Monthly Archives: March 2016

Fangirl 8 years on

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Full of junk fandom related posts on my blog recently but I don’t care because I am just trying to relive who I used to be and love 8 years ago… I’m going mad now remembering these collaborative stages and how jealous I got over Kara in those years (actually I still am) and how I felt like dragging them off the stage?!?!! I remember telling someone that the joint stage between SHINee and Kara was the worst Christmas/birthday present I ever received HAHAHA the angry delusional fan. Not forgetting Wonder Boys of course and how we always used to laugh at Taemin’s bowl hair from his Replay days. KPop hardly has such interesting collaborative stages anymore, really looked forward to them in the past 😥 I guess the KPop market is really too saturated now.

Really glad that I managed to document quite a bit of my retarded fandom antics and fangirl craze on my blog back in 2008 and 2009 when KPop was the new big thing and it was just so cool to be another KPop fan. When KPop was smaller I still remember attending fan meetings and willingly parting with the little cash I had on myself (Primary 6 schoolgirl with recess money) for official merchandise and concert lightsticks/banners.

I think being a crazy KPop fangirl will always be memorable, despite the thousands (yes) I spent on albums, fan merchandise, attending concerts and splurging on MaxiCab stalking. Will never forget how I cried uncontrollably on the way home when I saw SHINee for the first time, finally with the blinds in the van down. It was such a large part of my life and my happiness :’)

Intellectual stimulation

Just about 8 hours ago I received a bombshell from Deqian that he was in London and happily navigating around the British Museum that I embarrassingly have hardly been to. “You’re just maybe, 500 metres away!”

I had an enjoyable 5-hour conversation with him about everything under the sun that I surprisingly really enjoyed, it’s going to be a really disjointed post with no attempt at coherence but here’s bouts of it for my personal memory purposes:

1. Chinese entrepreneurs

I enjoy reading a lot about Chinese entrepreneurs that ventured into technology early (eg. Jack Ma, Ma Huateng). There is Wang Jianlin and his famous/infamous son whom I learnt today to be my alumni, but his wealth accumulated from real estate didn’t really strike me as particularly interesting to read about. On the contrary, with our (not coincidental) shared interests in Jack Ma, he was sharing with me about how Alibaba as a commercial platform changed the entire shopping scene in China. There was B2B, B2C, and the C2C business model; the most familiar one to us would be the C2C business model we see in Taobao. I casually brought up how it may be the same here with Amazon, but he then mentioned that Amazon would always be an alternative to things we cannot find (which is true for me). On the other hand, it was always the first platform for Chinese consumers, how products from all over China can still reach you within (most of the time) free one-day delivery, how they are almost definitely priced much cheaper than what you will see anywhere, and how these products reach places that lack physical stores.

I know so much less because Taobao and Amazon never formed an quintessential part of my life. Shoppers in Singapore today still go to Bugis street and hunt for cheap bargains. Maybe we ultimately still prefer the “physical touch” of being so ‘close’ to clothing, but does it matter really when sites like Amazon and Alibaba probably provide free returns, allowing you to buy anything impulsively before you want it? After all, convenience in the comfort of your own home, along with the greater affordability, obviously prove to be an extremely tempting option (and for Singapore: the ability to avoid sweltering heat and bumping into sticky arms). I guess only Chinese entrepreneurs that work through the Alibaba business models and Chinese consumers will truly know how powerful this online shopping scene is.

And as quoted by Deqian, “you can find anything on Taobao”. I would think we still cannot say that for platforms like Carousell or Amazon, where choices are still limited.

We also agreed that if you will never be (truly/super) rich if you are driven by wealth. The richest people on this planet like Wang Jianlin and Mark Zuckerberg all started off with small business ideals for a better life/better community spirit, and look where it has gotten them to. I believe that purpose should always root your aspirations.

2. Foreign language learning

I got very interested in language learning recently because of my Korean language learning pursuits, and I told him about how people often describe Chinese to be “the most difficult language” because of the supposed “rote-learning of thousands of Chinese characters”. He insisted that it was far from rote learning because they “do not appreciate the beauty of the language”, but that is besides the point.

It then evolved into a discussion of how languages evolved, how so many variations of European languages came about because of the desire to “build their own”, along with their language. However, for most of these languages, each single letter does not make sense on its own (eg. there is no meaning to the letter B), but it’s the sound from the letters strung together that make sense. You cannot make sense out of the letters, you can only make sense from the sounds. For Chinese specifically though, you can make guesses about the meaning of the word from the word itself without even knowing what the word even sounds like and how you are supposed to pronounce it. Eg. The “三点水” in 海 easily allows you guesses about the ‘water’ nature within the word, as well as words like 泡沫. Each Chinese character in this case holds meaning individually, and hence there is little variation in the sounds that evolve from these letters. For Korean and Japanese that use Chinese characters however, they use these characters to produce the sound that creates meaning instead, and in this case it is not the word that holds meaning by itself. Afterall, Korean has the Hangul similar to the English alphabet too, to aid pronunciation. It was developed only in the mid 15th century to break away from the usage of Chinese characters, albeit still having a lot of similarities to Chinese in the sounds produced (생일 saeng-il and 生日 for example, the example at the top of my head).

Some hope for my Korean language learning: he expressed that learning English when he first started was extremely difficult too. Native speakers would easily take English grammar rules for granted because we never had to specifically learn the “subject-verb-object” nonsense, nor the format of complex sentences “I had a ball that was red“. It comes as obvious that only “that/which” can be used, but when you start off, it must be in a pain in the ass to remember the difference between that/which/who/whom/when… It is a pain in the ass to remember that about Korean now, the difference between 에서 and 에 is painful enough. But his English is now fluent enough to decently write essays for an A in GP, land himself an Oxford interview and ultimately do somewhat of a ‘joint degree’ in Philosophy and Physics which means I have loads of hope for my Korean learning.

Nonetheless I still hold to the stand that Chinese is an amazing language that allows you to express so much in minimal amount of words. I often relate to Chinese sayings so much I keep chastising myself again and again for my inability and disinterest in the language in my earlier childhood when the plasticity of my young brain allowed me to pick up sounds and stuff much more easily.

3. Technology

After the whole Alibaba conversation we got on to talking about artificial intelligence virtual reality. He then outlined the potential for the next technological advancement — that while we think technology has come to a stalemate with only minimal improvements in screen size and camera functions (in what we see in physical manifestations of the iPhone or Samsung), it is in fact still growing exponentially. We only get the occasional technological breakthroughs by acquiring new technology, and acquiring new technology on that very new technology. It sounds like a no-brainer but this was something I never thought about in great detail, and knowing that we can probably consider ourselves still in the early age of technological gains. Also, every time we key in our passwords or credit card details, they become encrypted, transmitted to an isolated server to decrypt, before reaching the server allowing us to “log in successfully”. What if one day computers become so fast through offering more than the binary code (eg. quantum computers), and processing times become so powerful that allows hackers to easily bypass this encryption/decryption in much faster haste? What will happen to the entire coding system and binary transmission?

We then talked about the Oculus Rift about how one day it might be possible to take a roller coaster wearing just that headgear alone, how it was proven by laboratory tests that your heart rate actually increases when you “integrate” yourself into virtual reality through those systems. Maybe we no longer have to queue up for Disneyland in the future, because we can just put on the Oculus Rift, enter the theme park and queue for a virtual roller coaster in the comfort of our own home.

Then there was also the possibility that one day a machine will be more intelligent than a human being, which sparked questions about “how do you measure intelligence/how do you know it is more intelligent than a human being”. And because we eliminate animals and enjoy them for consumption with the basis that they are less intelligent than us (and unable to escape from our grasps through animal cages and stuff), what will happen if one day robots and machines are built to be more intelligent than us?

All these thoughts about the technological possibilities are really terrifying to think about but also really exciting, maybe one day typing through a computer and using the iPhone 6 will be something we laugh about, “I can’t believe we used to be able to survive with that!”

4. Art

Well, we discussed about this too. We were talking about that, about coding lessons with tuition centres in programming popping up for the young in Singapore. He then mentioned that he did not agree with the modern style of parenting by sending young kids to lessons that “prepare them when they turn of age”, such as programming lessons in the hope of inculcating such skills from young. He then mentioned that he did Chinese calligraphy at 7, and being terribly clueless about this culture I went “what is the style of Chinese art?”

While he subsequently said a whole lot of things he mentioned was “bullshit”, he mentioned one very important point which I never realised: “the art of leaving blanks”. Chinese calligraphy often use blanks to create an illusion of a mountain/river/waterfall/lake existing among the other landforms, but it is often up to the viewer’s imagination. Western paintings, on the other hand, will always be complete, with a painted mountain or a painted waterfall. I am not shitting anyone, just google “Western paintings” and “Chinese paintings” now and you’d see the stark contrast. There is beauty in every form of art and today I realised how much “art” can be present in something that doesn’t exist (oh no this is such a paradoxical sentence).

Sorry for the disorganised verbal diarrhoea and how intrigued I am by an intellectual discussion, I am turning into a full nerd but I think this is what university is supposed to shape you to become. Just to clarify that nothing here are facts (and are actually unconfirmed because we receive information from everywhere) because they were just products and outcomes of our discussion — I mean afterall, are there truly facts in this world or are do they simply exist because no one has falsified them yet? 🙂

There were a lot more we talked about, about humans and self-determinism within philosophy, and the education reforms in China, and the competitive entry to Peking/Tsinghua from his province, with only 100 out of 200000 students making it there successfully through the Gaokao track. The sheer amount of untapped knowledge given the volumes of publications and readings in different languages mean that we may have already found parts of solutions to answers in different parts of the world, but we are unable to bind them together. Just imagine the big brains from China and India (who worked so much through their competitive as hell university admissions) sharing ideas with the brightest minds in Oxbridge. We are indeed living in an extremely powerful world.

I did not finish my to-dos for today: to finish Lesson 15 in Korean, do 2 readings and finish the chorus for 小幸运, and this should get me very unsettled like I usually do when I detract from my weekly timetable. This is the routine I have trained myself to live through to accomplish more in my days here. But tonight I have learnt so much and thought so much in these few hours that I cannot seek in most conversations here. I can sleep happily tonight.

IU

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There’s this thing about IU and her music videos that get me terribly nostalgic, and this line from Last Fantasy is probably my favourite while trying to pick out vocabulary today. It’s so easy to slip back into the familiar past, because only the things you cannot have will always be perfect. After my miniscule scale of globetrotting, I now conclude that what is far away to you will always be beautiful.

I grew up watching Korean music videos to the likes of SNSD, IU, Lee Hyori, Big Bang, SHINee, … before the K-Pop generation of A-Pink, EXO, and I’m honestly not too sure who is popular right now. They all still share a common theme though, stunning music videos with beautiful lighting, picturesque backdrops even though most of them were filmed in studios. And as a child and teen, I grew up with these constructed fantasies in my head, only to be sorely disappointed that those bright, beautiful places with unusually happy people did not and will never exist. Also to find out that the hero that will save the damsel in distress, the perfect man with the mere shortfall of an upsetting past, and the consequent requited love only form a part of all our imaginations.

Officially leaving the ‘teen’ clan this year and dreading it so much because I don’t believe two decades have passed since I entered this world, and I don’t look forward to any single year after this. I vividly remember that you made this pun on ‘teen’ too, 3 years ago. I laughed at the silliest jokes and spent late nights over the keyboard, carefully crafting every single reply to sustain our rare conversations. I remember my fingers poised over the ‘call’ button, contemplating calling you to receive much needed words of comfort from whom I always deemed my faraway safe sanctuary, 5 years ago. But I also remember overwhelming myself with negative thoughts every single day, one year later.

These memories serve as a poignant reminder as to why I am the person I am today, easily labelled as guarded and emotionless. And how, despite the attractiveness of the past with the gleeful optimism I had of the world, people and the future, I am upsettingly unable to return to that state of hopefulness and naivety anymore.

Istanbul, Turkey

Phone-less for (nearly) the past week and it’s been doing quite a good job in helping me get my shit together. I have decided not to get a new phone or reactivate my Singapore number, so here’s to hermit life without WhatsApp for the next 2.5 months until I return home.

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I honestly loved Istanbul. It was beautiful in many aspects: the food, the sights, or simply the sounds. I’m really saddened by the terrorist attacks that continue to hit the country especially in Ankara. Turkey is an amazing country and I’d definitely return again, hopefully when it becomes safer to travel there in the future.

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My favourite sights are where it looks rundown and shabby, because I think they capture life in its rawest form. This was near the Sea Mansion Suites Hotel where I stayed — which was really nice and cheap because the exchange rate proves to be extremely competitive now, with the refugee crises and bombing attacks in the country.

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A market… with tons of scam shops but ok because I didn’t get scammed.

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My adventures with rice pudding, which was really delicious but I could hardly finish most of my food back in Turkey because I ate so much for every meal (and I had maybe… 5 meals a day?). The next picture shows dessert at MADO when the waiter took away the menu after we ordered two items — and we went “oh we’re not finished…” and ordered another two. I guess the exchange rate was way too favourable to miss out on all these food 😦

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The Hagia Sophia, half of which was blocked out for construction and improvement works. Still a stunning sight to behold though, even though I could not understand anything because of the language barrier (it was either Turkish or Arabic).

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The Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmed Mosque). In Rome, do as the Romans do. Here’s me and my failed attempt at putting up a headscarf, with my hair all over the place. Interestingly, there was a time of the day where visitors were not allowed to visit because those hours were blocked out exclusively for praying: I thought it was an excellent move of Turkey to ensure tourists did not get in the way of life of local citizens.

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What greeted me in the late afternoon/early evening, what an amazing sight to be walking along. Istanbul was so different from all the European cities I had visited, and I really welcomed the change in sights.

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Travel buddy: Joey! Thank you for bringing me into the SIA lounge, and the Turkish Airline lounge of course. I have no qualms taking economy class anytime because I am not 195cm and can comfortably squeeze onto my seat, but the “shit” Business Class you talked of was truly a luxurious experience that I’d always remember. Stealing food and drinks from the lounge to feed me for the next two weeks (until now), and looking like little kids scrambling around the lounge. Also, for not judging my endless eating and even joining me: the kebab supper, the dessert, the expensive (in local terms) dinner, 2 “high tea”s, and the lounge binging because no one says no to free food. Definitely gained tons of weight from the short weekend trip, and I guess weight loss from the trip continues to be in progress 😦

I hope Turkey will be eased of its conflicts and tensions soon, because I want to go to Cappadocia and so many other places. It was so beautiful :’)