Monday, 29 October 2007

Eski Bar: Frozen Assets

31st August 2007

"So, who's the boss here?" asked the waitress dressed in a thick winter coat.

"He is..." Fabian said, pointing to me, "it's his pay-day."

Indeed it was pay-day, and my very first one at that, at least since I had ascended into the working class. And in classical fashion, there was probably no better way to seal the significance of the moment in time with a couple of drinks alongside some great company. The Clubbing 8 (with 1 substitute) were out on a full-force encore as we buried our heads into the menus, deciding on the choices before us.

I looked up to absorb the surrounding ambiance, scanning the interior of the pub, with my eyes already accustomed to the overall blueish hue accentuated only with warm yellow candle light. The overall ambiance accurately conveyed the literal, tongue-in-cheek "Chill Out" theme of the bar. A few years late from the initial hoo-ha perhaps, but after countless impressions formed from local dramas and pictures, I finally found a reason to check out the flagship branch of the rather renowned Eski Bar.

The interior of the bar was a little smaller than I expected it to be, and the infamous "Cold Room" was disappointingly only a very minute portion of the bar - housing only a couple of 2-seater tables - while the rest of the bar was "conventionally" air-conditioned, greatly rendering my Rock Star jacket rather unnecessary.

While waiting for the drinks to arrive, we dabbled in a little time waster. 8 middle / index-fingers firmly pressed on a coaster in the center of the table, as each of the fingers exerted all the force it could muster to attempt to pull the coaster towards their respective directions. A scene out of the rather pointless party game Demolition, but as with all party games, the laughter it brought about was more important than the game itself. After minutes of not being able to move the coaster anywhere due to the table surface, we gave up weary with laughter.

Group Photo

Our selection of mostly signature drinks arrived promptly, as we savoured the unique concoctions of the bar. Mine was an Eski Blue, a fitting signature drink that was more for the ladies perhaps (but then again, I'm quite the ladies' drink fan). Rather fruity, and sour, with a tinge of sweetness brought about by the Lychee Liquer. The drink further reinforced my mantra that anything with Lychee Liquer can never go wrong, and left me high and dry for another drink as I went with the more experimental Arctic White for my second round.

Blue never looked so Appetizing

Milky white with soft, jelly-like pearls littered on the surface of the drink, the Arctic White was as *ahem* milky as I had anticipated, with a slight burning tinge of alcohol to top it off. The table was filled with other rather interesting drinks as well, as the rest of the 8 were decidedly experimental in their choices, ordering drinks such as a Chocolate Martini (which wasn't half-bad) and a weird alcoholic Margarita chocolate-float of some-kind that was actually quite good.

Milk and Honey

With our glasses half-full, the entourage turned to me to come up with one of my trademark games to keep them (and myself) entertained. Looking around, I only saw straws and drinks and with a flash of sudden inspiration, I laid down the rules.

"We play guess the number. Everyone puts 1 hand out and can only do 5 or 0, so you can guess anything between 0 to 40. And if you guess correctly, you get to choose to sabotage the person on your left OR right. And the chosen person has to bite a straw, and pass it using mouth only to the next chosen person. Of course, with each pass, you have to bite deeper into the straw, and it ends when the last 2 people kiss... Simple, right?" I said with a cheeky smirk.

"Man, only Jeremy will think of these kinda games," Jeffery lamented, as I saw a sense of agreement light up in the rest of their stunned faces. Yet, somewhat mysteriously and perhaps almost subconsciously, they all stretched out their hands in anticipation of starting the game.

Yep, I was the boss, alright.

.... The Flow of Assets is Ephemeral, But Memories stay Frozen in Time

Friday, 19 October 2007

Talk is Sexy...

When the Talking Stops, the Kissing Starts...

Starting from light playful pecks, the romantic momentum normally builds up gradually when two dormant romantic juggernauts are left uninterrupted. As the kisses get heavier (and wetter), so does the intensity in the air as the silence that becomes more deafening by the minute.

Yet, this silence between kisses is necessary, acting as peaceful staccatos between the sounds of suction made by the lips tightly pressed against each other; giving the couple a moment of rest to look into each others' eyes while relishing it.... the silence of the moment. Yes, this silence is the driving force behind the intensity essential for deep romance.... or so I thought, back then.

This was the mantra that I held back in my earlier days of dating. Viewing the romanticized picture of kisses captured through the frames of movies, novels and drama. The all-too-familiar scene of the two protagonists coming to an abrupt silence in their conversation, only to have their eyes meet, and naturally leaning forward for a kiss.... as the scene gets cut away, only leaving you with your imagination to fill in the romantic details that follow after. And if imagination was anything to go by, mine (naturally?) led to picturing them kissing intensely as the next step of logical progression, before leading to more drastic stages.

Yet, over the years, I've learned that this silence is hardly as rosy on this side of the silver screen. The "silent intensity" that expresses the romance between kisses, is mostly a romanticized myth. Yes, it might engage the soul for a while, but like all things, its only ephemeral. It normally isn't before long that it gets somewhat tiring, tiring in the sense that 2 people who are supposed to be so close are bogged down by the total lack of verbal communication. Yet, neither is brave enough to really say anything in fear of "spoiling the moment" by saying something that the other might find irrelevant, a turn-off or perhaps even offensive, at worst.

But I beg to differ from the depiction of this dramatized silence. Over the course of time, there is one thing that I have concluded during the process of prolonged kissing - or making out in general - and that is that Talk does not necessarily spoil the mood. In fact, Talk can actually be downright Sexy.

A well-timed line of wit to break the moments of silence between the kisses can help lighten the mood, providing a much-needed moment of relief from the continual intensity accumulated from the prolonged kissing. If done right, Talk can be amusing, and we all know that Laughter is sexy in its own right; a fine cocktail of pleasure derived from passion AND amusement.

These light-hearted moments of relief serve as a good point of relativity to the intensity of the silence during the kissing. Philosophically, there can only be a true understanding of one state when there is an existence of the anti-state. In English, it translates to: the contrast of the light-hearted moments of laughter serve as a contrast that can actually heighten the intensity of the kisses... all a matter of relativity and balance.

The drama-mamas will probably call my belief a heresy on "the essence of real romance," but then again, romance is partially about intimacy as well, connecting in the soul. And with a soul-baring connection, comfort plays the vital role of a pillar to the establishment of this intimacy. Thus, being able to laugh in between kisses confident of it not spoiling the mood thereafter is a rather ready display of the level of comfort between two souls, don't you think?

To paraphrase my (assclown) brother: Just because you are kissing someone doesn't make her any more (in terms of objectification of the person as an object of reverence) or less than the person that you've been with all this while. Essentially, she's still the same person, and there is no need for the imposing of an artificial level of sanctity and silence between the 2 of you, all in the name of "dramatic romance."

Of course, how Sexy the Talk ends up being is highly dependent on the key factors of line-delivery, relevance, wit (all of which I personally do not have a problem with), and chemistry between the 2 parties involved; but if done right, Talk can pave the sexiest way in which 2 pairs of lips could possibly interact.

... but when the Kissing starts, the Talking doesn't have to Stop.

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

The Prize of Passion

1st October 2007

"You wanna try?" asked 1 of the formally-dressed 6,000-point players with an outstretched arm and the end of the controller facing me.

“Try? TRY? Hah. I'll show you 'try.' When I play, it's not about 'trying,' it's about showmanship, it's about competition, it's about going for the kill,” my inner voice rang in my head. But before my competitive arrogance had time to fully settle in, I felt a cold shiver running through my spine... a shiver of Performance Anxiety. The change in the play environment, the difference in the feel of the all-too-familiar controller were all potentially valid factors, but none of them stacked up against the fear of underperforming, especially not when it was in a semi-public environment, and people (albeit not much) were going to watch. And of course, being touted as the office Golden Boy didn't make matters any easier either.

It was going to be beyond a matter of pure skill, it was going to be more than just a game; it was going to be an act of showmanship, a performance. Me against the music, if the "music" came in a literal form of one quirky German boss, and a small room of onlookers. With butterflies in my stomach, I took a deep breath and firmly grasped the controller. “Sure,” I said.

Time to Play the Game

I started out slow, hiding in my usual bottom-right corner, taking out the familiar Blue Diamonds and Green Squares with great ease. Yep, if every performer has his/her signature entrance, then mine would surely be this display of (false) confidence. The score raked up.... 20,000.... 40,000..... 60,000.... that's it! The screen was starting to flood with all manner of shapes and colours, and touching any one of them would entail a bright burst of on-screen fireworks and the loss of a precious life. “Every 75,000 for a life, every 100,000 for a bomb”, I kept repeating in my head, as I was forced to start moving.

"When did you start playing this game?" the question from a conversation with a colleague a few days back rang through my head.

"Actually, I only started playing when I came into this company," I recalled my answer.

"Wow, and you can score so high in such a short time, you must be talented in this," he replied.

I smirked.

Talented? Perhaps, you could say that I am, but I believe that the essence of my talent is not so much of being exceptionally good at a single game, but rather it is in the art of Adaptability, being able to adapt quickly to a new game mechanic and quickly picking up the nuances of a new system; an Art that naturally came with the amount of dedication that put into my passion, and this adaptability probably shines through in my everyday life as well. A random Green Square did a quick turn and rammed into my ship, causing it to burst into light. I lost my first life... as I peered up to the top of the screen to see 6 remaining lives.... 6. The score... 343,000.

I smirked as my ship respawned, knowing that I had already overcame the initial Performance Anxiety. My score for 1 single life was already more than what most in the house could do in 1 entire sitting, now I had to watch out for my other nemesis, Carelessness. The chase was on again.

Yes, dedication was the order of the day. The dedication to pump in a few hours everyday in the post-office hours to leisurely train with my 2 partners in psuedo-competition rules, and and additional amount of dedication on top of that by playing some more after getting home. Discipline has never been one of my stronger suits in most aspects of my life, but I guess if there is anywhere that I applied it, it had to be here. Yes, it is this dedication to achieve and outdo that divides the Greater from the Lesser, the Hardcore from the Casual; and of course, I am hardcore.

The Training Buddy, Paul

A flood of small fly-like enemies I nicknamed 'Beezebulb' started to flood the screen from all 4 directions. I hopped a little on my toes, in an attempt to get some blood rushing to the rest of my cold limb body. I skillfully shot and manoeuvred through the blinding mass of enemies. "Whoa," could be heard coming from the background as I made my way through them. I had caught the attention of the crowd as I felt all eyes on me; but I had no time to think, I had to keep my thoughts in place if I wanted to take home the prize. The biblical mantra of “The Spirit is willing, but Flesh is Weak” proved true as Greed drove my temptation to steal a glance at the coveted prize from the corner of my eye, causing me a life as a collective "aww" echoed in the background.

DJ EEBlank promised that it was not going to be easy, and he kept true to his word, pumping up the sounds and mixing up the beats as he score escalated. Surprisingly complimentary to the intensity of the game, his beats; only a little less surprising that realizing that your boss has a talent in DJ-ing perhaps.

DJ EEBlank aka The Boss

But he was up against more than a mere mortal; he was up against the Immortal himself, a Gaming Colossus conditioned to pounding sounds and resonant to the groove of club beats. The beats raised my adrenaline, as the screen filled with enemies and the intensity of the game multiplied. I drew circles around them, I had hit my Limit Break, I had reached my State of Zen, as my mind stopped thinking and pure reflex took over. 800,000... 900,000... 1,000,000, the escalating score was beautifully accompanied by the increasing volume of the "oohs" and "ahs" that followed each beautiful evasion I made.

Yes, this was Geometry Wars, an accurate representation of an era of gaming that has passed us. A era where games were visceral, gameplay concepts were easily grasped by any onlooker, no multipart goals, no endings, no fanciful story lines; just pure skill, reflex and motivation to beat the high score; and the experience came from the core gameplay alone. Not everyone in the room played the game, but everyone sure as hell could appreciate skill when they saw some it being displayed.

I was down to my last life, as the people around me watched with baited breath. There was a general air of tension in the room underneath all the hardcore beats. No one was trying to disrupt my focus anymore, all eyes were on the screen. I pulled my last bomb, clearing the overcrowded screen. I snaked around the screen, a Purple Square flew towards me as I blasted it and turned around quickly to avoid its flying remnants, but right into the path of a red magnet ship. My ship burst into light, the punishing "Game over" screen flashed for all to see, but yet, despite the display words of defeat, it was ultimately a victory. I looked down at the center of the screen to see my final score... 1,683,595.

Applause started ringing behind me, as the audience showed their appreciation for the exciting display of skill and showmanship that I had brought to them. I had done it, I had overcome distraction of bystanders, I had survived the intense sounds of DJ EEBlank, and most importantly, I had conquered Performance Anxiety, and completely put my fear of under-performing to rest. The show was over indeed, I turned around, waved and took a short but fitting bow.

The rest of the night was indulged in a premature celebration. Sure, there could have been any member of the public coming in to attempt to challenge my high score, and wrest the prize from my hands, but I couldn't care less, as I felt that I had already performed to the mark of my expectations, and probably a little blindly confident that 1.6 million was suffice to claim the prize. A galore of White Wine and Whisky Green Tea defined the celebratory mood in me.

Red Marks the Colour of Victory

Later in the night, DJ EEBlank came out of his DJ stand for a drink. Standing next to me at the bar counter, he said "Congratulations, I'm very proud of you," as he raised his wine glass to offer his cheers.

"I'm very proud of myself too," I said haughtily, as the rim of my wine glass clashed with his.

The cab ride home was one suspended in a semi-drunken stupor and a state of semi-disbelief, as I held had my arm around the Prize, joy running through my bones as I laughed to silently laughed to myself for pulling it off. Sure, it was great to win a Nintendo Wii out of nowhere, considering that it was an eventual purchase for me either way, and to have it drop like Manna from Heaven straight into my lap was pure bliss.

You would look this Maniacal too if you were Me.... just maybe not half as Drunk

But the real Prize in the night was the symbolic meaning behind the material prize.

"I like how you did it with so much class . Going in on your 1st try and immediately scoring 1.6 million, while you celebrated the rest of the night away waiting to take the prize home," I recalled Paul's congratulatory words.

Indeed, the Pride that came from the recognition of my excellence in my Passion, the Pride of knowing that I had managed to EARN the biggest material desire on my wish list purely realized by the results of my Passion, was the REAL prize behind it all.

The Pride behind the Prize of Passion... simply Priceless