Life through apertures at the speed of shutters.

In the hands of the teenagers around me, the laptop is a RM3k+ digital photo album. It’s where they store the relished moments that they have captured to be enjoyed later and in anticipation of posting ’em up for others to join in their visual orgies.

It’s not that the pictures need to be displayed so as to weed out the more desirable from the lesser ones. No, that narcissism starts much earlier. Thanks to the technology of digital photography, the selection is done instances after the photographs were taken. After every shot, the consensus will decide if the image is to what they imagined it to look like. If it does not match up to their delusions, they’re more than prepared to go through the rigmarole again, with selections from their catalogue of contemporary signs and symbols for the necessary poses, expressions and gestures till their expectations are met. It’s kinda bizarre that people actually freeze themselves in order to be captured and frozen by fractions of seconds with the shutter; to freeze for a phenomena that would freeze you anyways. Why, in Asia they’ve even devised a sign to indicate when they’re ready to be captured – they portray the number two with their fingers to announce their readiness for the camera. The degree of readiness is further indicated in direct proportion to the number of hands indicating the number two.

Ah am soo leddy now!

For a time, I actually anticipated that conversations with the young ‘uns would now be extra bitchen and exciting cos their stories would have pictures as well. But I find that what makes for dialogue and narration are just captions, and the focus of their pictures are so much of themselves that it obliterates all else around obscuring any sense of place. If there was a landmark, you couldn’t get to know much about it apart from the simple fact that they were there in front of it. If it was a picture postcard scenery you could not look further because their presence would eclipse the wonderous view around them. But you could probably have a hint at what food tastes like cos pictures of food would get a people-free image, followed by images that would indicate those people in absentia because you’d get a picture of the meal post consumption.  And of course there will be the intermediate picture of them in the act of devouring the meal with one hand while the other indicates the number two.

... or when they prepare to nap after meals.

It seems like this will be the mode of communication with them for awhile. They say that times can now no longer be forgotten but can be relived when they are all captured and recorded. Memories start early. They are setting up and pre-selecting for recollections and ruminations later. The enjoyment is not just in the now, but also set up for the later.

Everything is set up to be captured in order to be related through still life. But i’ve always felt that no one and nothing exists in the fraction of a second. Everyone and everything exists in the realm of continuous time. Why, it takes time just for the light to reach the eyes. So how much of a person is in a photograph, except for a fleeting illusion cos a captured image cannot be much more. So are they simply just setting up illusions for others to perceive? I only lament because one could not get to know a real person in that manner, and despair that when not being frozen in time, there might not be much that is real about them if everything is for that fraction of a second.  Unless of course, fictional is all they want to be.

For Malaysian Electric Guitar zer0es

Music has a language which is the structure with which you form the music. Technique is the mechanism you utilise for fluency in expressing that language. The sound made is the product of how you use the technique to express the language. And how you use the technique to express the language to create the music is entirely up to you. It’s not up to Yngwie Malmsteen or Steve Vai,  nor Eric Johnson or Eric Clapton. They, as with all the other guitarists worthy of being called a guitarist, have their own ways to express themselves with the electric guitar.

It’s not about practicing to levels of proficiency till you’re a copy of them; till you could go round haughtily claiming to the denizens that you can play as fast as Malmsteen, including the pouting lips and sucked in cheeks. Or bend and shake the notes like David Gilmour complete with pursed lips and puffed up cheeks. Or tap like EVH with grinning lips and smiling cheeks. You only need bona fide guitar heroes to broaden your vocabulary of how the music can be played. Theirs is their own expression. Just as yours should be your own.

If you want others to drool when you play note for note of what others could; if you want them to cream at the flurry of notes at the same speed, or even faster; if you could make all the facial expressions and do all the moves – than all you’re looking for is to be regarded as a good mimic. You’d be no different than a well-trained simian. Or local rap artists who prance around like they’re the bizkit just because they actually believe they sound black and from the projects. Ignore the apologists who say they’re using the form and expression of others but make it their own. Yeah, that’s not mimicry. That’s thievery.

So get your own sound. Forge your own expression. Find your own sense of fashion. Get out of the local mindset that only accepts something as good only when it’s able to mimic something that is already good before. When you got the language and discovered the technique, and stored a library of how it’s done -close your eyes, silence your mind, reach down deep inside and let it flow using the language to give it form and the technique to give it beauty. And only then would it be interesting to lend you an ear.

But if you’re merely playing like someone else with roving eyes to see whose watching and a grinning sneer that says, “Ain’t but a thang”, then join the queue at the next Idol line.

A’s are for Attainment not Achievement

I don’t much mind the initial objectives of the local education curriculum. It does seem to have the right intentions – primarily that of dispensing fundamental knowledge and the base skills required to acquire them. These can be seen from the textbooks designated by the ministry. Of course you have to be charitable and overlook the occasional errors in spelling and paging, the choice of graphics, and the cover with strong nationalist overtones with sensationalist fonts. Never mind the propaganda. Past that and you’d find contents geared to enable the understanding of the fundamentals of what is to be learnt. For instance, they attempt to convey the concept behind division through examples of sharing in daily life rather than merely laying out division tables to be memorised. History is laid out as stories and events rather than simply listing dates and names to be remembered. The latter examples that emphasises you to memorise is in the realms of the supplementary or interactive books that are preferred by the teachers.

In the hands of these teachers, the process of learning is reduced to a subset of 3 r’s as notes and data to be recited, remembered and regurgitated at exams. And to further buttress the success of those 3 r’s, there’s also the phenomena of question spotting based on experiences and observations of cycles and probabilities – which is trying to determine through hypothetical patterns of which questions came out when after how many years, and when was the last time they appeared.

To further ensure those 3 r’s are properly instilled, there’s always tuition with more exclusive notes and tutors with better answering tips and techniques and even higher q-spotting acumen. These are centres or persons with reputations forged by the gross total ratio of A’s to students over the years.  [I believe the desired ratio is 8 A’s to a student.] Of course, tuitions are also to provide good practice for those requiring remembering by repetition. If you are not confident of your natural memory retention facilities, fret not, there are centres that boast on banners to being able to boost it for you solely for exams.

What are exams then? Shouldn’t they be about the assessments of one’s comprehension, absorption and assimilation of knowledge, and not merely a challenge that needs to be overcome with the grading marks as medallions? With the amount of adulation and fawning particularly through extensive national media coverage, the challenge it seems is more the favoured way in these parts.

But isn’t it just an illusion of what the true objective should actually be? No question it’s all about the hardwork. But if exams are mere challenges than the toils are more about covering as much as possible in order to remember as hard as possible rather than to genuinely understand things. And that’s not an exercise of intelligence. That’s all about memory retention, which has been confused for intelligence.

So maybe we should remove the deception of the accolades and adulation which upholds such illusions so that future generations would actually strive with due diligence for actual intelligence.

Shouldn’t we? Could we?

I gather not. First to be up in arms and throw fits and tantrums over even the suggestion of such would be the parents. Don’t even think about it. No way would parents ever allow such a travesty to even be considered. After all, that’s the labyrinth of illusions they came through.