Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Thoughts: Bioshock Infinite

Will the circle be unbroken, by and by,
Is a better home awaiting in the sky, in the sky?

An apt song to a brilliant narrative.

A narrative that is on the surface and on all accounts in the beginning seems ordinary. A city in the sky, an ostensibly peaceful religion and a plot to rescue a damsel in distress are all your typical parts and parcel of an overused story line in contemporary media. On the onset, racism and religion, class warfare and nationalism were themes that were also thrown into the overarching tale for good measure. It seemed straight-forward enough, rescue the girl and fight the bad guy and bring her to Paris.

As you experience the story first-hand, as you grow to know and care for the damsel whom you've rescued from the clichéd tower, and as you grow comfortable in the city, the world seems to realize your growing disinterest and quickly changes the pace for the strange and unexplained. The year was 1912, yet somehow music from different eras start to appear. You have never been to the city, yet there are posters everywhere brandishing you as a "False Shepard" for having a tattoo that matches the posters. What are these tears? Who are the two folks that keep showing up to help you at opportune moments? How can you shoot crows from your palms? There was no time for questions though as men and machines from both sides of the class warfare took the liberty of trying to rid you from this world and you have no choice but to keep fighting and keep the questions for later.

And when it was time to bring up the questions, the narrative had already ended. Yes. This is one story which will leave burning questions in one's mind after the credits rolled. A thousand external questions could all be answered if the clues were paid more attention when given. The problem lies with the less literal, the philosophical questions that need answering. Everything is open to interpretation - lives, lived and will live; dies, died and will die. These words will heretofore mean more to you than ever before. Aside from all the extra themes as well as the core subject of the entire experience, the story still manages to pull at the heartstrings.

When you think of choice and the meaning of choice, infinite does seem to be the answer.

Bioshock Infinite is a work of art and a work of philosophy with a thousand different strokes of brilliance. An experience that is not to be missed by anyone who has the slightest inclinations for the entertainment form that is video games. I haven't been writing for awhile however, because of this piece of art, I have to record my thoughts lest it be lost through time.

Video 9/10 - Colorful artistic designs representing the early 1900s with a slight twist to accentuate the self-style of this fictional world.
Audio 10/10 - Songs and music are perfect for this world. One particular scene of singing and jamming with an instrument pulls at the heartstrings. Will the Circle be Unbroken is definitely the right song for this epic.
Gameplay 8/10 - Standard first person shooter affair with a touch of innovation - the skyline combats. Less points on the one hand weapon, one hand "spell" combat that has been explored before in the previous Bioshocks.
Story 10/10 - Brilliant, exceptionally brilliant story writing and imagination. Possibly the best I have ever seen on a video game.


Monday, December 7, 2009


twilight has descended upon the soul
the touch of it is ice cold
stuck in this mire
stuck to this desire

torrential rain came down
the lips turned into a frown
forget the days of light
should have taken flight

autumn, falling leaf
the past a myth
the present a pain
the future in vain

Monday, June 29, 2009

on the way to perfection (a preface)

first and foremost, i would like to express my deepest gratitude to everyone who have set aside some of their precious time to read my callow short fiction. especially on top of this list of gratitude are the people who have spent even more time to point out the careless and awkward sentence constructions that i have incurred. constructive criticisms and comments are always appreciated and i thank you for helping me grow as a writer.

moving forward, i would like to explain the popular comment of the use of verbose (bombastic) words in my little essay. the obvious reason to this is because i am currently preparing for an absurd yet intense graduate school entrance examination, the infamous GRE. this exam tests the brightest of minds on the depths of their vocabulary as well as their mathematical skills. in the event that one of these sharp minds manages to achieve a perfect score, answering all questions correctly, he/she would still be able to obtain only a score of 96% to balance the general test-taker's bell curve. THAT, in my opinion, is why the examination is absurd. in addition to the exam, i found that i have a profound fascination to deepen the depths of my vocublary (as deep as the marinara trench i hope!). thus, i actually find all this learning and improving enjoyable. also, on the issue of writing without caps, of course i know sentences start with capital letters but this is my writing space, my respite from work, i wish to keep it the way i like it. maybe, maybe in the future, if/when i write for a publication, i would conform to this rule of writing.

in writing Perfection, i began the first sentence without any idea of how it would end. the main theme of the story, however, had always been there from the start and then skulking like a shadowy figure throughout the story until the very end. this theme, is of course as many of you have picked up from reading, of shallowness and greed. i feel that these elements have plagued humanity since the dawn of time. from the display of brute strength (shallowness) to win potential mates to digging for precious metals as a symbol of power and status (greed) eventually leading to countries warring with one another for even more metals and other precious commodities such as spices/land space/oil. shallowness leads to greed which is so prevalent in everyone of us. each of us are greedy to varying degrees and all of us strive for perfection, always never satisfied, be it the student who wants to score a perfect A, the mother who struggles to provide the perfect life for her child or the monk who strives for perfection through nirvana.

the second point that i wanted to put across is affluence and wealth. despite the billions of people living in extreme poverty, a quarter of the world is living the wonderful comfortable life people a hundred years ago could never have imagined. they are so comfortable that the slightest degree change in the temperatures of their homes or the minute presence of minerals in their drinking water elicits a spiteful response (often leading to serious lawsuits) toward the people/companies in charge of providing them their comfort. although the average person in the 21st century is wealthier by more than 10 folds of the average person in the 20th century, human greed can never be assuaged. take for example the need for gas and oil in the 20th century that has raised the status of these fuels as "black gold". rising affluence around the globe improves human lives but it has also degraded the other life forms sharing the planet with us; which brings us to the third theme of my story.

expanding on the previous issue, i moved on to briefly mention the issues afflicting the natural world. being the topic that i myself am most passionate, i felt that i did not address it as much as i would like to. but evidently, the story is itself is not about global warming or loss of habitat, so being able to sneak these into a concise story less than a few pages long is good enough for me. i still cringe when i think about the visually gory footage of the chinese literally skinning their domisticated animals alive, dumping these naked, still breathing creatures onto the back of a truck while keeping the blood-drenched skin and fur aside as if the animal's hides are more precious than the animal itself. i wonder how humans can be so shallow and cruel, torturing and tormenting these creatures for the sake of keeping their precious product pels intact without a single thought for the pain that the animals go through before they die. pelts, that are to be used in the fashion industry, are the heart and soul of this story.

drawing from the responses and support, i will definitely write more stories in an effort to improve. i have already taken in all of your praises and criticisms to start on a journey towards writing better. in both the literal and figurative senses, this story is me on my way to writing perfection.

Friday, June 19, 2009


she clicked the "checkout" button on the screen of her computer without any hint of hesitance. this time, 3 days from now, the screen on the monitor states that the moleskin gucci purse would arrive at the harrington place. ms. kimberly was ecstatic. the prospect of a new item of beauty arriving to add to her splendor is euphoria. such fervid emotions quickly caused her to be predictably restive. anticipation coupled with anxiety and impatience for the object to arrive, she strolled back and forth her room staring all the time at the mirror on the wall where a reflection of her haughty face consisting of a pair of blue exotic almond-shaped eyes and a sharp hooked nose stares back into the room nonchalantly. her lucious lips is perfect, never without the addition of an exceptionally glossy pink lipstick. even her cephalid features are flawless as blond streaks of hair flow towards the pair of well-groomed sharp elfin ears. although she portrays a supercilious demeanor it is often a facade of her naturally sanguine face.

this time though, neither arrogance nor cheerfulness is apparent on her face. she simply could not wait for the purse to arrive. pirouetting from the mirror on the wall, she walked towards a sophisticated 3-level closet that contains hundred of clothing articles. on one side of the closet is a small panel that gives you the feeling that you are operating an airplane with its many buttons. one of these, when pressed, causes the closet to rotate revealing a different side of the closet that contains even more of her superfluous designer collections. she decided to put on her favorite halter top as she grabs the keys to her car in one of the nooks of the closet.

arriving at her favorite mall barely three miles away, she quickly walked through the arched entrances to the commercial and fashion heaven of the 21st century. The 8th Wonder of the World was not only a heaven for shoppers around the globe, it was a giant. standing as the largest man-made building in the short history of humanity, its total volume spans well over a million square feet. the sheer size of this building dwarfs even the largest aircraft hangar. it is the epitome, the culmination of the insatiable human hunger for material wealth. every year, millions all around the globe visit its famous silver archetypal buttresses which lined the entire building from the outside propping up the dome-shaped structure. its raised vestibule along with a giant plasma screen in between the arched doorway of the main entrance is a sure sign of the rising affluence of all the people around the globe.

it is only natural for ms. kimberly to be living at the heart of the fashion center of the world. as the only daughter of a billionaire and an aspiring fashion designer, she requested, no, insisted that her father buys her a penthouse at the very top of the posh harrington place positioned just next to the 8th wonder. ever since moving in last january, she has been on a shopping spree, obtaining new garments. her sedulity of the constantly changing fashion never falters. she would often shop with her wealthy friends but even these affluent companions find it hard to keep up with her insatiable hunger for fashion. it has become an obsession.

as she enters the mall, a looped recording of the mall announcement for donation to the charity of eliminating global warming elicited a smug smile from ms. kimberly. she knows that her father, an oil-tycoon frequently donates to the cause of reducing global warming but yet ironically, he is the one who caused the problem in the first place. to her though, she could not care less. to her, trees and plants are for cotton and linen while animals are for wool and pelts.

with haunting elegance and grace, she took the escalator up and walked to her favorite department store. an overly convivial store assistant greeted her as she entered the store but she nonchalantly yet at the same time maintaining an air of pride waved him away. he scurried away like a sewer rat scuttling from the blinding light. in his place, the store manager arrived promptly.

"what would you like to have on your lovely self, today ms. kimberly?" he had said. he knew her. of course, who wouldn't know ms. kimberly? the obnoxious, the rude, the arrogant daughter of an american billionaire oil tycoon.

"ask that once more and i will have you joining the increasing number of the jobless. i have told you before and i will tell you one last time. my body only deserves the best, so bring out the most expensive and newest article that you have in your joke of a shop," she castigated in reply with malice dripping on each of her word.

the manager took flight and within a minute returned with a ten-thousand dollar dress made by hand from a famous designer. she lambasted the quality of the design and her querulous tirade went on for a good couple of minutes before she finally bought the dress. she bought it not because she liked it but because she wishes to own the most expensive fashion and her selfish self would not allow anyone else to compete with her for this.

store managers know about this particular obsession. they each know that if they can survive her diatribe long enough, they would be able to make sales worth a month's fortune. all except for one store manager who has a deep resentment for the pampered child. and it was on one fateful day that ms. kimberly decided to visit this manager's store for her shopping indulgence. the encounter started off with her customary derisive remarks but as soon as the manager told her that he has what it takes to make her the most beautiful person in the world, she was immediately enthralled. he had promised to make her perfect. what's more, he even promised that he can help her overcome aging altogether, that she would never have wrinkles and her face would remain as it is 100 years from now! all she had to do was to follow him to the back of the shop where there is a modern factory that makes the clothings and other oddities.

with utmost obedience characteristic of a child promised an ice cream treat, ms. kimberly walked apace, all thoughts of pride thrown aside, into the back of the shop. it was fairly dark but quite visible with the light shining through the door from the front of the shop. inside, a myriad of half-complete dresses hung on the shelves. several half manequin heads were laid out next to some of the dresses. above it all a word carved in gold and red at the far end of the wall spelled "Perfection", the name of the shop she was in. as she was looking from side to side, settling down on her initial excitement of the promised flawlesness, she began to open her mouth to demand for her promise but it was too late.

she was being pushed towards the human-shaped cast she saw earlier. she struggled and pushed with all her might but it served no purpose. her frail slim body could not defy the stalwart arms of the store manager. as she approached the cast, she realized that it was not a cast at all, but a half-open manequin and she was being forced into the manequin. in the split second she was struggling, she also saw that the word Perfection was not really coated in gold and red paint but rather, red bloodstains. at last, she was forced within the confines of the manequin and the manager promptly brought the other side of the manequin to close.

the last ms. kimberly heard of the outside world was a lock clicking as the manager secured the manequin.

the last the world heard of ms. kimberly was her muffled screams from within the manequin.

the promise that the manager initially made to ms. kimberly was upheld. she was indeed perfect and would not age a single day.

Friday, June 12, 2009

life in a nutshell

an article that i recently came across pointed out something really obvious. here's a single line from the article that was as obvious as an elephant found in the middle of downton los angeles yet i could not have figured it out on my own if not for this article; "the average person, if he /she travels once a year for vacation, would only go to 50 places at most in their lifetime". this fact smacked right across my face and questions flared at every corner of my brain. would i want to be that person who gets to visit only 50 places (most probably less) throughout his entire life? continue being the average californian and after 5 years, return to become the average malaysian?

the answer is, no. i want to see the world through the lens of my eyes, not the lens of a camera. i want to see, hear, smell, feel the animals and plants, not just watch them on a flat digital screen. i want to use the fifth sensory organ to taste the different cultures of the world through the food that they routinely eat. that is what the heart truly wants. but does the heart always get what it wants?

the brain on the other hand has issues of its own that require answers. what of my family? my parents that have spent a fortune just so that they can grow old to see their second son grow up into living a comfortable life just like everyone else. just like everyone else. the typical malaysian chinese mentality is to work hard and do well in school ( didn't do well), earn full scholarship (didn't earn one), go to college work hard and do well (didn't do so well), get out of college and work really really REALLY hard (not working really really REALLY hard, the fact supported as i'm writing this in my bleak little cubicle instead of validating) and finally when you have worked so hard all your life, with "tons of money" you can now settle down and start a family, living a supposed prosperous life. the problem is, after you've "settled down", you have to work even harder just to be able to feed the extra mouths that suddenly appear in your life.

prosperous? maybe. but isn't life all about living it to the fullest? in my remaining years here on the planet, i want to experience and absorb all there is to absorb. immersing myself in the endless sea of wonders and discovering new and fascinating facts about the world around us is definitely a fulfilling life. one might argue that life with a family is eniching and fulfilling. in many ways, i concur but is that all there is to life? with so much the world has to offer, most of us still succumb to the trappings of the corporate life. spending, no wasting away 40 precious hours of each week in a dreary building just to earn material wealth.

prosperous? no. preposterous more like it. to me, life is definitely more than carving a name for yourself in the modern jungle. it is, i opine with conviction, more than gaining riches to live a "comfortable" life because you will never be comfortable if you have to keep climbing the corporate ladder 8 hours a day and never being able to see more than 50 places in your lifetime. it is even more than just having a family to go home to. sure, family life is another one of those must-have life experiences but how about bringing the family along for the adventure? of course, it would not be fair to the little one, deciding for him / her to a life of travel instead of the city lifestyle we are all stuck in.

another concern that my trusty old brain decided to ponder upon is this; what happens when you are old and you are not able physically to travel to see the world anymore and you do not even have the material wealth to live out the rest of your life comfortably because you decided to leave the hectic lackluster working life about 40 years ago? maybe the sons and the daughters will take care of you. but if you bring them along for the adventure, they are definitely not going to be able to do so much less take care of themselves. maybe you will be like ol' Carl Fredricksen , the old chap from the brilliantly crafted cartoon that is UP, strong at heart is all you need to be strong physically. nonetheless, the bare truth is that it does not matter for when i look back i would have seen that i have led a fulfilling life. at least i have been to more than 50 places. at least i have tasted so many culinary wonders even the most opportunistic raccoon pales in comparison in a competition based on gourmet explorations. at least i have experienced the world. that in itself is more than enough reason for me to let go of life itself in the end because isn't that what life is all about? living life to the fullest, experiencing as much as possible before your time is up. our lives here in this world are certainly timed, as if someone up there is playing a cruel joke on each and everyone of us by starting and stopping the stopwatch whenever they feel like it or when the timer is up.

there you have it, life in a nutshell.

oh and i have to add, nutshell in life, on the other hand, means to live in a nutshell, to be shielded by the nut (city / corporate boring life) from all that the world has to offer.

should i live in the nutshell and conform to society? or should i crack it open, leave it and partake on an adventure that will fatten up my passport with countless stamps and stapled visas?

Monday, March 23, 2009

m&m's + 551 + paper + paper + paper + paper = monday - friday

ostensibly, the above equation might appear to boggle the average mind but the truth is that it is very simple indeed. let me try to explain it in the simplest term so that the simplest of minds can understand such a simple non-mathematical equation.

m&m's refers to the small peanut-coated chocolate wonders that i, the technician drops three exact quarters of an american dollar into an automated vending machine to obtain on a daily basis. cavities may form on the calcium deposits of my gaping mouth for all i care, these tiny pieces of endorphin stimulants keep my stomach somehow satiated as i await patiently for the very much anticipated mid day meal. these are almost as addictive as coffee!

551 refers to the dreaded windowless dull working space of the validations department. my department. what is validations? validations is the practice of cutting down rainforests in brazil and indonesia. it is also the practice of making up excuses for the company to the FDA just because some harmless abundant-in-the-air microscopic life decided to proliferate on their precious medications. apparently, the ability to say that you are correct even when you are wrong is an ability that is much sought-after in the industry. FDA loves to hear these sugar-coated stories (much like the m&m's) so much so that they seem more like a child craving bedtime stories before they go to bed / approve a drug.

paper paper paper paper = tree. validations validations validations validations = chopped tree

all the above adds up to the following:

monday - friday, 7am-3.30pm (most of the time 9am-5.30pm because this pig can never seem to drag his ass of the bed at 6 in the morning).

there you have it.

that is what i do for 43 hours out of the 168 hours in a week.

my job.

Monday, March 16, 2009

the great ice mountains

more than a moon past, in the second month of 2009, on an auspiciously friday the 13th, a group of four excited hearts decided to dare the perilous trek to the north, for a few nights of cold and fun at the peak of the world.

the treacherous journey to the great ice mountains of tahoe began at a humble town near an expense of abodes aptly named "the village". the ride was powerful but the seatings were as tight as an uncomfortable spandex swimming trunk. that was the least of the problems for the brave adventurers that night for it took them no less than 8 hours to get to their desired snow-capped destination. on their way to the north, they encountered a myriad of other riders of the night who were either drunk, sleepy or reckless. despite the dangers of the road, they managed through the cold and the dark to reach their destination safely.

the destination, it seems was not the mountains yet for the rider had arranged before beginning the journey to sojourn at an acquaintance's cozy quarters. a pair of overly affable canines welcomed the travelers with open arms (or paws) as they arrived late past midnight. their owner was no less friendly as she stayed up awaiting our arrival. the homely abode was decorated with hunter trophies and weapons of hunting and comfortable warm beds for the night.

as dawn approached, the exhausted travelers made an effort to awaken after which they got into their transport for another half hour of ride to the rich town of heavenly. rumor has it that this locality is one of the best spot for the hazardous sport of snowboarding in all of the western continent. with a quick visit to the local board-smith, the party of four manage to obtain / rent the required equipment for the anticipated game at the top of the mountain.

trudging along the snow with heavy boarding gear and even heavier clothing as protection from the elements, the adventurers took the mechanical gondolas up to the ice peaks. in the hanging gondolas, they managed to capture the moment with the tahoe lake as the gorgeous background scenery. such was the reward for braving the arduous 8-hour journey.

as they reached the top of the mountains, they began to strap the boards to their little unaccustomed legs and walked awkwardly to the edge of the slope. three out of the four in the party had never before flung themselves literally down the hill while being strapped to a board the length almost as tall as they were. terror and panic risen up at that very moment but quickly overwhelmed by prudence and frugality as each of them has paid at least a hundred in monetary credits to obtain this experience. wasting no time, they hastily pushed their boards (along with their legs) down the declivity. as a virgin experience, the snowboarders fell several times (sometimes head over heels) as they swoop down on the slope with the wind fast blowing across their faces. an experience to savor indeed.

with three more trips up and down, the final one up the steeper more advanced slope, the travelers finally decided they were too tired (and too sore) to do anymore snowboarding. walking back to the mechanical gondola, the cold slowly crept in and reached each of their spines as the excitement and warmth of driving the body to strenuous snowboarding fades away. the shivers were never-ending so they settled on getting a cup of hot coffee at the local tavern called "starbucks". night arrived and one of them suggested that they should visit the town theater for entertainment. as it turned out, the show was played out by famous beautiful (and wealthy) people and it was played out surprisingly well too. entertained but starved, the travelers rode down the road for a quick dinner at a chicken roastery called KFC before returning to their night sanctuary.

at the stroke of 9am the following morning, the sleepers awaken to the drooling dribble of the hosts' pets. after washing up, they rode up the mountain again to the lake they saw the day before on the mechanical gondola. taking a walk down the pier while braving the harsh cold they managed to capture pictures of the sceneries around them. satisfied with the memories they have captured, they strolled down the beach to a spot where other great adventurers with their families took to the other icy sport of sledding. a bumpy but nevertheless a fun game, the travelers were soon racing each other down the beach with the sleds. when midday approached, they were in for another experience of a lifetime as down the road was where they had the best mexican lunch their naive tongues have ever tasted. satisfying to the tummy, the taste buds and the wallet, one of the travelers pledged to return if he ever comes back to this icy wonderland.

with bloated stomachs, they decided to again undertake the long journey home. on the way however, the rider spotted a stream along the icy roads and suggested to the passengers that they should stop to taste the freshness of the waters and to capture more pictures for the last time before leaving. they agreed and took off towards the river. cupping their frozen hands, they scooped up the water and slowly tilted it towards their open mouths.

the water from the stream was a gift from heaven.

the water from the stream was as fresh as the freshest of the green days of spring after a heavy shower of rain.

the water from the stream was as sweet as the sweetest orange juice.

it was cold and refreshing. one of the travelers suggested that bear poop might have caused such sweetness in the water and the freshness may have come from the bear's urine. before returning to their ride, they stopped for a short snowball fight. it was fought with such ferocity and intensity as if their lives depended on it but it was quickly ended with the cold reaching deep within their double, triple-layered clothing.

the adventure ended as rapidly as the snowball fight had begun and ended. it was the perfect experience and one of the best journeys the travelers had ever taken.