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.

Really saying nothing.

Case in point #1:

A talk by a city planner, supposedly on urban planning, ends up being a longer than alloted monologue about how his professor from the past, whom he personally met from the airport and chauffeured around says that what he sees around our city is among the finest. The minutes seem like hours as he waxed lyrically about other examples with similar accolades by seemingly qualified people whom he knew personally, some while being driven around by him as well.

Case in point #2:

An elderly and well-established local architect gives a presentation at a seminar on architectural issues related to Islamic civilisation which consists entirely of a slide show of his travels in younger days through middle eastern countries – with images of him and others looking like The Grateful Dead and all the anecdotes that came with the experience. Point consistently reminded throughout was how the younger folks in the seminar should follow his example, which we are to assume would cover the subjects pertaining to the seminar on Islamic civilisation. Older folks in the audience nod smugly in agreement.

Case in point #3

A tutor displeased with his class for what he considers lackadaisical attitudes, proceeds to grill them for no less than 4 hours on improving the situation. In those 4 hours he has managed to cover the hardships of parental roles in general, deftly segueing into dedication to studies [especially his], and eventual commitments in matrimony before being released into the real world. He highlighted the commitment of the university in giving the students the opportunity to study within their hallowed halls from out of hundreds of thousands of applicants, and the faculty’s relentless pursuit in extracting the necessary funds to carry out said nobility. Naturally this would follow with his own personal altruistic roles which includes the sacrifices he made braving the traffic day after day to be there at the expense of how his own flesh and blood would have to rely on other means of transportation while he stays dedicated to his task, as does his spouse in another part of the city.

Then comes the government’s role providing for the youth as they are the future of the nation to the extent that the nation has even paid for a foreign architect to design and foreign technology to build not just one, but two very tall buildings that we can be proud of. [The foreign part was my own addition. The way he put it you’d believe we designed and built it ourselves.] I hope you can see where this is going cos i’d really like to move to another case in point; but rest assured, not a peep about the actual problems the students were having with their tasks at hand which led to their poor performance.

Case in point #4

A workshop for learner drivers included a seminar where the presenter goes on and on about how in developed countries similar schools would have very hi-tech facilities including furniture from world renown furniture house, Ikea – like that was a good thing.

Case in point #5

Elderly folks telling the young ‘uns about the hardships of life during wartime, the perils of foreign occupation, the misery of rationing, the lack of proper sanitation facilities, the joys of independence, you get the picture. But was it so that them young ‘uns would appreciate the times they’re in and not take things for granted? Nope. It was so them young ‘uns will watch less TV, read more books and study much harder in school.

Case in point #6

Some politician on a TV forum where the topic was on how we should be moving forward with the times, declares out that rather than moving forward he’d like to look backward and went on and on about how things were in the past and proceeded to reminisce about it while the others in the panel, including the host, fell in as subordinates and nodded diligently till it was time for the final credits to roll.


I could barely fathom what was going on in all those characters minds as to how they could just go on talking about things actually irrelevant or barely contributing to the subjects at hand, if at all. One would expect that if not much was known of the subject matter then there wouldn’t be much to say; but they just went on and on, totally engrossed while digressing further and further till all that was left was to thank them for having taken the time to talk, regardless if they said anything of significance. Just for the act of talking, never mind the lack of actual content.

The first case was just telling you what’s considered good by whom he considers good [like you should too] as if that was good enough. Whereas shouldn’t he be talking about what makes the good good, and the inverse for what’s bad?

The second case – I don’t know, I’m still figuring out that one.

The mystery in the third case is why the tutor would not delve into the actual causes of the students’ problems in order to help them out of it? If he already knew what that was, what could it be that warranted the 4 hour sermon of sorts?

Case in point #4 appears to be very insecure as it seems like he needs to impress the audience with what he knows [as if that is what it takes to impress them], in order to coax a sense of authority from them in order that they’ll listen to him. And of course by the time he established his authority, the time ran out.

Advise from the elderly in #5 should be taken for the intentions behind and never the form in which that they actually choose to carry it out.

Number 6 is a politician.

Narcissistic Negation

Some examples in italics first. Pay particular attention to the first part of the sentence then notice the inconsistency of the later parts in relation to what was said in the first.

“It’s not that I want to gossip, but do you know who she’s been seen with ever since she got those implants?  Its that man who dresses like a 70s pimp. The one whose  daughter was dumped by that wife-battering singer who was caught with his pants down while the maid…….”

Next example:

“Of course I did it out of sincerity and expect absolutely nothing in return, but he could have at least remembered what i did and sold his kidney for when I was broke. It’s not like he needs both of it or like I was asking for anything in return.”

Then there’s:

“You know I’m not the sort to poke my nose into other people’s business, but how much are you bringing back from work after taxes including bonuses and overtime, and what kind of benefits do you get?”


“I can’t stand people who stab others in the back. So I’m not like that brazen hussy who got me to sneak your car out with her so we could go to the hairdressers.”

And finally:

“I never like to copy other people’s design but I just cannot come up with a good idea if I haven’t seen one before.”

Isn’t it amazing how folks declare out how they are not of certain traits or behaviour, then in the same breath without batting an eye, proceed to show clear indications of that very same undesired trait in themselves? It’s as if they know it’s wrong so they declare it first in order to establish that they are not like that. So when they actually do it after it’ll be okay because they know that they’re not like that -cos they just said that they’re not.

It’s like saying good about themselves without actually being good. How delusional can you be?

Well, from experience, you can be blindingly deluded because the people i know who do it have absolutely no idea they do it. And the times I’ve pointed it out to them, they vehemently deny it. It’s probably because when they say out loud what they’re not, they are picturing in their minds the badness they are avoiding, but what they do next is detached from that mental picture. The only way to elaborate this further would need using one of the examples.

Take the first one. When declaring that she doesn’t gossip, she has an instant image of others who gossips and she decides not to be like them. As she cannot see herself, she has never seen herself gossiping; in other words, she can’t know what she looks like when she gossips. Which means when she pictures people gossiping, she is not included in the picture. So after declaring out loud she doesn’t gossip and picturing those who do – which does not include her – she proceeds to do it cos she can’t see herself doing it. It was the pictures of gossiping that stuck with her, not the abstract concept of what gossiping is. Could this be another example of using a form to understand a notion, instead of understanding the notion in the abstract?  The form in this case are the mental images of people gossiping. What she is missing is what gossiping really is which could apply to any form including hers – which she can’t see herself.

So be cautioned. Since it is so easy to be deluded as such, what those examples did could also easily be done by you.

In the words of the 70s philosopher Uriah Heep – Look At Yourself

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.