Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Chinese New Year

A long time ago, I happened to spend Chinese New Year abroad in Australia. To commemorate the day, I invited friends over, some who were of the culture and others who had European backgrounds in their blood. The foreigners came bearing streamers, party hats, and champagne party poppers not understanding the significance of the day and only understanding the common meaning of 'new year' celebration. After guffaws, I explained, this isn't quite that kind of party. This is simply a get together to be together, in the company of loved ones, to which they gave confused nods to and continued with the merry-making, undoubtedly a little lost amidst the revelry.

What I should have attempted as an explanation was this -- Chinese New Year is Christmas, Thanksgiving and your birthday rolled together in a 15-day extravaganza. It's my favourite celebration of all time, and I'd even go so far to say that it outstrips my actual day of birth in spectacle, and trust, I've been blessed with plenty of good memories there.

If you're like me and live on a constant time deficit, family tends to be put on the backburner. Not so much the nuclear, since constant exposure ensure that your passing ships will cross paths on shared territory; but the extended ragtag motley crew of assorteds that share some semblance of blood, whether literal or figurative, will eventually get the shaft. Which is why the arrival of a new year in the lunar calendar holds such weight because it's a reminder to refresh those familial bonds and start taking stock of all the things you are blessed with in this life.

For the food you'll overeat at the reunion dinner. Or the scandalous gossip that will find new ground in curious ears. Whether the little fried Chinese New Year delectables that will prove such exquisite torture to a burgeoning waistline, or the welcoming arms that greet you from faraway loved ones at their door -- whatever reasons you may have for thinking this day overrated, are probably the exact same things you should be giving thanks for.

This year, my family bore witness to my granddad taking his first steps without his cane after 6 months of rehabilitation from a nasty bone fracture. We rallied around him - sons, daughters, in-laws, cousins and siblings - united in that moment, not in blood or marriage, but in sheer joy; with raucous cheers and hopes in our heart, as we watched the well-loved patriarch of the family take cautious but firm steps, a joyous smile adding new life to a weary wrinkled face.

And that is what Chinese New Year is really about. It's about family. The people you love, and those you love to hate, but the ones you call family undoubtedly. May you be in the presence of those who give and share in joy unselfishly.

Can I get a hollalujah?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

22 Things I Learned at 22

As is the cause of most of my bouts of writing, it was 3 days till the end of 2009 and feeling the sentiments of an old fool (I like to think of it as a stocktake), I wrote a list of 22 things I've learned at the age of 22. This is in my opinion, one of the better things I've ever written in the expletive-filled, wanky dramatic, long soliloquies that constitute my personal journal. A lot of it still stands too reading it 2 years later, though I'd change the grammar and sentence structure, the heart of the meat is still gold. So here it is, life lessons from Karen.

Put on your SRS BSNS pants cause shit is about to get real.

1. My parents are real-life superheroes.

2. Life is unfair.

3. Biting your cheek and holding your tongue is one of the best yet hardest thing to do in this world.

4. You cannot fight evil with good, sometimes a little trickery is needed to level the score.

5. Instant gratification rules out logic, rationale and sanity.

6. Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.

7. Everybody's problems are always smaller and less significant than they think.

8. You cannot save somebody who doesn't want help.

9. Our mind is stronger than anything else that exists.

10. A leopard cannot change its spots.

11. Self-awareness may be one of the most underrated elements in a person's personality.

12. Hope is the best and worst thing in life.

13. Lying is not a sin.

14. Tragedy and comedy are but two faces of the same coin.

15. Education will change the future.

16. The person who chooses to cut through mountains rather than climb them is a person who is
prone to making ill choices in life.

17. Talk isn't worth anything without action.

18. People's issues are taken to the grave.

19. People always have choices in life - often making the harder ones means sacrificing more.

20. You are responsible for every action that you make and take.

21. Life is cyclical.

22. Money will not bring happiness. But it can help ensure that misery is spent in comfort.

These are the simple weathered truths I hold to be true.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Three 2011 Halloween Costume Ideas

Be warned: political correctness didn't get an invite to this party.

1. Rick Genest
All you really need is a razor blade to shave and a whole box of black sharpies. If you have a deft hand at copying shapes and patterns, all the better.

2. Marty McFly from Back to the Future
I mean, the shoes are already here! Well, kinda. If you have a million dollars.

3. Steve Jobs

Take one turtleneck, blue jeans, pair of wire-framed glasses and strap on a pair of wings (or devil horns, if you're Team PC) - too soon?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

I am Jack's Complete Lack of Effort

It's the last quarter of 2011 and you're at the moment where you realize with panic-laced nostalgia that nine months are up. The end of the year beckons like the neighbourhood rottweiler you always kind of hated, rearing up on its hindleg, teeth bared, growl afoot; a reminder that another year in your life is soon to pass and what the hell have you been doing all this time anyway. And when I say 'you', I really mean 'me'. Or I suppose if you've been feeling that way too then here's a canapé, don't hog the wine at this pity party.

True to my remarkably lazy and realistic nature, I made two resolutions at the start of the year. The first, to make a better effort in keeping in contact with friends, which I'm glad to say has been fairly successful, though unfortunately really limited to friends on Whatsapp; and even then I'm that "it's instant messaging, why the hell would anyone take 2 days to reply" person you bitch about. The second, to work on my fitness level, which given the minimal effort, I'd rate at a resounding B+ thus far. It would appear that I'm on track so far to finishing out the year with a small pat on the back.

But what I forgot to include, a rather important number three I should add, was the need to keep on writing. I used to write more at work, but since March, I've mostly been editing and crafting stories instead. I've been feeling the need to put pen to paper lately, figurative or not, but the kicker is a good friend sitting me down and telling me that I need to get back into it. He reminded me about some truths I hold to be true - writing is a discipline and much like language, if you don't use it, you lose it. So this is my attempt to instill some discipline and flex that limp noodle of a creative muscle of mine.

In an ideal world, I'd be six-pec a-gunnin' come year end. But realistically, I'm thinking it best to aim for Seth Rogen's weight loss in The Green Hornet; not completely impossible if you keep hacking away at it. So here's to fresh starts and keeping the panic at bay, for at least a little while longer; to learning discipline and reloving the written word; and most of all, refreshing my annual membership to the alliteration association. You have been warned.