Alex is the New Black

Last week I started watching Orange is the New Black (great analysis here why it’s revolutionary), only to be introduced to the effortlessly cool and inevitably magnetic character of Alex Vause.

alexvausesmallKhakis have never looked this good.

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Triumph

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Seven years ago, when I was doing my MA and living with undergrads, I’d fall asleep at 1AM with my readings on my belly and the promise to myself that I’d wake up early the next day to write before the halls got busy. The only result, without fail, was my waking up at 11AM.

Today is not that day.

So you learn something new every day: escape games!

rooms

Karen and I were planning our trip to KL the other day when the oracle of TripAdvisor told us about Breakout, a role-playing escape game played in a physical environment. It’s in Avenue K, right across the Petronas Twin Towers (at which point we had blithely forgotten about because REAL-LIFE RPG), and apparently there are a few in Singapore as well (and that this all started in Budapest?). We hit the website and really, the only thing better than an fantastic concept is a fantastic concept that is happening RIGHT NOW. (And smacks a little of Legends of the Hidden Temple of childhood.)

Breakout is not your conventional escape game. Our outlet consists of various themed rooms with a capacity of 2 to 6 players. The rooms are carefully crafted and designed to provide players maximum mind boggling puzzles and tasks which are to be completed within 45 minutes. Each room have their very own storyline, puzzles and tasks to ensure fresh and exciting new experiences. Our objective is to provide an immersive movie-like experience and a whole new level of escapism from the hustle and bustle of Kuala Lumpur city for the young, uprising community of Malaysians seeking a new thrill in life.

Like any RPG, there are characters you can choose from that come with their own abilities and responsibilities for the puzzles: Lightbringer, Scholar, Time Bender, Oracle, LockMaster, and Merchant. Then you get your ominously-named rooms with their own storylines: The Greatest Murder of Westwood, Mr. Oswald’s Greatest Show, Chamber of Hocus, and Infinity.  And 45 minutes to solve everything and escape the room.

Consider this a public service announcement. Oh, we are so totally doing this.

First Place in the 2013 Hong Kong Top Story Competition!

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Certificate, Cathay Pacific tickets to Tokyo, and 15 books from Pan Macmillan as awards

I think the nuttiest part of the whole thing is how much I didn’t expect it to happen. We weren’t told which place we had won – it was kept secret until the actual ceremony – so when the MC said I had won first place and she began reading the judges’ comments about my piece, I was in so much shock I really can’t recall much now of what she said. (I remember the word “odd” though, so that’s just about right.)

So yeah. I won the First Place in the Adult category of the 2013 Hong Kong Top Story Competition! 😀

From the SCMP (Dec 19, 2013)

From the City section of SCMP (Dec 19, 2013)

The following is a run-down of my SOMANYFEELINGS! during the award ceremony on December 18 in RTHK’s Broadcast House:

  • Reception – WHERE IS THE TOILET.
  • Opening Remarks – NERVES. AM I BREATHING TOO HARD?
  • Junior Category Winners – OK I’M GOING TO TRY TO RELAX ooh I like Second Place’s plaid shirt.
  • Jonathan Douglas’ reading of Bianca Chan’s (Junior Category’s First Place) piece – Hey, feels like a mix of The Giver and Hunger Games.
  • Adult Category Most Creative Award – OK THAT’S NOT MY NAME.
  • Adult Category Third Place –  THAT’S NOT MY NAME EITHER.
  • Adult Category Second Place – NOPE. Hey wait a minute.
  • Adult Category First Place – WHAT.
  • Jonathan Douglas’ reading of my piece – TOTAL BLISS.

I’ll put up the pictures of the December 18 award ceremony my brother took with his big fancy DSLR when he’s back from his holiday in Japan. In the meantime, it’s just been sea to shining sea of excitement, and somewhere in it I seem to have lost my capability to talk about this in fully formed sentences, so please let me direct you to all the linkable stuff so far:

And I’m totally looking forward to that consultation with a fiction editor from Pan Macmillan. 🙂

David Foster Wallace: This is Water

David Foster Wallace’s commencement speech to graduates of Kenyon College in 2005, where he talks of wrestling our minds away from our default realities. Beats Steve Jobs’ speech hands down, no contest.

Get to the part where he describes a typical grocery experience and you know your boy DFW’s place in this world will always have been a fiction writer. Full transcript can be found here(PDF) and here. Meanwhile, if you’re feeling a little tl;dr, here’s the heart of the matter:

A huge percentage of the stuff that I tend to be automatically certain of is, it turns out, totally wrong and deluded. Here’s one example of the utter wrongness of something I tend to be automatically sure of: Everything in my own immediate experience supports my deep belief that I am the absolute center of the universe, the realest, most vivid and important person in existence.

We rarely talk about this sort of natural, basic self-centeredness, because it’s so socially repulsive, but it’s pretty much the same for all of us, deep down. It is our default-setting, hard-wired into our boards at birth. Think about it: There is no experience you’ve had that you were not at the absolute center of. The world as you experience it is right there in front of you, or behind you, to the left or right of you, on your TV, or your monitor, or whatever. Other people’s thoughts and feelings have to be communicated to you somehow, but your own are so immediate, urgent, real — you get the idea.

But please don’t worry that I’m getting ready to preach to you about compassion or other-directedness or the so-called “virtues.” This is not a matter of virtue — it’s a matter of my choosing to do the work of somehow altering or getting free of my natural, hard-wired default-setting, which is to be deeply and literally self-centered, and to see and interpret everything through this lens of self. People who can adjust their natural default-setting this way are often described as being “well adjusted,” which I suggest to you is not an accidental term.

Given the triumphant academic setting here, an obvious question is how much of this work of adjusting our default-setting involves actual knowledge or intellect. This question gets tricky. Probably the most dangerous thing about college education, at least in my own case, is that it enables my tendency to over-intellectualize stuff, to get lost in abstract arguments inside my head instead of simply paying attention to what’s going on right in front of me. Paying attention to what’s going on inside me. As I’m sure you guys know by now, it is extremely difficult to stay alert and attentive instead of getting hypnotized by the constant monologue inside your own head.

Twenty years after my own graduation, I have come gradually to understand that the liberal-arts cliche about “teaching you how to think” is actually shorthand for a much deeper, more serious idea: “Learning how to think” really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed.

Just Your Friendly, Massive Update (Late as Usual)

1. I’m collaborating with Gabe Ostley right now for an 8-page submission to a steampunk comic anthology; I’m writing the script, he’s doing the illustrating and the colors. Fingers crossed that we’ll get in and that the exposure there will get us somewhere. We’re working on a character concept we had shelved earlier this year and reviving it now for this one.

2. The TOC for Volume will be out soon! It’s great to see old comrades like Eliza Victoria, Tin Lao, and Kate Osias in the lineup as well. The book cover will be designed by Carina Santos, the granddaughter of Malang; can’t wait to see how it’s going to turn out!

3. I helped out at a fundraiser for Typhoon Yolanda / Haiyan last week at Fill In the Blank in Wan Chai doing door duty / name tags / money bags  / karaoke nuisance and monopolizer. Given the short notice (one weekend), we got a pretty good turnout of 65 people on a Monday night, and raised 12,450 HKD, minus 4,400 HKD for the venue, for a total of 8,050 HKD.

With my buddies – L to R: Mel, Franz, Jae, Neil

With the organizers, a mix of people from the UP and La Salle alumni associations in HK

With the organizers, a mix of people from the UP and La Salle alumni associations in HK

4. A week before that, I performed with Cyrus and Candice at Java Java in Sheung Wan for a 45 minute set. Good, relaxed crowd, had drinks later at Club 11 in Central.

I thought my friend was taking pictures of the whole band but the photos she took were very...loyal

I thought my friend was taking pictures of the whole band but the photos she took were very…loyal

5. I’ve been to a lot of farewell parties but this was by far the best one I’ve ever been. My friend Boon has gone back to New York, but a couple of days before he did that, his sister Dee threw a farewell party for him at the outdoor terrace of Pier 7 (above the Star Ferry) in Central. The fantastic part is that Dee, who plays the cello, and Allison, on violin, arranged around 30 pop songs for us to sing with them while they played right under the Central skyline. The terrace is public space and we had strangers coming over to see what’s going on and to join us.

Dee and Allison

Dee and Allison

Everyone gathered around the cello and violin

Everyone gathered around the cello and violin

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Right under the Bank of China!

I’ve been in Hong Kong for around six years but I like to behave like I’m still on my first. :p

So this is what my friends got me. On a whim.

Friday I was talking to some friends about building a sound system in my flat. Sunday after church I go with them to one of my friend’s flat to check out his Houston Mini 1998 tube amplifier and I see these two tall wood-paneled TEAC speakers. Then they tell me they’re mine.

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I’m like, haha yeah they’re mine after I go over-budget. They’re like, no, they’re yours. We got them for you secondhand from someone in Kwai Hing who wanted to give them away yesterday. We piled them up in the car and brought them here. Don’t cost you a cent. Now all you need is an amplifier and you’re good to go. When do you want us to set them up in your flat?

WHAT.

Hours later they’d still be laughing about the look on my face. God bless them all.