Making Light of Things

June 2009 Archives


A story based on discussions at last night’s Open Room. An analogy of the relationships between storytellers (old and new), their audience and advertisers.

You could say I’m blessed. I’ve been coming to the same watering-hole for the last 2 years. The lounge lizards still turn and stare at me whenever I walk through the doors, all of them hungry for my attention. I know the game; I offer them fleeting glances from time to time, feeding their hope. Some do get lucky, but mostly out of my whim. It is amusing to watch them scramble about, wondering what it is they did “right” that night. As if my choice were a direct result of their action. The guessing keeps them busy, and I get to maintain the titillation of intrigue.

Many people ask why I keep coming back to this place. Simply put, there is no better bartender in the next 4,000 miles. Oh, and the drinks are free. Or at least they were.

You see, John, the huge bloke sitting in that corner, used to pay for all my drinks. I used to give him the time of the day, but less so these days. To be perfectly honest, I don’t know why I’m not as into him as I used to be. It’s probably because of all the new guys in town: all interesting in their own cute way, and terribly distracting. Not all of them were good guys, a couple tried to get Bill the bartender to slip pills into my drinks.

It was embarrassing the first time I ordered my usual vodka martini (twist of lemon rind) and was asked to pay up. Didn’t Bill know who I am? I was infuriated that he would quibble over so small an item. For god’s sake, it’s just a bloody drink. Not wanting a scene, Bill finally caved and continued giving me free drinks.

That was 6 months ago. Now Bill says he needs to close down the bar because of financial reasons. Stupid bloke should have seen this coming before he set up shop in this god-forsaken town where I’m his only customer. I only hope I can still hit him up for a few more freebies before he heads out of town.

Pay for drinks? Are you friggin’ kidding me?!?

Go Daddy, Get Your Piece of the Internet

“I love you, daddy,” my daughter whispers as I tuck her into bed. My relationship with my children is very different from the one I share with my own father. Maybe it’s because we’re more westernised; we are more vocal about our feelings, less efficient in many ways as we try to explain the logic of our decisions to three-year-olds. Different from the do-as-I-say parenting technique I lived under.

It would be the furthest thing from the truth if I said that my father doesn’t love his children just because he never told us so. Now that the shadow of the firm disciplinarian is a memory distant enough, I have come to know my father as a model of a loving husband I can only hope to emulate.

When I was young my future was framed by my two parents - my mother, who was the paradigm of perfection I could never ever live up to, and my father who positioned himself as the cautionary tale of not doing my homework. He was a man who worked with his hands, often tinkering with broken machines he’d pick up where others discarded them.

He was, and still is, my Crocodile Dundee. He has the most amazing gift of picking fruits. Where people would prod and poke at fruits in the aisle before buying them, here was a man who knew exactly what to do. He had individual techniques depending on what fruit you were looking to buy. I’ve tried to acquire the secret mantra, but it is impossible to document what dad does so instinctively. During one of our durian-buying trips, I realised that the fruit-sellers kept an entire basket of their best fruit for my father. Somewhere he had earned their trust as a bona-fide fruitman. One of them. He has always been one with the common man.

He always has a knife handy, like Crocodile Dundee as well.

My mother jokes about how she ought to be mortally afraid of her husband being armed to the teeth all the time, but we all know that she is most blessed among women. Fruits, in my mother’s world, come ready to eat, without the hindrance of skin or seed. Crabs are without their hard shells and prawns are always peeled. This is how my father loves his wife.

Clearly, I have a lot to live up to as his son. But his example is the greatest gift a father can pass to his children, and I am often so thankful for all that he has done for us through real action, and not words.

I do not know how I shall ever repay this debt, and words are all that I have. In my own hybrid western-asian way I speak these words publicly to the world yet not directly to him in the knowledge that someone will print out this very blog post and have him read it. That he may know that I love him very, very dearly.

And that if I had all the choice in the world, I wouldn’t have been able to pick out a better father for myself.

I Heart the Internet

Taken from the CNet article Sony PIctures CEO hates the internet: Howard Stringer, the CEO of Sony Sony Pictures Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton said,

“I’m a guy who doesn’t see anything good having come from the Internet…(The Internet) created this notion that anyone can have whatever they want at any given time. It’s as if the stores on Madison Avenue were open 24 hours a day. They feel entitled. They say, ‘Give it to me now,’ and if you don’t give it to them for free, they’ll steal it.”

The internet levels the playing fields for big corporations and small startups.

These are my perspectives:

I’m a guy who sees amazing opportunities coming from the internet. The fact that I can now do business anytime, in any timezone, to anyone who wants to buy my product on impulse is a wonderful notion. It’s as if the stores on Madison Avenue were open 24 hours a day, and Madison Avenue were found in every connected household, and on every broadband-enabled mobile. My customers and purveyors of my content are empowered to connect with me, giving me constant feedback on how I can better serve their needs or improve my product. Best of all, where once I had to pay a lot of money to agencies running focus groups, I now get all this feedback for free. This goes a long way into helping me create a product that is useful to my customers, a product they are happy to pay for.

I’m a guy who sees the internet as the emancipator of the consumer. No longer are we bound to buy more than we need. We have been persecuted by corporations long enough, made to buy 19 tracks of garbage music for the 1 track we really want. They have forced their advertisements on our DVDs, disabling our right to skip content we have no interest in; wasted our time in the movie theatres and on the radio. They have grown fat on extorting us and blame us now that their unsustainable business model is collapsing. Many of us do not expect content to be free forever - we are wiling to pay a reasonable price for the content and services we consume. Spend less time branding us as pirates, and more time building the infrastructure to sell us content free of the boardroom’s control. It’s a simple business transaction - I want what I pay for, and am willing to pay reasonably for what I want.

My name is Lucian Teo. And if you are reading this for free, you are the consumer. You are the resistance.

Storytelling for the New Generation

Henry Jenkins on Transmedia - November 2009 from niko on Vimeo.

This is the stuff that rocks my socks. (via Kevin).

Why We Need the Children

In an era where we’re all about choice it seems inconceivable why anyone would surrender their individual freedoms to have children. After all, children are viewed as a shackle; a ball and chain that ties you down for at least 2 decades if not more. This view isn’t erroneous, as many parents will attest to the fact.

Frankly, the commitment level of having a child ranges somewhere between “the hardest thing I’ve ever done” to “the hardest humanly possible thing”. Faith and I are blessed enough to have parents who are more than willing to take care of our two younguns. Even then, a good night’s sleep has become an alien concept and a faraway memory.

Anne kissing CalebBut the rewards! Being so intimately intertwined with another life is an indescribable experience. And this small person will reveal the crust of cynicism and jadedness you’ve accumulated over the years of dealing with adults. This child of yours has no agenda, yet in the most gentle and stark of ways shows you how things really ought to be. Spending a day with my kids resets the priorities of life. They remind me of the simple and inexpensive pleasures like a good conversation or the sound of laughter.

Just moments ago Anne cried. She had spent a good portion of last night cobbling together a present for her brother Caleb using scraps of paper carefully cut with her pair of scissors and held together by scotch tape. It had fallen on the ground and broke apart before her brother could do the official unwrapping. Looking at her crumpled countenance, I could empathise with her pain at watching her hard work fall to pieces, and am reminded to similarly apply myself to my craft, regardless of whether management will eventually break it.

There are so many lessons we learn in parenting, and I would venture to say that they teach us more than we teach them. My only hope is to hold on to these valuable lessons they impart to me, that I may one day impart it back to them.

The Only Constant

It’s been a crazy past few weeks, thanks in large part to the AWARE saga and the H1N1 virus. Add to that 1 year-old Caleb’s experimentation into alternative sleep patterns and milestones at work, you’ve got yourself an involuntary blogging hiatus.

In the midst of all this, it has dawned on me that it is time for change. It was out of a deep desire to gather myself and retool for the future that I applied to Medill’s Masters Programme in Journalism. The letter of admission on my table, and I am forced to think hard now that the deadline fast approaches.

Among the multitude of thoughts floating about randomly in my head:

I don’t know what exactly it is I have to do, except that I’ve never been comfortable with routine. Like muscles, jobs, roles and their players need to be broken and rebuilt to grow stronger.

I need suggestions. You guys got any?

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