Wednesday, 30 April 2008

The Show Must Go On...


The numbers on the display panel changed as I fixed my gaze on it while my mind wandered. My mind wandered to the recesses of the memories in the last month, the whole whirlwind of events and all the doors of possibilities that opened up one by one over the course of the last month. Memories of the struggles I had within and with-out of myself given the plethora of choices; “You want to work in a bank?”, “Hope that you can come over to my side to help me,” “If I decide to apply, will you help me?”, rang in my head as the lift continued its ascent.

8…9... *ding*

Deep breath, big step; each following stride a reinforcement to my decision in opening this door.
”So what number am I?” I asked, stepping into the interview room.

“Number 55,” said the Director, in a very soul-less tone, obviously fatigued from the consecutive interviews.

I sank into the chair and eased my nerves in the process. Queerly, I wasn’t as nervous as I had anticipated, perhaps I really was getting more experienced with the whole presentation thing, after having some much more intense presentations with the last company.

“I think I have your test right here on my laptop,” the all-too-familiar Producer said, as he opened up my submission, “Roy the Bouncing Hippo, right?”

“Yes, that’s the one,” I said, as I started my presentation to the weary countenances, continuing with my inspiration source for the game, with a well-concealed grin underneath it all.

“So, which question did you pick?” the Director asked.

“Oh, I picked the question to design a one-buttoned cell-phone game with the core mechanics of ‘bouncing’.” I replied confidently. “So basically the story goes like this…” as I started to run through the gist of my 2-day brain-child.

As I moved along the slides, I sensed the growing interest in my concept from the Producer’s eager nods and the Director’s firm nods of affirmation.

"So after the bar stops Roy charges a fart and propels himself forward, burping every time he bounces off the wall" I continued with my explanation of the details of the game mechanics, much to the the accompaniment of laughter from my interviewers.

"Yup, so that is the main gist of the game, any questions?" I asked, as I concluded.

"Actually, normally I will have questions to ask, but the thing is, I don't really have any questions to ask now," the Director said. "The thing is, I kinda like it."

"Yeah, I like it too," the Producer added in.

Relief and elation from deep within erupted into a smile on my face as I heard the positive reviews, recalling the 2 days that I spent looking at everything in my world bouncing around, trying to get an inspiration for the concept; to the extent I literally stared at the gas bubbles bouncing about in a Coke can every time I drank my poison. I recalled the long-forgotten experience of rushing for a deadline overnight as I sat in front of the PC till 6am in order to complete the presentation. But alas, it was all worth it when the acknowledgement was passed on.

"So if given a choice, would you choose to be a producer or a designer?" the Director asked.

"I think I would still choose to be a designer if it really came down to it. The whole reason of me going into the games industry was for the creative aspect of it more so than anything else; not that you can't give creative input as a producer, but its just that the focus of the roles are different. And for me, I prefer to be in a creative position more so than that of a management position," I replied comprehensively, to the Director's approving nods.

"Well, I guess that's all I have for you, any questions?" the Director asked me.

"Uh, actually, I was wondering if there is any bond to this whole thing?" I asked sheepishly.

"No, no bond at all. The whole purpose of this programme is to give people a chance to break into the industry to grow the industry. So the main objective in it is just to get more people involved in the industry, to train more talent," the Director replied smilingly.

"Thanks so much, Jeremy, you'll hear from us some time next week regarding the selection process," the Producer told me as I walked out of the door in confidence, as he went on to welcome the next candidate.


3 days later...

An email with a "No Subject" heading from the Director popped-up in my mailbox. I moused over it in hot anticipation, took a deep breath and clicked on it...

"Dear Jeremy,

I am pleased to inform you that you have been selected by Gambit for the Summer Internship."

My spirits lifted, as I saw knew that the show will go on in MIT, one of the most prestigious universities in the world; located deep within the heart of the land of the Freedom, Bravery, and HOT, TASTY *ahem*American Pies.

But the most consoling thing was the rays of hope that I saw beyond the vision of the next 3 months of free-loading; the hope that I could continue dreaming for just a little bit longer...

.... The Show MUST Go On...

Friday, 25 April 2008

Art of Life

14th March 2008

Noise drowned out my inner thoughts as I peered around the cafe. Perhaps she was right when she said that her impression of Dempsey was that it was a somewhat "exclusive" area, due to its inaccessibility. I threw my glances around the interiors of the cafe, shifting my focus from the cosy-looking traditional fire-place, to the complementing decor consisting of retro lamps and abstract art pieces, down to the contrastingly bar lit with a sleek and modern decor.

But more importantly was the crowd that I was scrutinizing through prejudiced eyes, knowing that almost 1 in every 4 of them were part of an *ahem* elite group with the special ability to scale the heights of Dempsey Hill into the recesses of such an oasis. Regardless of the decor, the crowd gave the entire atmosphere a lively and almost self-assuring vibe, one that resonates in your soul that you are part of this "elite" group; yet at the same time, never achieving the cold and impenetrable walls of loud music and dim-lighting in the conventional chill-out places. The only regret was that the live-band was absent to add to the atmosphere.

"Have you decided on what you want?" I asked, as she returned to the table. She nodded, and I ascended from my seat to join the sprawling queue. Fortunately some eye-candy provided some much-needed relief from all the waiting.

Staple Food

Bringing back a bowl of our Ben & Jerry's staple, the Mix 'n' Match (which caters to my need for variety), we savoured the familiar tastes of Strawberry Cheesecake, Chocolate Fudge Brownie and the alien and somewhat funky flavour of the Black Raspberry Yogurt, all while taking the time to bathe in the atmosphere and talking about fellow patrons through the critical eye, oh, and about art too.

"What do you think that painting means? Its so weird that the couple only have one eye each. I wonder what the artist wanted to convey through that?" she wondered, as she stared at the painting across the room.

"Well, the beauty about Art is that... well... it comes down to the interpretation of the artwork. And while I might not be the kind to stare at a painting for hours before forming a conclusion, I can give my interpretation of the painting," I quelled solemnly.

She listened earnestly.
"Actually, I think its just the artist's style to paint his characters with one eye each," I said, bursting into laughter.

"No, I believe that there is much more to it than that," she said adamantly.

"Ok, if you really want an interpretation, then this is how it goes," I said wisely. "The thing about the man and woman embracing each other is a representation of a union, the two of them being one whole. And the fact that each one only has one eye further reinforces this point. Not that you need both eyes to see, but having two eyes sure helps you see the big picture. So the whole thing plays on the concept of 'the other half.' Makes sense to you?"

She contemplated in silence briefly before nodding in acknowledgement.

Cool on Chub... I mean... Greedy

But the silence was short-lived as the sugar-rush derived from the platter of ice-cream probably gave her enough Euphoria to start prancing around the premises and getting inspired enough to play her own artistic role; climbing high and low to attempt to gather artistic shots of the locale, even roping me into the equation.

Parallel Artistic Directions

Finally satisfied with her works, I turned to the aspiring artist and said, "Shall we go?" We left the oasis slightly past the stroke of midnight and headed back to the reminder of our elitism.

Satisfied Artists

"You know what darling, let's go to East Coast. For some odd reason, I have a longing for the sea breeze," I said. And with the spoken word, a few gallons of fuel and about 30 minutes later, there we were, back at the all-too-familiar spot along the sea-side.

Little had changed from our favourite spot, despite the nearly 6-month absence. The seclusion, the seduction and most importantly, the soothing sensation of the sound of the sea, rhythmically pounding away on the shore.

"You know, there is just something so soothing about the sound of water. Like in a lot of Asian cultures, like China and Japan, the whole thing about water is supposed to calm the mind, and is ideal for meditation," I told her as I raised my head.

"Wow, the sky is really clear today, there are SO many stars out tonight," I said in amazement, beholding the beauty of the artistic placement of the stars in the night sky.

"Yeah, I've never seen so many stars in anywhere in Singapore before," she exclaimed with wide-eyed amazement.

"You know, we probably can see a few constellations tonight, if we look hard enough." I said.

"Huh? You mean we can actually see constellations in Singapore?" she asked puzzled.

"Actually yeah, its just a matter of whether the skies are dark enough for you to notice them." I replied. "But the thing is, the whole concept about constellations is that it is entirely an interpretation of the human mind.

"Many constellations don't even really look like what they are supposed to portray. I was just doing my research on this today, and believe me, things like Cancer, is only a group of like 6 visible stars which don't even really resemble a crab AT ALL," I divulged, spreading the seeds of my long hours of research.

Perhaps divulgance is a continuously spreading wave that sears through the human mind and body, as from one platform of divulgance, I started to open up the doors to my inner minds and thoughts, and started to divulge the deep contemplative thoughts that I had formed over all the current issues in my life. Each crash of the waves brought about ripples upon ripples of deep thought manifested into words; and as soothing as the sound of the waves were to the ears, so was the sound of my spoken words to my very soul.

"I don't think you understand, but nevermind" was the phrase that accentuated every other chain of thought and long periods of silence in between; and it was almost always followed by a vehement "No, I understand what you're saying." But honestly, it didn't matter if the entirety of the message was lost in translation or not, the more important thing was the motivation that stirred me enough to hand the keys to the doors of the dark abyss, that is my dark mind and soul, to someone else.

This very motivation served as a very, very pleasant reminder to my soul, exactly 7 months in, of one of the very main reasons of why I fell into what I fell into for the last 7 months; the abstract art of Conversational Chemistry, a motivation that drives one to confide in another through conversation. And once again, I was reminded that this chemistry can even come in the most unlikely of packages.

"Look at that line of stars, don't you feel that it forms a very nice curve?" she said, using her fingers to trace the outline of the stars.

"You know, it kinda looks a little like Scorpio, if only I could find its claws," I said, quinting hard at the reddish night sky.

"Well, I don't see any claws. It just seems to end with a T-shape there," she said pointing to the left.

"Wait a minute, I think those ARE the claws. I think it really is Scorpio. Look! The tail, all the way to the claws," I said taking her finger to trace the shape of the constellation.

"I can't believe we just found Scorpio!" she said, as I turned to her and saw a glint of amazement and appreciation for the beautiful artwork of God.

Losing my Breath in Waves, knowing that every Crash is Bleeding the Hourglass.

Monday, 14 April 2008

Chang Korean BBQ: Everybody Loves Bul-Gol-Gi

11th April 2008

"I see you're doing something very interesting," a rather short man in a crown of silver-grey hair said to her.

"Oh, I'm just taking some photos," she said sheepishly, "is it allowed?"

"Normally no," he said with a warm smile on his face, as I smiled to myself, looking down at the menu.

"Would you like to place your orders, sir?" he continued in his Korean-accented English. Perhaps you would like to try our specialty, the BBQ meat selection," waving his hand up and down the first page of the menu, proudly showcasing the already-too-tempting photos.

We heeded his advice with our mouths-watering in hunger as I looked around to survey the decor of the interior.

Located along the junction of Dempsey Hill, Chang Korean BBQ was a brightly lit affair with a traditional Korean touch. Suitably spacious with traditional Korean decor; dining areas lined with straw floor-mats, down to the authenticity in the utensils, Chang's was the most authentic Korean dining experience that I've stepped into outside of Korea.

Noticing that at least half the in-house crowd looked Korean, I turned to her and said informatively, "I think that if you see a lot of Koreans in a Korean restaurant, then it has to mean that the food is good," building up my own anticipation with the same sentence.

The traditional barrage of side dishes were laid out before us, ranging from the rudimentary Kimchi platter down to the more unexpected dishes such as freshly-sliced onions. I counted the total number of side dishes and realised that it totaled up to 9.

Complimentary Nine

"So is it true that in Korea, they eat Kimchi even for breakfast?" she asked, as she savoured the first piece of Kimchi.

"Well, I think so. From what I know, they serve Kimchi with EVERY meal." I replied. "But I think Chang is really generous."

"Normally, in Korea, or at least in the places that I dined in, they tend to serve 6 side dishes, sometimes only 3; but yeah, normally its these 6," I said, as I hovered my chopsticks over 6 of the 9 dishes.

The side dishes were tasty enough to get my non-believing stamp of approval. While not exactly a fan of fermented stuff (understatement), the Kimchi was authentic enough to match those in Korea despite being slightly less spicy; perhaps to attune itself to the more delicate local tastebuds.

A waiter stood at the table-side to lay out the platters of raw meat before us prior to starting the fires of the charcoal grill. Once appropriately warm, he started to place the slabs of raw pork onto the grill to cook it atop the steady flame.

Raw to Ready

Slightly taken aback, I turned to her and said, "You know, one thing I noticed about Korean food is that somehow, they seem to believe in you doing a bit of work to earn your keep before you actually get to eat."

She raised her eyebrows in curiosity.

"I mean, almost all their dishes require you to do something to it prior to eating. Like mixing the Bi-bim-bap or even the Nang-Myeon, down to cooking the meat in this, the Kar-bi; almost all the Korean dishes that I've eaten seem to require you to do bit of work," I said.

"Then again, maybe its because I was on a rather budget tour that we didn't have people to prepare the food for us," I said smilingly, as the waiter diced up the slab of now-grilled pork belly and placed it on our platters.

I took a bite of the piping hot pork slice, and was pleasantly pleased with the taste of the meat and the quality of the grill. But the real treat came in the form of the second slab of grilled meat, the marinated pork slice.

Full of marinated goodness and bursting with sweet honeyed-sauce, the marinated pork slice brought back all the wonderful memories that I experienced when I first ate the authentic Kar-Bi back in Korea 2 years back.

"So why do you have to eat it with lettuce?" she asked.

"It's just the way it is meant to be eaten, like the Chinese Ginger Chicken. Besides, it just tastes better," I said, as I sucked on the tightly rolled lettuce and pork roll.

"Mmm..." she said, in approval.

Suckers, Literally

"Bul-gol-gi," the waitress said, as she lifted the lid off the hot plate, presenting to us a feast for for the eyes.

Everybody Loves Bul-Gol-Gi

Beef broiled to a tender finish in the centre of a pumpkin, soaked in a pool of mouth-watering stew, my anticipation for the final dish of the night was the highest; hardly surprising, considering the surreal impression it left on me when I savoured an authentic sample of it back in Korea, making it my favourite dish for the entire vacation (with Kar-bi at a close second).

I took a whiff of the sweet aroma emitting from the hot plate, before picking a piece up with my chopsticks. A deadly concoction of the natural saltiness of the broiled-to-tenderness beef with the sweetness of the pumpkin, the Bul-Gol-Gi proved to be slightly sweeter than what I remembered, but still heavenly all the same. My taste buds erupted in joy at the rediscovery of a taste long-forgotten and I was instantly reminded why this was my all-time favourite Korean dish.

"Try it," I beckoned her, feeding her a slice of the tender-beef.

"Wow, its REALLY good," she said, once again convinced of the wonders of beef.

"Don't you find it difficult to hold the chopsticks?" I asked her halfway through the meal, with my hands obviously cramped from holding the authentic, flat, silver, metallic chopsticks.

"Not really," she said. "It was a little hard to pick up initially, but after a while, its just like holding any other pair of chopsticks."

"Well, I find it harder to hold than the normal chopsticks," I replied, still fiddling them in an attempt to find the best way to hold them.
"That's because you are not holding them correctly," she chided me. "Can you even grab the corn? At its breadth, not its length?"

"Of course," I said, demonstrating the finesse that I have accumulated with my chopsticks despite the fundamental posture error.

"Not bad," she said.

"Of course, I can even grab this," I said, attempting to grab the bean curd.

"This one will surely break when you grab it," she said.

She was right, I broke it into smaller halves with each iteration of my repeated fiddling. Finally I just poked my chopsticks into it from the centre and lifted it up, giving it the impression that I had grabbed it.

"Smart," she said, cheekily.

"You know what I really wanna grab?" I asked.

"What?" she answered.

I grabbed the lone pork rib off the charcoal grill and performed an all-too-familiar act... an act that commemorated the start of our beautiful memories...

Smoked-Rib, Literally

I'm Quite Sure that Says "Chang"