.'

The woman below responded, 'You must be in Management.'

'I am,' replied the balloonist, 'but how did you know?'

'Well,' said the woman, 'you don't know where you are or where you're going. You have risen to where you are, due to a large quantity of hot air. You made a promise, which you've no idea how to keep, and you expect people beneath you to solve your problems. The fact is you are in exactly the same position you were in before we met, but now, somehow, it's my fault.'

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Why Michael Jackson will always be the King of Pop

Michael Jackson will always be the King of Pop. Period.

In case you have not already noticed, I’m a big fan of Michael Jackson. For someone who cannot dance or play music to save his own life, I’m extremely impressed by Michael Jackson’s immense talent in music. From a child prodigy in the Jackson 5 to the music genius who swept 8 Grammy awards in a single night, Michael’s meteoric rise to stardom was built on his incredible talent of music and dance. Why is it that Michael Jackson was crowned the King of Pop and never dethroned for the past 30 years? Here’s a short look of we can learn from what Michael the greatest performer of all time.

Be yourself – black or white
Michael battled allegations of his skin condition for most of his career, and he claimed that he suffered from vitiligo – a condition that causes blotches of paler skin. The media alleged that MJ was bleaching his skin to become a white because he was ashamed to be African American, or that being white made album sales better. Michael always maintained that his condition was medical, and he never strayed away from his family, friends or black people. Even as the media intensified their criticisms and published allegations of him having “weird” behaviour, Michael seldom caved in to change anything. It takes a truly strong person to resist social pressure to change, especially if your behaviour has nothing to do with the rest of the other people.

Never forget the child in you
Michael Jackson’s Neverland ranch was always in the news for the wrong reasons – for MJ’s alleged childhood abuse, his excessive spending habits and his weird love for Peter Pan’s ability to never grow old. What many people fail to see is MJ’s embrace of the child in him. The Neverland ranch was Michael’s refuge when the commercial world became too much for him, and it provided the only privacy and sanity he desperately needed as the King of Pop. MJ would pen his songs while he sat on the branches of the trees, and he enjoyed the rides in his own amusement park. By embracing the child in you, you can take refuge from the cruel demands of the world.

Killer instincts with unshakable belief
Before the Thriller album was released, Michael went against the advice of his managers and music producers and insisted on his concept for the music video – to dress him up as a werewolf. MJ pushed ahead for the music video and the result was revolutionary – it pushed the envelope of consumer acceptance and defined the style an concepts of MTVs. Michael Jackson had killer instincts in defining style, and unshakable belief in his instincts. Most people will follow the herd in opinions and not risk failure, but as the saying goes “nothing great has never been done without risks”.

Develop your own style and signature
While many artistes are happy just to remain at the forefront of the latest style, Michael Jackson defined the style of music. In 1983, MJ made jaws dropped and he performed the moonwalk for the first time in front of a live television show. For the teens who grew up in the 80s, everyone was talking about Michael Jackson, breakdancing and the Thriller video. And who can get away with wearing white socks with black pants and shoes (the fashion police would kill for such a crime) except MJ? Or wearing a single white sequined glove? Michael did not care for following styles – he defined styles and created signature moves and icons.

Recognize your genius– and break away if you have to
Even though Michael Jackson started his career as part of the Jackson Five, he realized at a young age that he had immense talent, and he knew he had to go solo if he were to make it big. It wasn’t easy to break away from the comfort zone, especially when his stint with the group gave him the experience and exposure, but MJ had to do it if he were to fully exploit his talent. It is difficult, but an eagle can never soar if it stays within its nest – so break out from your comfort zone and explore the world if you feel constrained.

Be altruistic – help the world
A great part of Michael Jackson’s appeal to the world stemmed from the fact that he was a great philanthropist and humanitarian. MJ wrote songs about the plight of the third world, the suffering of the people and the environment. He donated generously to worthy causes and was always ready to perform at charity events. Michael always appeared genuine and consistent in his message – he loved the world, the people and his fans. He used his greatest talent to help the world, and the world loved him for that. It was this strong relationship that set foundation for his success, and that was why vicious rumours and allegations failed time after time to topple the king of pop. Help the world – and the world will help you when you need help the most.

Surround yourself with talents if you want to do great things
Michael Jackson had talents the world had never seen – but that alone was not enough to bring him to such stratospheric heights. MJ worked closely with talented individuals such as Quincy Jones and Lionel Richie to take his music to greater heights. Michael understood that unless he worked with other talents, he would only be restricted to his own shell and unable to grow. The collaborations were crucial in developing his talents, and often resulted in win-win scenarios.

A powerful combination of talents
This is probably the biggest reason why Michael will never be dethroned as the King of Pop. Unlike many artistes who excel in one or two areas, Michael Jackson had a multitude of talents which he fused together as the unstoppable power in pop music. He was great in singing, dancing, performing and songwriting, and that made him invincible in the music arena. Nobody else could control their destiny like MJ could, because his talent gave him the power to control every aspect of his performance. If you have multiple talents, explore the ways you can harness the power of your talents combined. The results can be remarkable.

In his short life of 50 years, Michael Jackson has done what no other musicians could have accomplished in their lives. He was the best-selling artiste and music genius, and most importantly a music icon that touched lives everywhere. Rest in peace Michael – you were the King of Pop and you will always be.

Michael Jackson: Aug 29 1958 to June 25 2009

One of my favourite videos of Michael Jackson is "Smooth Criminal". Catchy music with incredible dance movement and impeccable timing. Like his trademark moonwalk, Michael pioneered the anti-gravity lean which set people talking for years to come. In case you're curious, no... there wasn't any wire-harness or digital editing involved in that move, which made it even more amazing.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Thinking out of the box? Try thinking within!

You know the popular saying "Think out of the box". People have been quoting it so often that they often forget that the flip side of "thinking within the box" is equally challenging and rewarding! What is thinking within the box? The "box" does not always denote conventional thinking or ideas. The "box" can refer to the constraints that you are facing, and that includes your budget, legal restrictions, deadlines etc.

It is great to think out of the box, but if you can develop a great idea while thinking within the box (staying within the budget and deadline etc), that is truly phenomenal! There are a lot of great ideas that one can conceive, but many will either blow the budget or cannot be done in time. If you can be the individual to come up with a amazing idea that can be accomplished within the limitations, that will really help you grow much faster as an individual.

Take the example of this Malaysian advertisement for creative awards. They took a limitation (which I shall not elaborate and spoil your viewing pleasure), and turned it into something creative.

Clever? It is. The role of advertising agencies is not to ignore all limitations and come up with something clever. Rather, it is to take into consideration the operating parameters such as the budget, the timeline, the brand's value, the consumer's perception etc, and come up with an effective campaign that stays within these boundaries. That is a clever campaign.

Let's end off with another clever campaign that defines thinking within the box. This time, the box is probably the budget. What if someone told you that he wanted to run for president, but he could only afford to pay for the TV air time, and had hardly any money left for production? You need to do a TV commercial without any budget for filming. Most people would have dropped the project like a hot potato. The agency who did this ad didn't get fazed, and by thinking within the box, came up with one of the most brilliant political campaign TVC ever...

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Car photography made easy!

If you are a proud car owner and you'd like to take some nice photos of your car, here're some tips on the basics of good car photography. These are really simple tips to follow, but they're guaranteed to make your photos much better. Check it out!

Photography articles revamped!

For the dear readers who have been reading the photography articles on my website, I've some good news for you. Since the good old days when I ran the online newsletter and website "Photography Happenings!!", the articles have not been updated often due to my hectic schedules. So I made a resolution to update and refresh the articles, and keep your fingers crossed that I'll have the time to add even more articles!

I've started off with a refresh of a handful of articles, updated with new photos and edited for easier reading. Click here to read the updated articles, and feel free to leave any comments...

Sunday, 14 June 2009

The story of the pencil

The Pencil Maker took the pencil aside, just before putting him into the box.

“There are 5 things you need to know,” he told the pencil, “Before I send you out into the world. Always remember them and never forget, and you will become the best pencil you can be.”

“One: You will be able to do many great things, but only if you allow yourself to be held in someone’s hand.”

“Two: You will experience a painful sharpening from time to time, but you’ll need it to become a better pencil.”

“Three: You will be able to correct any mistakes you might make.”

“Four: The most important part of you will always be what’s inside.”

“And Five: On every surface you are used on, you must leave your mark. No matter what the condition, you must continue to write.”

The pencil understood and promised to remember, and went into the box with purpose in its heart. It was shipped to a household in Britain, where it served its owner well on the desk. However, the pencil was always left out of the limelight by the collection of shiny new fountain pens.

The fountain pens laughed at the poor pencil, “look at him, shaved and chewed by the owner. He would never do such a thing to us!” The pencil grew ashamed, for he knew that he was no match for the beautiful fountain pens. Over the years, he was used and sharpened countless times, and his once proud wooden frame has been reduced to a dirty and short stump. His tattered pride was barely held in place by what the Pencil Maker told him before.

The war had come to Britain, and the pencil’s owner was conscripted to the air force as a pilot. The pencil and the fountain pens were left in disuse, waiting for the day the owner would return. It was months before that happened, and the owner came home to meet his wife with the grave news that he was selected for a mission over enemy skies.

When it was time for him to say goodbye, the owner reached into the drawer to pick up a writing instrument for his dangerous mission. He reached for the proud fountain pens, but they were all clogged up from the long periods of disuse. His wife picked up the old pencil and passed it to him.

“Take this pencil with you. It is the most dependable writing instrument you have, and you need something that will never fail on you at the most critical moment. The fountain pens will leak at such high pressures in the cockpit anyway.”

The pencil followed the owner into the heart of the war, flying over enemy lines and dropping bombs over the cities. The owner charted the squadron’s maps with the pencil, making sure that everyone accomplished the mission and returned home safely. The enemy was brought to its knees and the war was over soon.

The owner was released from the air force conscription, and upon his return home placed the pencil back among the fountain pens. There was barely a stump left of him, but yet the other pens knew that they had someone special among them. The pencil has fulfilled the destiny that the Pencil Maker had set.

Know that you are a special person and only you can fulfill the purpose to which you were born to accomplish. Never allow yourself to get discouraged and think that your life is insignificant and cannot make a change.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Don't Quit

Here's one of my favourite poem, which was written by an anonymous author. As a kid, I saw this poem on a small wooden plaque, and although I didn't fully understand the prose then, I liked it so much that I kept it with me through the years. It is still sitting on my desk at home...

Don't Quit

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
when the road you're trudging seems all uphill,
when the funds are low and the debts are high,
and you want to smile but you have to sigh,
when care is pressing you down a bit
Rest if you must, but don't you quit.

Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As everyone of us sometimes learns.
And many a failure turns about when he might have won had he stuck it out.
Don't give up though the pace seems slow - you may succeed with another blow.

Often the goal is nearer than it seems to a faint and faltering man;
often the struggler has given up when he might have captured the victor's cup;
and he learned too late when the night came down,
how close he was to the golden crown.

Success is failure turned inside out - the silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
and you never can tell how close you are, it may be near when it seem afar;
So stick to the fight when you're hardest hit
It's when things seem worst that you mustn't quit.

Friday, 29 May 2009

Do not rush to grow up...

Do not rush to grow up - you only walk by each stage of life once. Cherish each stage in time and enjoy it for what it is. You'd never walk by the same way again, so take a deep breath and appreciate where you are in life.

Take a critical look at yourself now. Many of us wish that we can move forward in time - be it towards the time when our children grow up and do not need our incessant attention, or towards the time where we can comfortably retire and do what we always wanted to do. Some wish that we can move backwards in time when life was much more simple and we did not have so much responsibilities on our shoulders, or we hope to go back to times when we were much fitter and younger (late nights were easy, and we can eat without fear of piling on weight).

"Do or do not... there is no try

Not many of us can appreciate the time in which we live. As the Jedi master Yoda says, "All his life has he looked away... to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was. What he was doing." We always postpone happiness to the future, and recall regrets of the past. What we should do is to seize the day and make the best of today!

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote an entry about the Sunscreen Song by Baz Luhrmann. One of the lines in the lyrics go, "Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth; oh nevermind; you will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they have faded. But trust me, in 20 years you’ll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked…."

That's right... we all looked back at photos of the past and see how alive we were in our youth, before all these responsibilities were heaped upon us. Sure we looked dorky in the old photos, but hey... the glow of youth made everything seem possible! Those were carefree times, and we wanted to conquer the world. Who cares if we didn't look our best in those photos? Youth does not need any make-up or branded material to look good... youth itself is priceless.

So what happened to us in-between then and now? Work... stress... responsibilities... the demands of adulthood and working life took its toll on us. Our aspirations and energy were sapped away by the relentless demands of work and life, and time passed us by in an instant. We stopped appreciating life and the things around us, content to be able to grasp a moment of respite from work and life. Our personal time became a precious commodity, and we hated people and situations that wrestled the precious few hours from us. Anything that required our additional attention, such as cars or refrigerators breaking down, or family members falling sick ... such issues become irritating because they interfered with our personal time. We want time to pass by quickly to a stage in life where we are no longer irritated by the lack of time to handle such matters, or where such matters ceased to be an issue.

Herein lies the problem - it is escapism at best, and escapism is never a good thing. By always looking forward to the future, we miss the moments that defines our stages in life (yes... the stages that we only walked by once). I know of people who can't wait to get past a stage in life, only to find that the next stage carries its own set of problems. Perhaps that is that why girls always want to remain 21. At 14, they can't wait to grow up to have the freedom to go out without curfew and buy whatever they want. At 36 they wished they were back at carefree 21 again with that terrific figure and flawless complexion.

We face different opportunities and problems at various stages in life, and it is up to us to see the bright side of life at each point in our life's trajectory. If you are married and you can't wait till your kids grow up and stop bugging you incessantly with their questions, you'd regret sixteen years down the road when you wish they'd even speak to you about their lives and friends. If you are single, enjoy your personal time. If you are attached or married, enjoy your partner's company. Enjoy where you are now, and behave like your age. Don't be in a rush to grow up.

Here're pictures of my car - a MINI Cooper S Cabrio Sidewalk edition. I love it - and I love many other cars as well. I love the new Mercedes Benz C-Class, but I picked the MINI over the C200. Why? Because I know I only live life once, and at this stage in life when I'm single and I've no family commitment, I can buy the MINI without guilt and enjoy the wind in my hair (while I still have a crowning glory). The Mercedes can wait - it's a typical saloon car that you can fit a child seat so you can buy it when you have a family. The MINI on the other hand... is a gorgeous car that fits nicely into only a short time in your life. (No... MINI does not pay me for this triade)

While you are fit and nimble, go forth and seek adventure. Travel to places you always wanted to see. You will never remain so dexterous - the next time you spot an any elderly persons with walking difficulty, remember that they were once as frisky as you are. And that you will one day have as much mobility issues as they have now. Until that day comes, run like the wind and never look back or look forward.

So live your life without regrets - one stage at a time...

If you've not watched the movie "Click" by Adam Sandler... go watch it. I can't explain the concept more vividly than the movie.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Photo gallery: 7 days in Tibet

Sometime ago, I went on a short vacation to Tibet (strike one off from the "100 things to do before I die" list). While Brad Pitt spent "Seven Years in Tibet", I could only afford to spend seven days. Frankly if I can end up looking like Brad Pitt after seven years there, I would stay there!

While Brad may look slightly better than me (getting shameless here), I'm pretty sure my photos look better than his. So here they are...

Click on photo to enter gallery.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Bus from the past!

I was having lunch with some friends on a hot Saturday afternoon, when the topic turned to the good old days when air-conditioning was not readily available. We talked about the nostalgic times when SBS buses were truly an experience to behold! I’m sure many of you remember the 70’s to 80’s era of SBS buses:

1) There were no air-conditioning, and windows rattled incessantly beside your ear due to the terrible vibration. Half the windows were always jammed shut, the other half required He-Man’s (if you’re reading this article, you'd remember He-Man and the Masters of the Universe) strength to open.

2) It would be a cold day in hell when you finally sit in an ideal position. If you were not sitting next to the windows, you’d be too shy to ask the passenger next to you to open them. If you were sitting next to the window, the opening was almost always too far ahead or too far behind for you to enjoy the breeze. If the window ahead of you was open, you could count on a lady with long hair seated in front of you, so you got a nice lashing of her Sifone hair (pray there’re no louse or “kutu”) across your face. It always seemed more romantic in the movies.

3) When it rained, nobody bothered to close the windows unless the rain was pelting their faces. The window seals never actually work properly so you’d end up with water drips on you when you sat beside the windows. The windows would fog up from the immense heat generated from everyone’s heavy breathing and the carbon dioxide built-up was enough for the vegetable in the aunties' baskets start photosynthesis again. If you thought that was bad, wait till you see the torrents of water gushing by your feet every time the bus accelerated or braked. Did I mention the little cockroaches scuttling for cover from the rainwater? It looked like a scene from "The Day After Tomorrow".

4) The seats were really just metal frames with ply-board backing lined by thin sponge and red PVC coverings. There were always some numbers scribbled on the back of each chair for you to call “for a good time” if you were feeling bored. Check if you can spot any of your friend’s home numbers (only 6 digits… nobody owned a handphone then). If some long-legged passenger sat behind you, you’d end up with two inverse breasts on your back from their knees caps pressing against you - the seat backs were that thin!

5) Student fares cost only 25 cents then.

Yes sir... I'd love to have hair like that!

6) There was no need to buy hair products. There’re always plenty of Brylcreem smeared on the windows by sleepy old men who leaned their well-greased heads against the window. Simply scrape the cream off the window with a ruler, and you’d have perfect hair to withstand the strongest wind from the wide-open window in front of you. Not to worry even if you never use Brylcreem… they had the same philosophy as Famous Amos - you got to enjoy free smells as well.

7) Bus number signs were not lit up, so good luck spotting your buses at night.

8) There were no buttons for bells – there was only a rubber strip mounted on the roof of the bus for the buzzer. If you were vertically challenged or belonged to the leprechaun/dwarf/elf species, good luck. Be sure to press your buzzer at the most opportune time, because there was no “Bus Stopping” signage to remind the bus driver (we call them bus drivers during those days; nowadays they’re “promoted” to bus captains) to stop at the bus stop. Buzz too early and the bus driver would forget about you and zoom past your bus stop.

Don't we all miss the good old days...

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Ellen DeGeneres Commencement Speech at Tulane University (2009-05-16)

Hot off the oven... this is Ellen DeGeneres' speech at the commencement ceremony at Tulane University last week.

It's not as philosophical as the "sunscreen" commencement speech, but it sure is funny and sobering at the same time. Sociology students will especially understand the speech about social pressures, conformity and deviance. The message though is simple - stay true to yourself and live your life the way you think it should be. You only live once, so do not let others run your life. Live free and be yourself.

The next time others pressurize you to make a major decision in your life against your wishes, think about how you'd like to be remembered in death. Will you be "the guy who's really easy-going and with the crowd", or "the guy who lived his life to the fullest in the way he deemed fit". I certainly know what I want inscribed on my tombstone.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Imitation is the best flattery

As the saying goes, imitation is the best form of flattery. This is an old ad from Peugeot, but it still gets me in stitches whenever I view it. Not many brands dare to use humour in their ads, but when done well humour is an exceptional weapon in disarming the jaded consumer. Stupid management will say that this ad will not really make consumers believe that the Peugeot is a desirable brand.

The clever marketers will snigger at such comments, for they know the true value of this ad lies in the portrayal of Peugeot as a clever brand, and the drivers of Peugeot as fun people.

A better investment than real estate - beverages!

My suspicions have been confirmed. Drinks prices have been going up faster than the property prices during the boom. A can of Nescafe Latte coffee which used to cost $1.20 can now retail for $2.05 in less than 3 years. It's true... I paid that price in a 7-11 at Chinatown. That's a whooping 70% price increase... I guess I can forget about buying a unit at St Regis and spend S$4 million on buying crates of Nescafe instead. That should net me $2.8 million profit by 2012 since everyone needs to drink coffee to stay awake during the overtime they put in to pay for ridiculous property prices.

According to a report in Today newspaper, majority of drink stall owners do not display their price lists, and even some of those with the list are guilty of overcharging by 10-20 cents. Just last Sunday, a food court staff approached my table asking if we'd like to order drinks. That's new for a food court! I discovered the reason why when the bill came... $1.7 for a can of Coke and $1.50 for a cup of tea. Jeeeze... and they wonder why people are choosing NOT to drink during meals!

Quite frankly, I've never seen any price indices move as quickly as drinks prices. Sugar prices went up, the prices shot up. Coffee prices increased, the prices of drinks edged up again. Why... even oil prices were excuses to increase the prices as well! Everyone is also blaming the landlords for increasing the rents, which in turn caused the drinks prices to spiral out of control. While I'm not sure of the actual reasons why the drinks prices have escalated so much, the drinks sellers sure took advantage of all sorts of excuses to pump up the prices.

At the end of the day, nobody is capable or responsible for regulating the prices of beverages, which explains for the inflated prices across the months. CASE can advise the stall-owners, but I'd hardly imagine that to be effective. So consumers... vote with your money. If you think that things have gotten out of hand, DO NOT purchase the drinks. That is the most effective way of getting your message across - to the stall owners... to the landlords... to the manufacturers... whatever...