Dregs of Society

Baring the soul, challenging the accepted and redefining that which isn't.

Talent can be a nice thing to have sometimes. You look good, attract attention, and if you’re lucky, you make some money. Women flock to you. In that sense, having talent’s preferable to having none. But talent only functions when it’s supported by a tough, unyielding physical and mental focus. All it takes is one screw in your brain to come loose and fall off, or some connection in your body to break down, and your concentration vanishes, like the dew at dawn. A simple toothache, or stiff shoulders, and you can’t play the piano well. It’s true. I’ve actually experienced it. A single cavity, one aching shoulder, and the beautiful vision and sound I hoped to convey goes out the window. The human body’s that fragile. It’s a complex system that can be damaged by something very trivial, and in most cases once it’s damaged, it can’t easily be restored. A cavity or stiff shoulder you can get over, but there are a lot of things you can’t get past. If talent’s the foundation you rely on, and yet it’s so unreliable that you have no idea what’s going to happen to it the next minute, what meaning does it have?

Equality

This is just a quick post after an early lunch but as you well know, one of the key interests of this blog apart from sartorial and horological decisions is that of male/female dynamics, both in a sociopolitical and romantic context and everything in between.

Thus, it was with great interest that this morning I noted that Bloomberg deemed it international news worthy to note that as many as two women may have been appointed to its 7-member board. This comes after purveying a number of companies financial reports and statements after the recent ending of the financial year for investment purposes, to look at cash-flows, to better understand the nuts and bolts and numerical intricacies of various companies for my own personal reasons. I noted there too, were statements that by the late 2010’s, many boards seek to have equal representation in men and women on their executive boards or equivalent.

This immediately perked my interest and I understand that many companies are nowadays showing diversity inspired challenges and seeking to hire or put into positions of importance, a diverse mix of individuals in order to fulfil these goals. Affirmative action in progress; you may call it. All in the name of equality. 

I have dispute with this. The very definition of equality is that things should be meritorious. That we are picked simply by our ability to perform to job expectations (or exceed them) and not because we were born a certain way sans penis or with a certain skin tone or our sexual orientation. Some feminists will parade on and cry fury that the need for such programs is exactly because women never get picked and they need the help in order to be thrust into the spotlight and positions of privilege. That strikes me as counter intuitive; the very act of crying out for help and legislatively mandated assistance is, to me, an admittance of inability and saying you need crutches. 

Furthermore, a business is a business. People tend to forget that the whole point of a business is simply to be in the black and to have that number as large as possible. Sure that’s a simplistic way of looking at things and there are numerous other factors with market share, growth rates, profit to equity ratios and so on and so forth but ultimately, businesses are exactly that. Profit driven enterprises. The requirement to hire someone just to fulfil some sort of quota seems to be counterproductive to that as someone who is not as productive or competent may get hired on the basis that some arbitrary quota needs to be fulfilled. 

I’m all for equality, but on equal grounds. This is exactly highlighted in a movie I watched the other day where an Asian sounding name got hired over the beautiful blonde girl and her friends consoled her saying “it was probably a diversity hire”. Isn’t that exactly it, by introducing such measures, those who don’t fit the mould of being a tall caucasian male, especially in the Anglosphere would forever have that taint of “oh he/she may be a diversity hire”. Hell, I don’t fit the mould of that but I do know that I would never want to be hired simply because I’m Asian and a quota needs to be met. If I was hired because of my ethnicity, it would be because hailing from the East gives me unique insight and perspective towards Asian markets and clients and an ability to relate to them in a way that no one else may be able to. That is to say, because being Asian makes me able to perform my job better; on my merit. 

It is rather true isn’t it. I certainly am overdue for an adventure, not having gone on one last year. 

And perhaps it may be the only high note of 2014, which let’s face it, has been a thoroughly depressing and saddening year thus far. I can’t think of another more terrible year, but I’ve noticed that the first halves of my years are generally sordid and horrid affairs with little to speak of in the way of positivity and enthusiasm.

So who knows. Maybe June will be the turning point. And July will be a soaring time and August will be the peak. 

Journalism in Jeopardy

I don’t consider myself a particularly avid newsreader, often hoping onto the various and then again only mainstream news websites whenever I find myself with nothing to do (which, upon reflection, can be quite often). Apart from the major news outlets such as CNN or the BBC, there’s always a few of the smaller more focused ones such as tech based websites, business based ones and a whole host of other random websites which tend to focus on areas I have more of an interest in. Needless to say, celebrity gossip doesn’t feature quite so heavily, though I certainly do keep an eye out for any news of Emma Watson’s marriage so that I’ll know when exactly to give up hope and fling myself off a building. 

I’ve said it multiple times over the years but I’ve always felt that the quality of journalism, never high in Australia, has certainly suffered and decayed to the point where I now question if it is fundamentally unreadable. The need for subscription and an article limitation (more than the internet, I believe that access to news should be a fundamental human right. I don’t quite need to surf pictures of cats so much as keep myself aware of the world around myself) has caused this website of already dubious quality to now just be completely useless. 

Article access not withstanding, I’ve been following the coverage of MH370 with interest, not due to any falsified or in any pretence of humanitarian reasons but instead for my own curiosity as to the situation of ASEAN and East Asian relations. Hailing from Singapore, I note that there’s always been a tinge of condescension and patronising attitudes towards our other ASEAN neighbours as they find themselves plagued with corruption and incompetence and without delving into stereotypes, I actually felt a distinct edge of pity towards the Malaysian people and the handling of this affair. 

From widespread circulation alleging that whilst other nations had devoted military grade hardware to varying degrees and other technological implementations up to and including crowd sourced satellite searching, it appears that Malaysia’s greatest contribution to the search for a missing airliner has been the employment of a witch doctor to essentially dowse the location of the missing jet using… coconuts. 

Whilst I remain convinced that this may have been an oversight and a product of the irresponsibility of journalists, it did make me consider how much of journalism was in fact shaped by public opinion and seeking to tell the public what we want to hear versus the actual on going facts. Malaysia and it’s in-fighting bureaucracy has ever been publicised and the political gaffes that its leaders have made over the past few months, years, decades have ever been the topic of dark parody and satire by its neighbours. From riots relating to the alleged similarities between diaspora and vegetables to what essentially amounts to state sponsored racism at worst and majority backing affirmative action at best, Malaysia certainly seems to have painted itself as a bit of a class clown in the ASEAN school of thought. 

I wonder how much of their words have been taken out of context from the original statements, if there may have been translation issues from Malay to English and if there was any effort on the part of journalists to further perpetuate this. It would have been irresponsible to say the least, considering the families of the 200 odd passengers await any sign of news with bated breath and all they have to show for it are in fact articles regarding the incompetence of those in charge for it. 

The latest allegations regarding Malaysia’s lackadaisical air defence network is another stroke of tar on the already sullied reputation of the Malaysian people. I could keep going but instead of pointing out the negativity and scandal that may arise at this rate, I hope that this incident would reach a conclusive end soon though I fear that truth may be in fact stranger than fiction. Further to that, I hope that this serves as a lesson and that this may never occur again. 

I still find it hard to believe that in today’s day and age, with GPS technology remotely accessible in pretty much every single Apple device, airliners or ships with their worth in the tens or hundreds of millions of dollars do not have such things. 

some days, some nights
some live, some die
in the way of the samurai
some fight, some bleed
sun up to sun down
the sons of a battle cry
***
And just like that my world was once again turned upside down.  

some days, some nights

some live, some die

in the way of the samurai

some fight, some bleed

sun up to sun down

the sons of a battle cry

***

And just like that my world was once again turned upside down.  

(Source: airows)

chenqirong asked: I'm interested in knowing more of this peculiar Japanese concept of beauty, both classic and contemporary. Is there any other unique Japanese words describing arts & aesthetics that you can share? Thanks.

word-stuck:

9 Elements of Japanese Aesthetics

1. “Imperfection”: Wabi-sabi (侘寂) is the beauty of things that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete”.

Wabi is the quality of a rustic, yet refined, solitary beauty. Sabi means things whose beauty stems from age - the patina of age, and the concept that changes due to use may make an object more beautiful and valuable.

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As things come and go, they show signs of their coming or going and these signs are considered to be beautiful.

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Sakura 桜 (cherry blossoms) in spring or Koyo 紅葉 (autumn colors) in fall represents wabi-sabi - they are aesthetically pleasing because they don’t last.

2. “Elegance”: Miyabi (雅) is about elegance, refinement, or courtliness. Sometimes refers to a “heart-breaker”, Miyabi demanded the elimination of anything that was absurd or vulgar.

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Kinkaku-ji 金閣寺(Temple of the Golden Pavilion) in Kyoto, Japan.

3. “Subtle”: Shibui (渋い) or shibusa (渋さ) is a simple, subtle, and unobtrusive beauty. It means that things are more beautiful when they speak for themselves.

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A Bizen sake carafe. The beauty of it doesn’t need announcement; its quality speaks for itself. It involves the maturity, complexity, history, and patina that only time can bring.

4. “Originality”: Iki (粋) is about a refined uniqueness. It is an expression of simplicity, sophistication, spontaneity, and originality. Iki is also about originality, uniqueness and spontaneity that is more audacious and unselfconscious while still remaining measured and controlled. 

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Kimonos were simple and minimal, often striped and coloured to deep shades of blues and greys on the surface. However, the insides were lined with opulent silk, designed so that only the sophisticated could recognise their secret luxury.

On the other hand, a geisha 芸者 also embodies Iki  - they are beautiful, sophisticated but they don’t have the intention to stand out. They combine sassiness with innocence, sexiness with restraint.

5. “Slow, accelerate, end”: Jo-ha-kyū (序破急) infers a tempo that begins slowly, accelerates, and then ends swiftly. 

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The idea of jo-ha-kyū is used by Japanese traditional arts such as tea ceremony and martial arts.

6. “Mysterious”: Yūgen (幽玄) triggers feelings too deep and mysterious for words. It shows that real beauty exists when, through its suggestiveness, only a few words, or few brush strokes, can suggest what has not been said or shown, and hence awaken many inner thoughts and feelings.

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The Dragon of Smoke Escaping from Mt Fuji (Katsushika Hokusai 葛飾 北斎)

7. “Discipline and Ethics”: Geidō (芸道) refers to the various traditional Japanese arts disciplines: Noh (能) (theater), kadō (華道)(Japanese flower arrangement), shodō (書道) (Japanese calligraphy), Sadō (茶道) (Japanese tea ceremony), and yakimono (焼物) (Japanese pottery). All of these disciplines carry an ethical and aesthetic connotation and teach an appreciation of the process of creation.

Hence, ethics and discipline make things more attractive.

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Japanese martial arts aren’t about the result: defeating your enemy. They’re about the path that gets you there. They see no value in a short cut — even when the end result is the same.

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Japanese tea ceremony: A cup of tea is trivial compared with the process of making, serving and consuming the tea. The process is the art.

8. “The Void”: Ensō (円相) means “circle”. It is a form of the art of minimalism common in Japanese designs and aesthetics.  It symbolizes absolute enlightenment, strength, elegance, the Universe, and the void.

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In Zen Buddhist painting, ensō symbolizes a moment when the mind is free to simply let the body/spirit create.

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At first glance, an ensō may appear to be just a circle. But its symbolism represents the spiritual growth of the artist – the brushwork, which include dragging, pressing, and sweeping techniques, reveals the depth of enlightenment he/she has reached up to that point. “It is said to be a picture of the mind” explains award winning calligrapher Shoho Teramoto, “because the circle projects one’s mind directly.”

9. “Cute”: Kawaii (かわいい) is the quality of cuteness in the context of Japanese culture. It has become a prominent aspect of Japanese popular culture, entertainment, clothing, food, toys, personal appearance, behavior, and mannerisms.

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Nippon Airways’ Pokemon Jet.

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Kawaii in Japanese sushi.

Some Quick Thoughts on Deficiencies

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To those of you with whom I keep in constant communication digitally, you’ll know that I’ve recently had immense trouble falling asleep with my sleep pattern having been diverged into two short and individual sleep sessions commencing during dusk and dawn instead of the one long period that most people seem to enjoy. There’s nothing I can really do about it these days seeing as I seem to have had this pattern for the last month or so, so instead of fighting it, I suppose I might as well just enjoy it and try to make the most out of it by utilising my time productively. 

One method in which I’m most certainly not being productive is that due to the enormous lack of people to speak to or do things with at these odd times, I’ve taken to being a recluse [even more so than normal] and surfing an inordinate amount of internet. I think over the past month, I could recite everything from more than a few Iron Chef recipes to how thorium energy works [I’m not fully convinced it’s the future, but it certainly does have its merits]. 

A thing I’ve taken to is, as always, doing my research on the discrepancies between men and women, trying to figure out how the game works. A game in which I’ve had dismal success and to be quite frank, abysmal experiences as of late. I suppose it’s a confluence of many things and it probably is my fault. I think I’ve got too many bugs I need to work out before releasing any product on the market. One of my chief issues is that… I seem to have a complete lack of resilience. I don’t think it’s a problem localised to myself as I feel many of my peers have the same attitude, where upon an encounter with the slightest speed bump, we tend to say “ah fuck this shit”. 

I’m not sure if it tends from a fear of rejection, being generally disillusioned with the whole concept of affectation or just a trickle down effect of the instant gratification generation that we have become. Or maybe it’s a vicious stew of the above, whereby we’re used to instant results, getting things we want done immediately and without delay. Further to that, the wealth of information and paradigm change in the nature of male/female social dynamics cause us to be ever more exposed to being informed of people whom we view as chumps or betas and an understandable reluctance to be considered one of the deceived.

I do find however, that the average person these days tends to give up a lot faster upon encountering any sort of resistance; I’m not sure how things were in days gone by, but if my parents are any indicator, they sure as shit stuck to their guns and tried to constructively resolve any issues they had. Failure wasn’t an option and I think that’s a key factor in the changing nature of relationships these days. It’s so easy to say “fuck it, just get a divorce” whereby the only real consideration is the split of assets as compared to previous generations with potentially differing cultural attitudes where this simply was not an option and thus forced both parties into resolution. 

Similarly and to yet again Obama’s phrase, the trickle down effect of it is that kids and let’s face it, unless we’re prepared to put a ring on it, I think the relationship isn’t worthy of the name, emulate their parents and say “well if it’s bad then we’ll just break up and that’s that.” There’s no incentive to stay or to resolve things and with the constant barrage and variants of the phrase “do whatever you like as long as it makes you happy”, it’s no real wonder that we’re seeking to quit at the first available opportunity. 

This isn’t just localised to relationships, the effect is tangible and statistically available in terms of dropout rates over colleges, the average tenure in employment being far shorter than in previous decades and so on and so forth. I’m almost sold that the average human being of 2014 has ditched tenacity for transience and “fuck it, I’m not happy, I’m gonna quit” has become the default solution instead of “yes I’m not happy but what can we constructively do to change that?” that previous generations had.

Of course, both solutions have their merits and can be argued from any number of viewpoints; I do however lament that this general lack of resilience and confidence has further effects whereby things pass that… given some more time… could have worked out. I’m definitely as guilty, if not more so than the next person and part of my resolve for self improvement in 2014, part of Operation Be-Better-Than-You-Were-Yesterday, is to work on this. 

The Irony of Distance

I’m pretty blessed to be friends who are scattered in many places all over the world, thereby ensuring that if AirBnB doesn’t work out for me or if I’m feeling miserly, there’s usually a couch I can crash on for a couple of days. I’d go as far as to say I probably have better friends out of the city I reside in than here itself, not just in quantity but in terms of quality as well. It’s hard to reconcile with but sometimes I don’t think I’ve ever found a group to which I’ve truly belonged to anywhere else but Melbourne. That’s probably a flaw of mine, what with the emotional distance I place between others and myself inadvertently and the fact that I can’t seem to initiate anything. But anyway.

A great part of this scenario is that I’m able to converse with them and discuss the myriad of issues facing us and how things are just different ‘over here’ and compared to ‘over there’. It brings to mind the Pulp Fiction scene where Vincent Vega is explaining to Jules Winnfield that "It’s the little differences. I mean they got the same shit t over there that they got here, but it’s just…just there it’s a little different"

Without drawing obvious diametric parallels and comparing Tokyo to Sydney or Singapore to Melbourne, much of that is pretty true, especially in western nations. I realise that this blog began as an outlet for our hedonistic indulgences and there’s a certain irony that because of the fact that the authors are known to the readers, there’s actually a lot of material that our lack of anonymity hasn’t allowed us to reveal. Especially in the last two years; some of the shit that has happened. Jesus. And yet, it’s strange because at no point in time except more so in the last two years have the authors been more focused on the nuances of relationships and the ever-changing dynamic between man and woman. Or man and man if that’s your thing. We try to focus on what we’re familiar with here. 

So anyway, digressing aside, it’s interesting to talk to friends living all over the world and it seems a common theme is that despite so many of us residing in bustling metropolis’, none of us can seem to find anyone we like in the city of our locality. It’s an interesting concept, similar to the fact that in the 6 years or so I’ve been in Sydney, I’ve never actually dated a girl from Sydney. Sure there was that one girlfriend who moved over to Sydney but that’s more like takeout than actually eating local. And following from that there were two misshapen relationships where a very real part of the issue was that distance was involved.

It’s not a phenomenon localised to myself neither, it seems that even as the world gets smaller and flights get cheaper… Distance remains an ever present issue. Whether you’re in Sydney and your heart was left in (or kidnapped to) Seoul or you can see the Hollywood hills but you yearn for the Brooklyn bridge… Or your feet are in the tropics but your mind is in London… There’s a vicious irony in there; it must seem so weird trying to explain to someone that despite the multimillion population density of the city you live in…. You yearn for something that’s not there. 

I’m not sure if its because we want what we can’t have or if it’s because life is a cruel mistress and Cupid isn’t an adorable cherub but a sadistic BDSM loving demon. But it does make one think doesn’t it?