Sunday, November 30

There And Back Again (Volume Two)

To paraphrase a certain celebrity governor: I'm back.

Toting my shiny and very heavy new Neal Stephenson masterpiece, I trudged into KLIA at about 6 pm. Man, am I out of it. I'll have to ask forgiveness from most if not all bloggers, since I've been missing out on almost a month's worth of entries.

The Ox is sorry.

Like always, I'm astounded by how warped our sense of time can be. Sometimes it feels like molasses, engulfing us, and moving so imperceptibly one questions one's faith in the minute hands of clocks. Other times, it zips by so fast like blood from a torn jugular, a Sampras serve, or one of those things that go fast (forgive me, am still slightly jet lagged).

As the plane nosed out of Auckland, I couldn't help but wish (as always) that I could do it all over again, that armed with my hindsight, I could have done things better. There will always be regrets, I think. But what matters is how much we put into them. I flew to New Zealand for something I believed in, and still do. The trip made me realise that I HAVE grown up, and that when push comes to shove, I'm prepared to fight tooth and nail for what I believe in.

Also, that I can jump off a bridge and survive.

Life IS about risk, even in a small way. Everything we do runs a risk of making us lose physically or emotionally. But then again, without those risks, would what we have mean as much? Some may argue what's the sense of putting ourselves out on a limb if there are no guarantees? I say: that's when you take a breather and assess your position. Calculated risks are always better in my book.

And so I go on, back to work, back to friends and back to life. Whatever I needed to say has been said, and whatever I could do has been done. The cards are on the table, I've just upped the ante and if I'm gonna go out, why the hell not go with a bang? Good ol' fight's still there in me, that I can promise. So for now, at least, I lick my wounds and marshall my strength.

I reckon there's just about enough left for one last stand. Besides, I ain't heard no fat lady sing yet.

(wink, wink)


Saturday, November 22

The One Where Ash Has Raya Overseas

Another Saturday comes along, merrily speeding us on our way to the next week. Aidilfitri is coming soon, and I can only wish I could be celebrating it back home. Still, this year's Ramadhan will always be memorable at least for one thing: I found out that the human soul can take a lot and still go on, that love can be a wringer/gauntlet as well as a garden, and that we may never find the elusive "point" mankind has been looking for as long as I can remember.

What point, you ask? Well let me put it this way. How often have we asked ourselves this little question:

"What's the bloody point?"

Like the elusive Question to the Answer of the Universe (which is 42, by the way), why we sometimes do the things we do escapes the best and smartest of us. In a time where the more tangible something is the more it counts, we often find ourselves doing things that make no rational sense and with no rewards whatsoever (at least none that we can put up on our mantelpieces).

So why do we do it? When it comes to the affairs of the heart, our rational mind acts as if it's a no-man's land and straightaway throws itself out the window. Do we not learn from our past? I speak for myself when I say that yes, I think I've learnt some lessons but when the time (and opportunity) comes, I'm one of the first to jump into the fray again. Maybe (for some of us) we've forgotten to ask what may be one of the most politically incorrect questions there is: what's in it for me?

Perhaps it's because we always want what we perceive as the best for ourselves. We have an image of who we are in our minds, and actively seek something/one to complement that perception. When we fail to achieve that end, we wrestle with our familiar Stygian "friends" including self-doubt and self pity, among others.

Throughout this last couple weeks, I've been trying to put myself on "objective" mode. You know, all the better to make decisions with. Unfortunately, 'tis easier said than done. Some days are alright, whereas on other days I find myself landing slightly higher on the evolutionary scale than a mud puddle (and feeling like one, too).

Again we ask: so what's the point? Has this rambling entry actually shed any light at all on the matter? The truth, in my opinion at least is that we may never know what the point is, or if there ever was one in the first place. I've sometimes thought that we're all just bit players in a divine tragicomedy where the stage is as big as a planet, and there's never any help with the script, or proper role assignments, for that matter.

If that's the case, then Har-bloody-har.

Only a lucky few will ever be able to distinguish the "big picture". Until that particular luxury becomes more accessible, my guess is regular Joes and Janes like ourselves will have to do it the "hard" way: working our arses off and hoping that someone, somewhere will notice and tell us if we're actually doing any good or if we're better off trying to sell ice to the Eskimos.

By the way, I would appreciate just a teensy-weensy little nudge in the right direction, thank You.

Selamat Hari Raya, everyone, and maaf zahir batin. Have a good safe one, and God bless.

Song of the day: Creep, Radiohead (is this song for me or what?)


Thursday, November 20

Something Beautiful is Sexed Up

Hello, people.

It feels like ages since I've last blogged, but a quick look at my previous entry shows that it's barely been two days. Humph. I swear time moves strangely in New Zealand. It can move so slowly that you swear you can hear each second creep past you, but suddenly rush past in a blur that leaves you spinning and disoriented.

Weird, but then again, I AM down under.

I've been busy catching up on my reading, and have just finished the excellent Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett. As of right now, am happily tucking into Philippa Gregory's The Other Boleyn Girl. Masterful piece of historical fiction, if I do say so myself. Been keeping self v. busy these past few days, organising trips up and down the town and basically spending some quality time with some of the international students here, which is not bad at all.

I'm getting better. Mentally, I mean. Facing each day's been getting easier, and I can actually look forward to stuff. It's nothing major, but I like to think it's a sweet little victory over the ugly depressive cloud that still insists on hanging around. One day at a time, I suppose.

Also, am v. thankful that I've reached this plateau sooner than I expected. The little spark of acceptance that came along earlier this week has managed to grow into a reasonably strong voice of reason in my addled head, and it's been a tremendous help.

In the meantime, I'll be living the best way I know how: aiming high, but taking it one hop, skip and jump at a time.

Feet firmly on the ground, of course.

Song of the day: Something Beautiful, Robbie Williams


Tuesday, November 18

Fire's Good For Trials

I cannot believe I am actually homesick. I've been away before, heck I've spent most of my young life away from my family but suddenly it struck me that I am bona fide homesick. I actually miss my long drives to work, the inpromptu work assignments and (God Forbid) even the meetings. Now I really know I'm sick in the head.

I've been getting this restless little urge for the past few days now, and I think my body's just tired. It's difficult trying to put things in perspective when your own is slightly skewed as well. Maybe it's what a Snow White jigsaw piece feels like when it gets mixed up in the Pooh box. Try as you might, you can't simply fit in, no matter how raggedy you bend and stretch your edges.

I am one messed up jigsaw, yessirree. I managed to watch Battle Royale (that's right Vlad!) a few days ago, and I thought it was quite interesting. I would have reviewed that AND the Matrix Revolutions but I figured I had to do some more spring cleaning before I can actually write coherent reviews, among other things. Suffice to say for now that IMHO, Revolutions sucked big time. Make that extra big time.

So here I am on a Tuesday morning, blogging my sad little thoughts away. I've found that they tend to dance and taunt me in my head if I keep them in for too long. Nasty little buggers, that's what I say. If I had any choice in the matter, I'd sign up for a complete mindwipe and move on with what's left of my life (reference to Artemis Fowl there). But there's no such thing, is there?

Heheh. I'm sensing that these morbid little entries are winding down the closer I get to going home. That's alright, cause I've been through this ugly little phase before. Self pity, feelings of rejection and general unworthiness..all part and parcel of what we call the aftermath of breaking up. Hell, it's been almost a year and I'm still in a rut. Talk about self-delusion.

It can only get better from here, I hope. Besides, there'll be nothing to tell my grandkids about if all this never happened. It's official, folks. The Ox is on his way back. Reborn, leaner, meaner, and more of a Singleton than ever.

Mmmm. Watch out, world.


Sunday, November 16

November Rain

I went to the beach yesterday.

It dawned cold, wet and miserable at first, but quickly turned into what I learnt was a rarity in Dunedin: A warm sunny day. I was bored, so I happily accepted the invitation to go into town and roam around for awhile. It was livelier than I ever remembered seeing it this past week, and so I walked a little aimlessly, soaking up the atmosphere and taking comfort from the human contact.

A few hours later, I was in a car (with some of my new friends) taking breathtakingly scenic routes, going nowhere in particular. The sky was blue and almost cloudless, making it too nice a day to simply stay inside. We drove into random roads and paths, vaguely aware that we were looking for a beach, until we sort of stumbled into one.

It was perfect. Framed by a series of cliffs on either side and a sleepy little village behind it, it was exactly what I imagined it would be. Gulls circled overhead as the sea hurled itself into the rocks in the distance. The water glinted an emerald green as it lapped the shore playfully, as if daring me to go in. I walked into the sparkling water and gasped at how cold it was, but it didn't matter. It was a beautiful day.

So we stood there, and talked and joked. The wind tugged at our hair and clothes but still I couldn't help running into the water's edge every few minutes, feeling the sand under my feet, fine and damp. Someone brought a frisbee and almost wordlessly we threw it about, playing with the sea breeze as well as each other. And when that was done, we simply walked along the beach, watching the birds gliding lazily overhead and looking at the shells strewn about that will one day be nothing more than sand themselves.

On the way back to the car, I saw a gull try and break a shell it was carrying, probably its dinner. The bird flew up and dropped the shell over and over, trying to get to the contents. It must have been a particularly resilient shell, for it almost gave up and left it. But finally it succeeded and had what looked like a tasty little treat.

I realised then that life is like that as well. Some shells are tougher than others and you may not always get what you want, but there'll always be something worth fighting for. I understood my reluctance to let go, but at the same time accepted that nothing is certain, and that life's too short to regret every single "what-if". My broken heart will heal only if I let it, and let go.

So on a desolate beach that windy Saturday afternoon, I learnt to let go a little.
Maybe I can do some more, soon.

Song of the Day: November Rain, Guns and Roses


Friday, November 14

Moving On (Part Deux) and Growing Up

Hey, people.

Another week draws to a close, and after the initial pain and resentment, acceptance comes along as expected. It's tempting to remain miserable and self-pitiful, but I don't think I can afford to do that for long, not at this stage in life. I think it's even safe to say the worst is over. Grieving is hard work, and I think that I haven't really mourned until I got here. Oh well. Grudgingly my brain (and my heart) digest the fact that this particular story has been played out to the end.

I may not like the ending, but I accept that things can't always go my way either. Unlike SATC, there's no twist in the end, no convenient deus ex machina to make sure everything wraps up in 30 minutes, and no script to help move the plot along. Besides, as always, real life is waiting outside ready to whisk me back to the land of the living, kicking and screaming. Ironic, since that's how we come to the world (with help from the doctor, of course) and also how we leave certain parts of it. We do the best we can under the circumstances, and I think that's the best we can ask of anyone.

It intrigues me to think, however, that perhaps in an alternate world, things turn out different. That I may never have said that fateful hello the first time. That the choices I made were different, opening new doors while closing others. Nevertheless, I am strangely comforted by the thought that maybe in one of these "possible" futures, another Ash.ox is having an entirely lovely day with the one he loves. Of course, all this may also be total hogwash, but I've found that hope is an essential part of the human condition. Why else do we push on against (sometimes) incredible odds? Do we revel in outdoing Sisyphus?

Someone once told me:

Hope is an expensive commodity, all the more since it's entirely based on speculation.

Indeed it is.


Thursday, November 13

Moving On (Part One)

I cleared the contents of my SMS inbox today. Every single one of them.

As I scrolled through the saved messages, I couldn't help but read through them again one last time. It's amazing how much meaning they used to hold. I mull the contents in my head, feeling the ghost of their warmth touch me again briefly, before finally turning hollow and brittle, like empty snakeskins. I am reminded how it felt to have someone send those little missives, someone who cared,and what life was like. It's amazing how such a simple action can prove to be so difficult to perform. They're gone now, like that particular part of my life. To help me move on, I tell myself that I've lost this battle, that there is no more sense in fighting on. The little reminders everyday also help, in their own way.

Enter the present.

I guess the various chat logs I've kept the last few months will have to go, too. Still have them neatly filed away..a remembrance of days past when every trace of a contact would have to be preserved. It was as if just by capturing the content, every nuance, gesture and emotion could be captured too (silly, I know). An internal spring cleaning perhaps, one that's become extremely overdue and whose time has finally come.

There are memories and stories in every SMS and email, arguments and jokes, fights and laughter, hopes, dreams and..plans.

The best laid plans of mice and men,
Gang 'oft a gley
Burns(thanks to Arrelle)

I'm done with plans, for now. They're good in a way, but they're also risky. It's going to be awhile until I can formally make some more, but I need to heal first. Very badly. I'm even unsure on where to do my PhD.

Still, I think I can lose myself anywhere, if I really want to.


I hate it that I can't move on, that it's so difficult to let go even when there's no chance in heaven (or hell) I'll get what I lost back. She's made up her mind. And she doesn't mince any words telling me that she has. It's up to me to do the manly thing, now.

Oh, and another thing. I really need to stop these self-piteous entries. But I suppose they'll run their course.

I wish.
I wish I was asleep.
But I'm not, and no one's going to be there when I wake up out of this scary dream.
Not any more.

Goodnight, blog.

Postscript: Watching Sex And The City helps, in a very weird way. Thank God for DVDs, LoL.


Wednesday, November 12


Hello again, blog.

Seems like it's been awhile since I last wrote, although it's only been about two days. There's good news, though: I'm still alive. The days here seem to merge into a continuous blur as I move from task to task. I can safely say I'm relatively stable now, although preventing the constant reminders (of him) from getting to me does leave its toll.


To all my friends in, out and around the blogosphere, thank you so much for your kind comments and emails. Being out here, the loneliness seems amplified a thousandfold, and your messages are sometimes all that anchors me to the fragile state called Sanity.

Am I insane? Perhaps. But I know the hurt in my chest that threatened to kill me a few days ago has subsided into a dull ache, noticeably there, but subdued. I look out the window, and sometimes I see flashes of another life. There is an ethereal quality in the atmosphere here that somehow manages to seek out the darkest corners of despair you think you've chased away and bring it back up, bubbling and roiling to the surface.

There's a palpable bleak-ness in the air, and even though I think I've managed to chuck off the worst of it, sometimes, when the night's all quiet and the only sounds are the wind and my breathing, it stalks me. It's almost tangible the way it moves, and it always takes the same route night after night.

Sometimes I see it like a beast banging against the walls of my defences, and I know that it I ever give it an inch or a single opening, it would overwhelm me and carry me off. It scares me, this thing. Relentless, always pushing and pushing, with me on the other side, sometimes cowering, other times pushing back, but forever hoping that the doors hold.

It's easy to see what's wrong with me (you've had your heart broken, fool) and I know that I have to let it run its course. Bitter medicine, but maybe one day, I'll be able to heal myself fully.

Been a long enough entry. Take care, blog, and goodnight.

Song of the day: Someday, Nickelback.
Link to the lyrics here.


Monday, November 10

Moment of Clarity

Dear Blog,

Those three words have played quite a large role in my life this past few days. Not only because I've sort of gotten my own, but also because it's closely related to the mess that is my emotional state as of this moment.

I'm relatively okay, thank you. And I've also come to realise that I've experienced my own moment of clarity. It's the knowledge that comes from the realisation that I've been labouring under an illusion for so long. I've been prone to "blowing my own trumpet" without realising, to the point that I thought I was possibly the best thing to ever happen to her, and the best person for the job.

I've woken up, now. Looking back, I remember all the times I half-jokingly told her I'd only let her go if she found someone better. And she has. As much as I'd hate to admit it, he's better looking, more refined, cultured and most important of all, he's been able to handle the little crises they had far better than I ever could. So what else is there for me to do but bow and gracefully exit stage right?

My moment of clarity was painful, yes. But it also made me realise how self-important I've become. I was so confident I was the ONE, that I forgot something better's always around the corner, and that life likes curveballs. It's one of those moments that make the saying "may the best man win" totally right.

As far as I know, he did win.

I guess I'll always be somewhat in love with her, and I don't think I can kill it, at least for now. Deep down, there'll always be that iota of hope that I CAN try again, even though she's made it painfully clear that I'm out of the list (that's typical Taurean stubbornness for you) for good.

It was hard, my moment of clarity. But it was also necessary. I don't know if my life will ever be the same after this, but then again, nothing's certain. We make do with what we have the best we can, and try to make sure that life's curveballs don't sweep us off our feet.

Take care, blog.


Sunday, November 9

Dear Blog

Dear Blog, I haven't talked to you personally for a long time. Sorry, but I've been busy *sigh*.

Aerosmith was right. Falling in love is hard on the knees.

I never really explained why I had to go over to NZ. Maybe in some weird way I feel I owe you some sort of explanation. Or maybe this is a way for me to let out the demons in my head, and to start living again.

I fell madly, deeply, hopelessly in love once, and I think it's fair to say that for the first time in my life, I felt like something clicked. I was part of something bigger than myself, and it was good. It was stormy, and we went our separate ways for awhile. But I'll always remember November 5th 2001 was the day I got my life back, and it was better than ever.

But as they say, nothing lasts forever, and separation was called for. 10 000 miles now separated me from the object of my affections. Inevitably, things changed. It was hard on her as well, being alone in a strange place, surrounded by unfamiliar things. And there was no way I could guarantee my arrival soon enough.

And so it happened. Someone else came to fill in the empty spaces I left, and my story ended. I buried myself in my work to forget, but I never really got any closure. That is, until now. A voice crying for help on the phone in the office one day, and I was on the flight 2 days later. The date? November 5th.

What can I say? She was as beautiful as the last time I saw her, boarding that plane. And I saw then, how mistaken I was to assume I could jump start my relationship. She was in love, and in pain. I did the only thing I could do. I became her friend again.

It won't get any easier, I know. But I also know that I can only truly move on by letting her go, finally and irrevocably. Honestly I'm not the best person for the job, as I've only managed to make it worse for her ever since I got here. I only hope I can do what I set out to do properly and make things right.

We'll see. Byebye, blog.


Saturday, November 8

The Ox in Dunedin

Hi people.

Sorry for the delay, but I've been kinda..busy. Sorting out priorities and stuff. Have to admit, I miss blogging regularly, so I guess it IS true: blogging's a part of myself now, for good OR bad. I hope the weather's alright in Malaysia, since it's really windy here. I can stand it so far, but I have a fear of being greatly underdressed, hehehe.

This trip's important to me in more ways than one. Maybe someday I'll blog about it (or even tell some of you) but for now, here's what I can say: It's a personal oddyssey, and one that will forever change my perception of life. I can only pray God gives me the strength to complete it. I have no complaints, though. Life likes to throw curveballs. And like bad boy Robbie Williams said:

No regrets, they don't work
No regrets, they only hurt.

Have a good weekend, my friends.


Wednesday, November 5

I'm Not Good At Goodbyes

Well, this is it, folks. I'll be leaving soon, and just thought I'd wish everyone a good week, month, Ramadhan and raya (in case I don't come back in time). I'll still be blogging (hopefully) as I'll be embarking on a working trip to several unis in NZ in search of a PhD placement. In the meantime, I'll soak up as much downtime as I can, since it's the freakin' holidays!

I was hoping to put up a review of Versus, but it'll have to wait since I just finished packing. Will miss you guys, so take care, and as always: If you can't be good, be careful.



Monday, November 3

Flying, Again

Due to unforeseen circumstances, the Ox will be leaving for New Zealand this Wednesday (tentative). I may be there for a couple weeks, so for you guys out there, take care and have a good month.


Nippon Movies: Audition Review

Note: This review may contain plot spoilers. If you mind them, then please stop reading, although I have to remark here that the spoilers are nothing more than you would get from watching the trailer. Ahem.

I was lucky enough to obtain a copy of Takashi Miike's thriller opus Audition, after missing its run on Astro earlier this year. Thanks to Jo, I got myself an unrated Director's Cut of the movie, and I'm pleased to say it was everything I expected of it and more. This is one of the few times that a movie has actually lived up to its hype, and Audition is a solid entry in ensuring Miike's mastery of the "scary" genre. Enough gushing. On with the review..

The Story: Businessman Shigeheru Aoyama is crushed when his wife passes away in front of him. As the doctor pronounces time of death, Aoyama's son Shigehiko arrives, bearing a bouquet of paper flowers. Fast forward seven years, and we see that both of them are leading healthy (if lonely lives). Shigehiko is a bright, surprisingly balanced young man interested in Biology, and Aoyama's business is doing well. They have a good relationship, as shown by the banter between them at dinner time. The stress of being alone shows, and Shigehiko recommends that his father starts dating again. Unsure as to how to begin, Aoyama approaches his drinking buddy Yoshikawa, who happens upon an innovative idea. He suggests that Aoyama use an audition for a movie as a pretext for choosing a potential candidate. As the audition goes on, Aoyama is increasingly attracted to a mysterious girl, Asami. He asks her out and finds himself falling for this quiet girl with a hurtful past. When she dissappears suddenly, Aoyama seaches for her with frightening results..

What can I say? Miike fooled me utterly and completely. What started as a family drama that might even have a comedic turn, gradually grows into one of the darkest and goriest experiences I've ever been through (and I've watched I Spit On Your Grave). The viewer is pulled in, first as we see the Aoyama family dynamic and the patriarch's loneliness and despair, and then the strangeness takes over and never lets go. A seasoned horror geek, I cannot tell you how many times I wanted to close my eyes but I couldn't, which is rare. As usual, nothing is what it seems in this film, and slowly with the aid of flashbacks we discover the truth about Aoyama, and the darkness that is Asami. I have to stress that this is not a horror film in the usual sense. No ghosts walking (or crawling about). What it is, is pure psychological and physical horror that literally made my skin crawl.

You'll never think of piano wire in quite the same way, after this.

Japanese thrillers/horror have always been about the buildup and suspense, and Miike proves his mastery over this domain. The first half of the movie sees splashes of colour and plenty of life, which gradually seeps out (it does!) into a world where buildings are skewed, and the predominating colors are dark. I cannot stress enough that this is a very graphic movie. I always thought of myself as having a strong stomach, but obviously I was mistaken. Where Fulci and Argento made use of gore for maximum effect, Miike uses it sparingly, but with results that stay in your head hours after watching.

I won't spoil the ending for you, but here's what I can say. Asami is the Typhoid Mary of the millennium, getting back at men for their shoddy treatment of women in Japan. It is obvious in the preceding scenes how women are viewed there, and this is like a brick smashed hard against your head. Of course, there are other viewpoints on this, so I'll leave it to the viewer to decide. Just be sure to have a pillow, just in case..

The acting, while not superb, is excruciatingly well done for this type of movie. We see Aoyama's despair turn to hope and happiness, as his romance blossoms. Yoshikawa, cautioning Aoyama to be careful..and finally there's Asami, beautiful, quiet and subservient. Until the end.

There's just too much to say. Go watch it already.

Here are some more reviews:

KFCC's Review of Audition

Destroy All Monsters' Review


Saturday, November 1

Kindness is The Best Form of Self Defence

I couldn't help but share this with you guys. Apparently 2 Florida housewives disarmed an armed intruder with a ham sandwich and rum. Intrigued? Read the full article here. Now that's what I call girl power. I wonder if it'll work in Malaysia? Hmmm...