Monday, 29 September 2008

Meritus Mandarin: Oasis

13th - 14th September 2008

"Don't get out of the car darling," I beckoned as I saw her reaching for the door handle.

"Oh ok," she said, as she quickly retracted her hand.

Watching the back view of my brother and his girlfriend get more distant away from us, I reversed the car and headed for the exit of the condominium.

As I went through the raised barricade, I expected her to express some sort of shock, surprise, doubt or the like, but all was peaceful as I headed up the bridge to the ECP.

It was only some distance down the road that she finally blurted out, "How come the carpark is so far away?"

With a cheeky grin of secrecy and glee, I replied, ""Because we're going somewhere else to swim."

Bursting out into an hearty laughter of her own oblivion, silence littered our conversations as I could see the visible signs on her face of her trying to figure out where exactly was the "place that opens past midnight" that I hinted at the night before.

As we emerged onto the CTE, she said, "I recognize this. Are we going to town?"

"We're going past town," I replied, still trying my best to hold the surprise out just a LITTLE bit longer.

But I knew that it was only a matter of time before I could no longer hide it and it became too obvious, since we've travelled down the familiar road far too many times. But I was glad that I managed to keep the secret till one bend away from our destination.

I turned to her as I saw the light of realisation finally beaming from her face, followed by a wide cheek-to-cheek grin, perhaps one of idiotic bliss, as I always say.

I lugged the bag out of the booth as we made our way down the corridors to the main lobby of the hotel. Dressed in an awkward berms and t-shirt get-up, one that was intentional so as not to rouse too much suspicion from her, I approached the counter to check in and received the keycards to the room.

"It's on the 20th floor darling, I asked for a room as high up as possible," I told her, as we entered the lift. She was still grinning idiotically.

Exiting into a quiet, carpeted corridor, I smelt the familiar stillness that ran through the air of hotel corridors, nothing particularly foul, but just something a little more... still. We glanced left and right at the door numbers before finally arriving at the room.

The Room

A slide of the key card, a push of the door; and we finally took our first step into the room, our room. Sunlight streamed through the windows of the room, with the window looking out towards the rear end of orchard, a pity that we didn't get the more exciting view.

As we stood at the doorway, in a moment of complete observation and scrutiny, I plucked my ears, only to catch nothing but silence. Despite being in the heart of the city, the room was high enough that the hustle and bustle of the busy streets below wouldn't have the power to muscle its way up and disrupt the peace and quiet of our little slice of paradise, one that was isolated from the rest of the world, and time stood still.

Excitedly (her more so than me), we took the first few moments to explore the intricacies of our little island of isolation, rampaging through the drawers, sliding open the cupboards, and marveling at the surprisingly large size of the room and the luxurious facilities at our disposal.

"This room is really very 'business-like'," she said, "especially with the study table facing out of the window like this, I think its very conducive for creative works."

I peered out of the window into the vast nothingness, a view unobstructed by any other tall buildings or such, one that had grey urban buildings and black roads stretched out for miles, but induced a sense of almost-freedom from the world below. Coupled with soothing silence of the room, I could echo her sentiments exactly.

When finally satisfied with the interiors of the room, we decided to explore the exteriors that made up the rest of the hotel. Making our way down to the swimming pool made us realise that we only had an hour or so if we wanted to take a dip, and with that we wasted no time in getting into the water, after all, since I already went all the way to use the swimming thing as a red herring to throw her off-guard about the location, might as well fully utilize the props involved in the play.

Aside from a few tourists trying to sunbathe under a virtually non-existent evening sun, we basically had the pool entirely to ourselves. Water has always been a comfortable element for me, and some things just don't change, no matter how long you stay away from it. Happy with an hour in the water, we finally decided to head back to our little island to prepare for the big night *ahem* out.

Prepped up and all ready to go, I turned to her and said, "So darling, you have 3 options of where you want to eat: Triple 3, Pine Court, or... in-room dining."

Poison Apple

She burst out in laughter after actually hearing the options before she started to sit down and think.

"I'll go with in-room dining," she answered after giving it some thought, "because that is something that we can only do tonight. What would you have chosen?"

"Actually, I would have chosen the same, that was the original plan, that's why the hint actually was 'a place that opens past midnight', because technically, the room doesn't 'close', haha," I answered.

With the decision finally made, we decided to head down to the supermarket across the street to pick up some "supplies" before dinner proper. As we exited the sliding glass doors of the hotel lobby, we entered the familiar weekend-chaos of Orchard Road. People hurriedly shuffling about through the crowds, cars jammed up at the traffic lights, the occasional horn that rose above the loud, constant festive music; it was only then, that I realised the parallel drawn between the quiet isolation of our little abode and the disrupting noise of the weekend crowd.

It was ironic that the separation between the mood of the two spaces were separated merely by a couple of storeys in between. While it was rather shattering to the illusion of complete isolation, the insanity that reigned below made me appreciate the serenity of the room so much more when I finally set foot in it again after a very long 30 minutes.

A phone call and 20 minutes later, the door bell rang as our stomachs echoed in anticipation.

Phone Booth

The waiter wheeled in the table and started setting it up, unveiling dish by dish, before a feast fit for a king laid before our eyes.

Eyes on the Prey

"See darling, don't you feel like a king when you order room service?" I said with a smile on my face.

She nodded in agreement and satisfaction.

Dinner was a romantic affair over a window view of a string of occasional lights amidst the pitch black darkness of the rear side of Orchard Road, while soft love songs that accentuated the movie "The Lake house" served as our background music. The ambiance of the room locked us away in our own little time capsule as we savoured our make-shift 3-course dinner purely in the company of each other.

We started with the delightful Samosa and Spring Rolls, which we both agreed, were exceptionally crispy and more than tantalizing as a starter to the meal, especially the Samosa. The Smoked Salmon Caesar Salad proved to be a refreshing change of taste, with the greenery and the rich Caesar dressing. Her Fish & Chips added the finishing touch to her meal, while I settled for the Lobster Laksa. Only given a sampler from our last visit to the Chatterbox, the Lobster Laksa was rich with the taste of the gravy and had succulent lobsters to boot.

In typical fashion, I ordered more than I should have and was left bloated and immobile on the bed immediately after giving up on the final pieces left on the dishes.

I looked at my watched as we laid there, and said, "Happy Anniversary Darling," kissing her softly on the cheek upon the realisation that it was just past midnight.

She reciprocated the favour before saying, "Ok wait, I have something for you." She drew one of the drawers and pulled out a little rectangular boxed-shape gift that was wrapped in sleek, black wrapping paper.

"Here's your present, I hope you like it. Happy Anniversary." she said as she handed me the gift.

Giving up on trying to unwrap the present as gently as I could, I finally tore through the wrapping paper, only to discover that I had become the proud owner of a brand new, 4th generation Ipod Nano, and the icing on the cake? It was in its sleek, silver glory, and we all know that "I only accessorize with silver."

I Only Accessorize with Silver

Elation would be an understatement, as a new Ipod was something that I needed now, more so than ever, and also considering the fact that I almost wanted to buy a new 3rd generation one in the US before the entire poverty-inducing debacle.

I smiled at her with gratitude and appreciation, while she smiled back with satisfaction and perhaps relief.

As we lay in the bed, our eyelids growing heavier, she said to me, "You know dear, I don't really want to fall asleep, because I know that when I do, the next morning when I wake up, this will be over, and we have to go back to reality."

I resonated with her words as I struggled to keep my eyes open for a little longer. But the night grew later and my eyelids grew heavier, as I sensed my consciousness drifting away. I smiled about the magical events that had transpired over the course of the day, and thought about the isolation that we had relished through the course of the hours. I thought of the memories that we had made and the moments that we had shared.

As the last bits of my consciousness started to fade away, I mustered a smile on my face as I fell asleep, a smile of the experience of reaching a little Oasis for my weary soul in the walk through the Desert of Desolation over the course of the last few weeks. And after the magical weekend with the best of company in our own little space; deep inside me, I felt that my was soul.... was recharged.... and ready.... to.... continue.....pressing........forward.

366 /2

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Gambit Media Day: Last Stand

9th September 2008

It was weird, seeing myself on the TV screen. It's just so weird to look at yourself from the perspective that is not of your own very eyes. I stared blankly at the screen, as I saw myself move in my signature manner in that matter of seconds; my body shuddered as I thought about the thousands of people watching the Channel 8 and Channel U news that were probably staring at "the random guy with spikey hair" on TV involved in "some game thing."

My eyes stayed glued to my every movement on the screen, as my mind wandered off into the recesses of my memory of the morning...


"Good, you're not late," the Director said as I walked into the already-filled room.

"Hello," I said with a wide, sheepish grin on my face as I saw the Admin-girl, only to receive a wide-eyed dagger-stare as a response to my late-coming.

I quickly scanned the room for the familiar faces and walked up to them. "How is it?" I asked, as I reclined into the chair next to William.

"I think we don't have time to install it for a live-demo," he said as he stared out at the crowd bustling about the podium in the center of the room.

"Yeah, I think so too," I said with an nod of expectancy. "How's the trailer?" I asked, turning to Michelle.

"It's already in the presentation laptop, you wanna see it?" she asked, eyes red from the lack of sleep.

She inserted the disc as I held my breath in anticipation for it to boot up. A familiar scene came up on screen, one that we had all seen two Thursdays before, much to all of our chargrin; in fact, it was the EXACT same thing save for the pixelated video being replaced by still, non-pixelated screen shots. My heart sank as the cheesy "Own your masterpiece today" line came up on the screen.

"Ok," I said, deeply masking my disappointment as I stared out into the crowd.

Butterflies fluttered in my stomach; for some odd reason, no matter how many times I do it, I still feel the performance anxiety every time before I make an important presentation. But this time, it was much more than that, it was a matter of numbers.

The odds were greatly stacked against the project and me, as I realised that not only were we the only group to not have a live-demo to be able to showcase, I had just discovered that our trailer was DEFINITELY the weakest link as well. These daunting factors, stacked atop the notoriously low expectations that the management has for the project, made me feel that my task at hand was going to be a more than mountainious one.

I remember taking it upon myself to ensure that Muzaic got a proper final stand. Considering that the game was not going to be continued or showcased in almost any other form after this event, and after the enormous debacle that was the previous presentation by Michelle during Industry Day, I was determined to set things right, let the project get at least its due credit, and let Muzaic go out with a bang.

I let out a silent sigh upon the realization of these goals seeming more unreachable than they ever were given the circumstances.


"We will now invite Jeremy Kang from the second group to present Muzaic," the project coordinator announced as I stepped up to the center podium.

I turned away from the crowd, staring prolongedly at the dual-screens waiting for the slides to come up; all as a form of masking the possible giveaway signs of anxiety that could have been written on my face.

The opening slide came up on the screen as a took a deep breath to sooth my nerves and turned around to greet the crowd, "Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Jeremy Kang and I am here to talk about Muzaic."
"Before I start on anything else, I would like to talk about what goes into the name 'Muzaic'. Muzaic is essentially made up of the words 'music' and 'mosaic'. So, bear these concepts in mind as we take a look at the trailer," I presented, as I turned around to stare at the screen again and to avoid the potential disheartening from the shocked look of disgust on the faces of the audience.

Recovering from the cringe and goosebumps of the cheesy 'Own your masterpiece today' closing line, I turned around, gritted my teeth and said, "I'm sure that all of you are probably slightly to very confused as to what was going on in the trailer, but don't worry, we'll get to that in a moment," with as straight a face as I could keep without bursting into a million pieces of agonizing shame.

"The goal of creating a game for the sighted and the visually impaired to play together was a double-edged sword in the our project. It was our biggest selling point, and also our biggest design challenge," I said, taking a special effort to point out the biggest selling point of the game to play to my audience; after all, they were the press, and they were probably hungering for something unique and different, and potentially juicy.

"I'm sorry that we are unable to show a live-demo of the game due to technical and time constraints, but feel free to come by our booth later if you are interested, we have it set up there," trying to smooth out the second major hurdle of the presentation. "But for now, I'll use the next best thing to explain the game, screenshots."

"So you what you actually do in the game is that you breed, like mad rabbits," I said with a cheeky grin, rousing laughter of amusement from the crowd, injecting jokes alongside the explanation of the gameplay to keep the presentation fresh and interesting despite the lack of dynamic objects moving on the screen, unlike every other team.

"And with that, I end my presentation. But before I go, a little bit of shameless advertising. You can play our game at the following address. Any questions?" I asked in closing, as I looked around the room, as the audience remained silent.

"If there are no questions then we will move on to the next group," the project coordinator intervened. Applause rang as I made my way back to the corner of the room, walking past the admin-girl along the way.

"Very well done," she said, raising two thumbs up at me, as I walked to the back of the room and sank into an empty chair with great relief.

The Director in front of me turned around, and signalled a thumbs up to me, and mouthed the words "Good job." I smiled to myself as my mind drifted away from the rest of the presentations.


I camped by the news on Channel U waiting to see which segment of the interview and the faux-playing footage taken in the aftermath of the presentation they actually decided to show.

"Singapore-MIT alliance, Gambit Game Lab showcased their games from their second batch of students today," the anchor said in Mandarin, my face lighting up as I saw the picture of the story at the side being none other the Tribal dude in Muzaic.

"Combining a Rock and a Tribal character allows different types of music to be played. Muzaic is a one of the projects in this year's Gambit that allows both the sighted and the blind to play together," the voice-over reported in Mandarin as they showed footage of my little baby.

Footage of Michelle and I pretending to play the game came up as I stared at my every movement on the screen. There was just something really weird about looking at yourself outside of your own perspective.

Michelle's familiar mug came on the screen talking about blind users on Facebook before they cut the segment to an interview with the Director before ending the report with a video collage of the rest of the games.

"And today in sports..." the anchor went on in Mandarin as I sat there still staring blankly at the screen, smiling from ear to ear, knowing that I had gave the game a more than deserving Last Stand.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Second Wind

The lift doors opened, as I stepped out into the light, largely contributed by the warm rays of the afternoon sun streaming in through the glass windows at the end of the room.

"I'm looking for a friend," I told the waitress as I stepped into the cafe proper, peering my head from side to side until I saw a familiar silhouette in a distance, at a quiet little corner of the cafe. Her head was tilted away from me as I walked towards her, peering out at the distant horizon stretching far beyond the cityscape below us.

"It's been awhile," she said in her soft and rather raspy voice, all without turning her head. I took my seat before replying, "Yes it has, too long maybe."

"Some things just don't change though," she said, subtlely turning her wrist such that the face of her watch faced me to give me a good reminder of the minutes that I owe her.

"Yes, indeed, like the location and circumstance in we which hold our conversations; somehow it seems to bear a deep sense of deja vu," I replied, blatantly ignoring her subtle hint at my characteristical lateness.

She finally turned to face me, and gave me a cold, wry smile of well-awareness, before curling her index finger around the handle of the coffee cup and bringing the corner of the cup to her bright red lips.

Silence fell between us as she continued to sip her coffee.

"You seem a little different," she said, finally breaking the silence.

I remained silent as I looked into and through her light, greyish-blue eyes.

"Something is amiss in your eyes my dear, you seemed to have lost something; you seemed to have lost the spark in your eyes... the spark of hope." she said, her cracking lips bending subconsciously into a slight frown. "They look so different from a year ago, you had so much more back then; hope, passion, anticipation, resolution, you used to have them in spades."

I looked at her unflinchingly for a few moments that felt more like minutes, before moving my lips to reply, "One year can do a lot to a man."

"There are some things that are hard to recover once you lose them, and naive optimism is one of them. You above everybody else, should be familiar with this," I continued.

"You knew it was not going to be easy, my dear, "she said, placing her coffee cup gently upon the saucer. "You were well-aware of the possible hardships along the path in which you chose to walk, and yet you still chose to walk it anyway, am I right?"

"Yes, I was well-aware that it was not going to be easy, but no one mentioned anything about it being THIS hard though," I replied, with my voice slightly cracking under the intensity of the emotions.

I took a moment of calming silence before continuing, "Choosing the path is one thing, but walking it is a totally different matter. In fact, these days, I don't even feel like I'm doing very much 'walking' to speak of."

"My dear, the path you chose is a bumpy one, it has always been. It's one that requires a certain amount of fortitude to muscle through," she explained. "If it were someone lesser, I probably would have *ahem* strongly advised them against taking it, but you...

I shifted my eyes away from her intense gaze to the much less-threatening sights of the setting sun.

"There was some thing else about you," she continued. "You had something else in your eyes, something that many are willing to foresake. You had ideals, and the thing about ideals is that: they always cost more, a lot more than compromise, in fact."

My soul stirred at the sound of her words, as I turned towards her to see the hidden compassion behind her piercing gaze.

"As always, my role is purely rhetoric. The question remains essentially the same as a year ago. The high road of material security, financial stability and mental comfort; versus the low road of unforeseeable futures, unpredictable circumstances and intangible riches?"

"Once again, it is up to you to decide for yourself what you REALLY want, and more importantly, the Price in which you are willing to pay to obtain it," she said as she raised her line-ridden hand to call for the bill.

"Time is of the essence and I'm sorry that I couldn't say a little longer to mope with you," she said sarcastically, with a crooked smile on her face. "After all, you're not the only one..."

"With a Date with Destiny. Yes, I know." I said, returning her the favour and forcing an equally tilted smile off the side of the cheek.

She looked at me and smiled. "You watch boxing, my dear?"

Taken aback at the complete irrelevance, I cocked an eyebrow.

"Yes, neither do I," she said, with her face twisting into a genuine smile buried deep within the wrinkles of time. "But I'm sure you've seen a match when a fighter is knocked to the ground, the referee is counting and he has this lost, disdain look in his eyes."

"Hmm." I said, prompting her to continue.

"Ever so rarely, there comes a fighter that is on the verge of being counted out, but he manages to get back on his feet, and spring back into the action and win the match instead."

"Yes, a 'second wind'. Some believe that it is a sudden rush or refuelling of adrenaline that drives one to experience a resurgence of energy. So what about it?"

"I'm not too sure if you've noticed this. But for me, most of the time, I can tell if the fighter who got up is going to eventually win or not," she answered with a hint of pride.

"Oh really? How?" I asked curiously.

"It's all in the eyes, my dear, it's all in the eyes," she said, as she rose to her feet.

I rose to my feet in accompaniment.

"Jeremy, it was a pleasure" she bidded.

"No, the pleasure was mine, m'lady," I said with a gentle nod.

She smiled briefly before turning around to walk away.

No sooner after she took 5 steps did I call out, "m'lady..... Thank you."

She stopped in her tracks and stood rooted at her spot momentarily, before continuing to walk away from me.

I sank into the chair and gave a relieving sigh as I stared down at the table. The bright red lip stick mark on her coffee cup caught my attention as I thought to myself...

"Perhaps some things really don't change."