Thanks to Twilight, vampire books and TV series are everywhere now (well, they’ve always been around, but are finally being noticed). I recently finished watching Season 2 of HBO’s True Blood, and I am up-to-date with Season 1 of CW’s The Vampire Diaries (13 eps). So which is better? (to read the verdict, click on ‘more…’) Bookmark on read more
I’ll get this out of the way from the outset: The White Tiger is the best novel I have read in years. Not one of the best. The best. It’s been a long time since I’ve read a piece of fiction so addictive that I tried to read it every chance I had, to the point read more
So the world is apparently going to end on December 21. We’ve had plenty of scares before, be it Y2K or Nostradamus or some loony evangelical pastor in Texas, but this time a lot of people genuinely believe it because it’s supposedly from the Mayans. Chances are most of them have seen Apocalypto and know read more
Notwithstanding its less than ingenious title, The Dark Knight Rises is everything fans of Chris Nolan’s Batman trilogy could have hoped for. It is every bit as satisfying as the finales for other film series in recent times, such as Return of the King and Harry Potter 7. For me, it is right up there with read more
So I’m finally back after a month, the longest hiatus this blog has experienced since its inception in 2009. It’s a long story, but basically I took on a crippling freelance gig that sapped me dry for a week and then I immediately left for a three-week trip back to Sydney with two kids under two, where every single day was packed to the shithouse with activities and catch-ups.
But now I’ve returned to work, where I will do my best to start doing some serious catching up on this blog before the end of the year. At the top of the list is my best and worst movie lists of 2012 (that’s not a typo, I am indeed referring to last year), which shall be done , I swear, shortly. I’ve probably got one or two movies left to watch and I’m ignoring everything else left in the backlog. Rest assured, my lists for 2013 will (probably) follow immediately because I’ve been pretty up to date with those, though the arrival of a second child has made it nearly impossible to watch any recent movies that ought to be considered. Thor 2 has unfortunately already left my local screens and The Hunger Games 2 is in danger of following its footsteps, and I still have no idea how I will ever get to The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. I’m in pain, I tell ya.
One other interesting piece of news to report is that it appears readers have abandoned this blog completely, so I don’t even know why I am typing up new posts. My average daily blog hits already more than halved after I moved from WordPress.com to my own domain a couple of years ago, but from the start of this month the hits suddenly plummeted from 300-600 a day to less than 5(!). I have no explanation for the drop off other than inactivity, though two weeks appears to be a ridiculously short period of time for a blog to experience something like this, considering most of my regular hits were coming from very old posts anyway. I’m going to start posting regularly again to see if anything changes, but either way it won’t stop me from blogging. It’s pretty tragic that the blog has dropped from heights of nearly 10,000 hits in a single day to a single hit (so far) today.
[Update: Well, as it turned out it was a coding problem, and it has now been fixed, thanks to the technicians at Stiteground, who were very helpful and efficient. Tell your friends! The website is working again!]
That said, blogging is going to start sliding back in my priorities list a little bit in the future as I begin to shift my focus towards, at last, my novel(s) and screenplay(s). I’ve pretty much wasted this year on that front and I can’t waste another one with the shot clock winding down on my cruisy work days. It’s just gotta be done.
I was surprised to see that it’s been about a dozen days since I last posted. And is it really October already? Time flies when you have a full plate.
The last couple of weeks have indeed been hectic but have also allowed me to put things in perspective. My elder son contracted some crazy contagious virus again at daycare and I had to take a few days off work to look after him because we had to segregate him from my younger son to prevent contamination.
Spending so much time with him has been exhausting and great at the same time. He’s really become obsessed with basketball (“ba-ke-bo”, he calls it) and we went about four days straight to practice at nearby courts, sometimes for as long as two or three hours. We would then follow that up with a stroll to a mall in the afternoon and then games at home after a shower. My wife has her hands full with the three-month old so most of the time it’s just me and him.
Kids really are amazing creatures. Maybe it’s because I recently read the book Mindset by Carol Dweck (which I am in the process of reviewing) which is all about living up to your potential by equipping yourself with the right frame of mind. My son has that eagerness and fearlessness right now; he’s curious about everything and once he becomes fascinated with something he can work at it for hours and hours without getting tired or losing interest. He just wants to learn and grow, whereas most of us grownups just want to get by, or worse, achieve something without genuinely putting in the time and effort.
Initially I thought taking a child who hasn’t even turned two to play basketball would be a waste of time because the ball was nearly as big as him and he couldn’t even hold onto it properly. Besides, I wanted to play myself and didn’t want to share the ball. But he chased me around and whined and he whined until I gave the ball to him, and then he began trying to imitate me bouncing the ball off the ground. He stumbled and fell at least a dozen times, scraping both knees until they bled, but he wouldn’t let me take the ball off him or show him how to do it. He wanted to learn for himself.
Amazingly, by the end of that session, he had learned how to bounce the ball with his hands a couple of times. It was only then that he would let me teach him to try and bounce the ball with his fingertips rather than slapping it with his palms. He continued practicing for the next couple of days and got better and better at it, and he even learned how to throw (toss is probably more accurate) the ball further than before. And he was so proud that he had improved.
Unfortunately, he hurt his finger a little bit practicing one day and got scared of bouncing the ball, so I went and bought him a smaller and softer ball to practice with. He’s also become obsessed with watching basketball highlights on TV and loves flipping through books or magazines with basketball pictures. It’s the kind of childlike wonder and passion I wish I had. Not knowing — not believing — that there is a limit on what you can achieve must be a marvelous feeling.
Speaking of passions…I recently celebrated my birthday, and the sinking feeling that I’m not moving forward with my writing is starting to scare me. I’m still writing every day, usually on things I don’t mind writing about, but not on the things I should be writing about. There’s still that fear of starting, that fear of failure, that fear of not being able to do something as well as you imagine you could.
So I’ve been coming up with a lot of excuses. I need to exercise (I do, but maybe not as much). I need to watch TV (which is only true in the case of Breaking Bad, and that’s over now, and the new seasons of The Mentalist and Homeland and Revenge haven’t been very good, though The Walking Dead seems promising…but I digress). I have too many blog posts to catch up on (that is true, but they can wait). I have too many freelance cases to do (I have some, not too many). I have to play Candy Crush, Scramble with Friends and Plants vs Zombies 2 (I don’t). Anything but writing the epic novel or screenplay I have been planning to write for years.
A few weeks ago the names of a couple of my old classmates from my 2010-2011 writing course popped up. I was ecstatic to see that they had each published their own novels, some of which were actually projects they were working on in the course we did together. But at the same time it made me sad and ashamed to realize that I’ve barely touched my own in-progress works. And even with two kids and a full-time job, I probably still had more free time than them.
It’s not just writers either. People all around me are going after what they want. I have friends — some of whom I would never have pictured doing anything — running or trying to run their own start-ups and businesses. Studying things they would like pursue a future career in. Taking risks, chasing dreams — or even just doing something they enjoy more.
I have the time to do it too because of flexibility at my workplace. About three weeks ago one morning I was really pysched for some reason and started writing a screenplay. I got a couple of pages done — it wasn’t particularly good either, but I loved the thrill it gave me. I thought the momentum would carry on naturally and I would keep working on it every day after that, but I haven’t touched it since. What it’s telling me is that if I really want to do something I need to keep at it and don’t think it will come easily. Persistence!
This is on the fringe of relevance, but I will mention it anyway. Last Sunday was one of the most exciting days of my life. I went to watch the Indiana Pacers take on the Houston Rockets in Taipei — courtside — and the experience blew me away. I’ll blog about this soon, but what I want to mention is a former Pacers player I saw sitting in the stands. I was surprised to see him there because this player has not played in the NBA since 2008. He was a promising talent who was selected in the first round of the draft, but his on and off court attitude and drug use pushed him out of the league in a hurry. After playing overseas for a few years he’s still looking for a chance to get back to the NBA, but he’s on the wrong side of 30 now and couldn’t even get an opportunity in the NBA Summer League this year. I looked him up on Twitter and it seems he is full of regret over blowing his past opportunities and taking the people who genuinely cared about him for granted. Now that he’s finally grown up and ready to play the opportunity is no longer there.
I guess this is a roundabout way of saying I don’t want to look back years from now and regret having squandered an opportunity to go after what I want when I have the time and energy to do it. So this is it. It doesn’t mean I can’t still do the other things. It just means I need to get down to doing what matters. No more excuses.
You may have noticed, dear reader, that I have been blogging up a storm lately. Contrary to my best laid plans, however, I do not have extra time on my hands.
I’m on paternity leave this week with the birth of my second child, but most of my spare time has been gobbled up by my ill firstborn, who contracted the cumbersome foot and mouth disease from daycare. It’s an awful affliction that can worry parents to death and requires around the clock monitoring and care. Even with the benevolent assistance of my parents, I am now far more exhausted than before I commenced this so-called “break”, and a part of me looks forward to returning to the office for some much-needed rest (and it has not escaped me how messed up that is).
The reason I have been writing — and reading — like a demon these last few days is because I’m finally starting to rediscover my passion again. I’m not forcing myself to read or write, like I had been at times earlier this year. Admittedly, it felt like a chore and I made excuses to avoid it. But now, I’m doing it because I want to, and I’m enjoying it immensely too. I’m hoping this is a sign of things to come (you stupid, stupid jinxer).
I don’t want to speak too soon. This recent change in attitude could be because I don’t have to write monotonous articles daily for work, or it might be because becoming a father to a new son has given me a sudden burst of energy. I’d thus like to keep taking baby steps rather than proffer some grand declaration. I talk a good dream like every aspiring writer, but lord knows how many promises I’ve broken to myself when it comes to actually getting something done, especially in the last couple of years (too many dick moves on my part, I know).
It seems a stable family life and a cruisy, stress-free and relatively simple job have robbed me of my desire to pursue the goals I once had. And while I despise myself for it I found the drudgery and banality of everyday life too taxing to overcome — at least on a consistent basis. There were days where I’d be productive at work, and by that I mean complete my professional writing assignments quickly (I use the term “professional” loosely here) so I could spend the rest of my day on my own writings, but such days were becoming a rarity. Instead, I wasted most of my downtime at work on junk like Candy Crush, YouTube videos, Grantland podcasts and sports news. It certainly doesn’t help when just about everyone else around you is doing something similar, fuelling a vicious vortex dragging us all deeper and deeper into a depressing realm of utter indifference.
We often don’t realise what we had until it’s gone, but in this instance I am acutely aware that the abundant free time I have during work hours is a rare opportunity. I’m not going to be in this job forever and there might come a time in the near future when I have to take up a more demanding role, and the last thing I want is to look back at this period regretting how I had wasted it (pretty much how I have viewed each preceding period In my life, sadly).
There’s nothing more euphoric than the feeling that you are actively pursuing a goal and you are putting all your heart and soul into achieving it. It’s something a few of my friends back home have been doing and I’ve been following them from afar with a mix of pride and envy. They’ve probably had far more setbacks than victories, but it’s their passion and drive that impress me the most. I want to feel what they’re feeling. Whether I eventually reach my goal is irrelevant, as long as I can tell myself, honestly, that I did all that I could.
So I am hoping that this minor revival means I am slowly turning the corner and that I will rededicate myself to improving my writing with a steady diet of reading, blogging — and once I get my confidence back — novel and screenwriting. For now, I just have to keep reminding myself: baby steps, not dissimilar to this.
After one of the most emotionally draining experiences last time (which I describe in excruciating detail here), the second birth, less than 19 months later, was surprisingly nonchalant.
This time, we opted straight for the C-section, though there were a few occasions in the lead-up to the operation where we felt we wouldn’t make the scheduled date. But we got there — just — and the feeling of “been there, done that” was strangely empowering and soothing, so much so that we weren’t even nervous in the final hours.
Well, at least not consciously. I did go to the toilet about five times.
While you can never be fully prepared for it, being as prepared as you can be, both physically and mentally, helps a lot. That we went to a specialist clinic this time also made a world of difference. And when I saw the little guy for the first time, there were no concerns about how I should be feeling, no concerns about whether I was bonding with him properly — I knew all of that will come naturally, in due course. Right now I am simply thankful that he and his mother are both safe and healthy.
I never expected to be a father this young, and certainly not a father to two boys. I still have no idea what I am doing most of the time (OK, all the time) but all I hope for, with all my heart, is to be the best father I can be; to be there for them whenever they are in need (and probably even when they don’t want me around); and help them lead happy, healthy, fulfilling lives without ever letting them forget how fortunate they are.
Sentimentality is not my strong suit, so on that note, I’ll post a song that embodies my feelings at this point in time. A song that my wife and I loved listening to a decade ago but had little idea what the lyrics meant because…it’s in Japanese. Now thanks to the Internets, I’ve got a translation here for ya. Here’s the song and the translation is below.
Hero (by Mr Children)
Supposing that the world could be saved by one person giving their life in exchange I would be the man who waits until someone else has volunteered
All those dear to me have made me a coward
I don’t expect to be like my idols whose actions and mannerisms I imitated as a child But I’d like to be a hero just for you To reach a hand out to you when you stumble or fall
To make an awful movie more exciting They casually kill off people on screen But they’re wrong, what we want to see is a light full of hope
The slightly smaller hand in my hand silently melts away the gloom in my heart
The many spices that one needs to really taste life’s full course are prepared for everyone Sometimes they’re bitter and you’ll think the taste astringent And then you’ll eat your last dessert with a smile I want to be next to you
Through the cruel passage of time surely even I’ve become adult enough I’m not sad, and it doesn’t hurt Just having kept going, and keeping going is enough to make me happy, is precious.
I always want to be a hero just for you There’s nothing mysterious about it At this point there’s nothing to hide But I want to be a hero just for you To reach a hand out to you when you stumble or fall
PS: I know nothing in this post is structured like an ode. I just thought it sounded good for the title.
I checked my blog this morning and saw that the last time I posted was May 1, or two weeks ago. That is not acceptable. It’s not like I have nothing to write. I saw Trance a couple of weeks ago, and of course, Star Trek: Into Darkness, last week. There are two books I need to review, and the final posts from the back end of my trip to Japan in MARCH are still outstanding. So what the heck has been going on?
I don’t really know. It’s like I’ve been sucked into a vortex where the space-time continuum is all out of whack. The other day my sister responded to an email I sent her. I thought it had been more than a month, but as it turned out it had only been a week. Same thing with this new credit card I signed up for. I was fretting about not receiving a bill for the first month, which I was convinced had passed ages ago, but again, it had only been a couple of weeks. It’s like I’m living day by day without being conscious of the passage of time. I’m enjoying life, but I’m also in a weird daze where all days kind of melt into one because of the familiarity of my schedule.
I have also been busy with a couple of freelance cases. I started my first subtitling gig, for a short film, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Nothing better than watching movies while you work. The other thing is a pain in the assbender that had been dormant for a couple of months, but suddenly decided to pop up just when I was ready for a break. And there is a bit of a pay dispute too, so hate is all around for those douchebags. (They take more than 10% of the agreed payment, and when I ask they call it “taxes” and say I’ll get it back next year when I do my tax return. Why has this never happened before?)
Apart from that, not much else. My growing son takes priority, of course, and then whatever free time I have left I have invested in my renewed exercise regimen. I’m officially back, and I’m feeling much fitter, even though the schizo weather has been leaving me restless and deprived of quality sleep. I’m watching more TV shows — Game of Thrones, Touch, The Mentalist, The Good Wife — and I’ve recently ventured into the world of free classic books available on my new iPad mini. First up, The Picture of Dorian Gray. The 2009 film version starring Prince Caspian sucked, so I am hoping the source material will turn me around.
It is my hope that whatever I still need to get out of the way will be settled by the end of this week. Then shall begin a glorious Golden Age of blogging. Stay tuned.