about the talking fish

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Writer. Wheelman. Occasional DIY mechanic. Walking collection of hang-ups. Hopeless romantic. Old-school. Analog soul in a digital world. I am all of these things and more.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Celebrity and fame killed Michael Jackson

As a kid growing up in the 1980s, I idolized Michael Jackson. So much so that instead of being called by my real name I wanted people calling me "Michael" or "Mike" --- although my dad also supposedly named me after the Rolling Stones' Mick Jagger too, how true that is I don't really know. At four years old I used to dance with uncoordinated energy to his song "Bad." I used to think he could do no wrong, apart from that weird dance step of his that involves holding his crotch.

Then things started changing. He eventually became so far removed from the guy I used to look up to. It eventually became all about what misadventure he would get himself into next, no longer about his music --- which never really lost its luster as it still resonated with a sizable audience around the world. It's just that people found a new reason to watch Wacko Jacko's every move, and it was no longer constructive.

When documentaries aired in 2001 trying to explain Jackson's side, I found myself wanting to believe him. I wanted to believe that he and his siblings had been abused as a kid, that the fame-at-all-costs attitude of his dad robbed him of the chance to learn to live a normal childhood. But people kept pushing and insisting he was a weirdo to be feared. They insisted that apart from his extravagant stage persona and performances, he was good for nothing but an existence in a glass cage so all his strange behaviors could be seen for all the world to laugh at.

In the end, celebrity and fame snuffed out his life.

Shockingly I had already seen in the movie Music and Lyrics how a teenaged pop singing sensation (fictional as she may be) could have her humanity destroyed by fame at an early age, never to regain it. I am 100% sure that that was what happened to Michael Jackson.

As a teenager I used to aspire to become famous. Now I probably know better. The price of fame is just too high.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

White noise

As a writer, my one greatest weakness is that I suffer from the potential of giving people what Mao used to call "logorrhea." It's like loose bowel movement but with words instead of feces.

I am so jealous of people - songwriters, lyricists and poets, for instance - who can drive home their loaded point with the sparest of verses. Perhaps I'm more jealous of songwriters as I hardly read poetry anyway. It's amazing how the songs with the best and deepest emotional connections to our hearts are those that have the simplest lyrics paired with the most appropriate melody.

Other people have told me my talent is in explanation. Sometimes I get sick of it. As a speaker I am proud of it, but as a writer, there's no challenge in explaining things as best as I could in black and white. If I were a novel --- and I say this because there's no way I can be a song or poem ---I'd barely have turned any of my pages; if I were a magazine I'd barely have sold because I don't have a good angle.

Keane. Sugarfree. Vienna Teng. I envy them all, their profound lingual grasp of "less is more," their letting the music speak.

Arthur Golden. Bill Dare. Banana Yoshimoto. I envy them all, their grasp of "KISS" - keep it simple, stupid.

Maybe I have no mystique left to me because I'm all explained out. I'm all white noise, there but not there.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Look it up

Over the past few months I've become genuinely surprised, frustrated and annoyed at how lazy people have become searching the wealth of information the Internet has. Here we are, swimming in a veritable ocean of information, and yet people still keep asking the same dumb questions - persistently.

Worse, people are becoming gullible and believing all these myths circulated by email, forums and whatnot. They don't even realize that a lot of these said myths have already been tested and debunked.

I have to wonder: Am I the only one nowadays who can appreciate the value of "looking it up?" As a kid I was brought up by my dad to find the answers to my own questions. Back then I criticized him for taking what I thought was the easy way out of my nagging, but now I realize he was actually teaching me a very valuable lesson.

So those of you out there reading this: Before you nag other people with questions about what you don't know, let your fingers do some work for you. How hard is it to go to a search engine, type in a string of words into a one-line text field, and hit the Enter key afterward? You will not believe how much "work" people think you put in when you simply show them the results of your Internet search.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Lord Kamina goes on a CD-shopping spree

It's been a while since any anime got me this excited and pumped up.

Animax started airing GAINAX's Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann last month and I've been following it with fervor. As a Gundam fan I usually like my mecha anime cut from the "real robot" mold, but Gurren Lagann is undoubtedly an homage to the "super robot" anime of the 196os and 1970s, complete with impossible feats, ridiculous weapons and hot-blooded pilots shouting the names of their attacks before they do them.

2007's Gurren Lagann is notably the polar opposite of GAINAX's other, more popular opus, 1995's Neon Genesis Evangelion. That production was ultimately cold, depressing and apocalyptic - even director Hideaki Anno admitted that the production of Evangelion was part of his therapy. However, its flawed characters and their hang-ups, especially protagonist Shinji Ikari, resonated worldwide and catapulted it to mecha anime nirvana.

Gurren Lagann is different and more in keeping with GAINAX's earlier work, 1988's Aim for the Top! Gunbuster, with less women and hard sci-fi concepts. The titular robot runs on nothing but emotion and willpower, for crying out loud, and can sprout drills out of every part of its body - just witness the "Giga Drill Maximum" attack. Its charismatic chest-beating leader Kamina is no exception, sporting outrageous glasses, spouting epic quotes and barking his signature line "Who the heck do you think I am?!" The show runs deeper than the simplistic rock-and-roll introduction however, as there are three arcs to the 27-episode series that all bring with them their own overriding emotion. All of them are animated with the kind of visuals that would frankly look more at home in a movie than a TV anime, such is their quality and polish.

Mark my words: This feel-good series will be a mecha anime classic someday.

After a long spell of buying other things, I got around to expanding my music collection again. It's been months since I bought any CDs. This time I pulled out all the stops: I bought all the CDs I promised myself to buy on a Post-it note sometime last year. I went and bought CDs from Keane, Hoobastank, Death Cab for Cutie and Snow Patrol.

That's probably the most number of CDs I've bought in a trip to Music One. These should tide me over for a few more months...

Monday, June 08, 2009

Just when I was about to give up on car club forums...

...I get good "karma" from people who appreciate what I do.

After becoming a virtual persona non grata on a certain car club for speaking out what I believe, I had gotten disillusioned with car club forum websites and the airheads that reside in them. I'm glad I didn't give up on them entirely. Apparently FitFreak.net's members know how to recognize goodwill and good advice.

Maybe there's some point to me doing the Mr. Miyagi thing this long. As long as I can help, I'll do so.

Friday, June 05, 2009

"Internet Channels was here 2004-2009"

Every time someone got rolled off from Barclays, or resigned from Accenture entirely, it used to merit a stoppage of work and at least thirty minutes of drama, saying farewells and looking back on the good times. For my first couple of years there that used to be the case.

When people started to leave en masse however, that drama went away. Everyone just bit the bullet and accepted the hard truth: that the recession was taking its toll on our client and there just wasn't any work coming our way. I used to think getting rolled off at Barclays meant that someone had screwed up, or someone didn't perform up to par. This time that just wasn't the case. We didn't fail the client. The client failed us.

For the longest time I had imagined how my own final day at Barclays would turn out like. I imagined that instead of going through the dramatic rituals, I'd just disappear in the background with only the leads knowing that I had indeed rolled off from the project. Hahaha. How prophetic. I never thought that's how I ended up leaving Barclays. One difference though: Everyone knew.

Looking back, I don't think I'd have done my final day any differently. It was in effect also the final day of the Internet Channels test team as we knew it. So few of us would remain behind. I decided to make a "shrine" out of the old nameplates that we still had lying around and slap them onto an unused whiteboard. Those with missing nameplates we just filled in with a felt-tip pen.

Jona told us there was a glimmer of hope for our team, though. We might just go back to Barclays by October if everything goes to plan. We'll see. I'm not really keeping my hopes up. I figure three years in Barclays is enough. I needed a change anyway.

It was fun while it lasted. Thanks, my friends.