The autumn of our discontent

November.8. 2016

It’s leaving the establishment in shock, aghast. Lots of hand wringing.

How could this happen?

Well, you’ll have to ask Bernie that question.

Through various underhand tactics, the establishment managed to propel their chosen candidate through the system, leaving him out in the cold.

And now when it looks like their chosen candidate is not doing too well, they’re asking how all this could happen.

As Abe said, you can fool some of the people all of the time and all the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all the people all the time.

Looks like a revolution is sweeping the world.

The rallying cry, throw out the crooks and the dealmakers.

Bring some integrity and sanity back into the system.

Going to the polls this morning, I felt like an orphaned child without old Bernie.

So I voted for the next best candidate, no prize for guessing who it is.

They say that America’s getting their own Berlusconi.

I respectfully disagree, more like Duterte.

The lunacy of bureaucrats (or my most memorable Hong Kong experience)

October.29. 2016

While transiting in Hong Kong recently, I lost this fearsome looking object to the security guys at the transfer stations.

Fearsome hijacking implement

This was not the first time they had tried to ‘confiscate’ my personal property. (Is there a black market in HK for airport security confiscated property?)

But this time I refused to let them have my prized Muji nail file, which besides being extremely handy in trimming my guitar fingernails is apparently also a dreaded hijacking implement (in Hong Kong anyway).

Here’s how it works.

They take your ‘dangerous’ device at the security check. If you object, they issue you a receipt which you have to produce to retrieve the property.

Now here’s the master stroke, to recover your item, you’ll have go out HK immigration and look for some small Lost and Found office hidden away in some obscure upper level corner. And you have to do this within two weeks.

If, after all this, you somehow manage to recover your precious property, you’ll have to bring it through security again which means they’ll take it away from you again. (If not a black market, maybe a special section on


Fortunately, I had two helpers from my airline (unnamed for now but their initials are CP). Unfortunately, they were quite rude and spent more time admonishing me for my stupidity (??? So why is HKG the only airport in the world banning nail files, why not toothpicks too? Is there a documented case of an airliner being brought down by a nail file? Who gets to keep these confiscated objects?)  in trying to bring these dreaded objects through security than in being helpful.

Moral of story:

Avoid Hong Kong like the plague.


October.23. 2016

If you take a book and open it, and all you see inside are blank pages, or maybe just a thick piece of cardboard.

Is it still a book?

Or you take a car and you open the hood and inside is a gaping hole, no engine, no battery, no nothing.

Is it still a car?

Or you can make a sword out of paper mache and give it a shiny metallic coat of paint.

Does that make it a sword?

How do we define something?

By its appearance or is there something deeper?

To give a few more examples.

We can make something look like food out of Styrofoam, does that make it food?

Or we can make flowers out of plastic, does that make them flowers?

Or we can make a beginner guitar student sit and hold the guitar like a pro, does that make him a pro?

How do we define something?

For me, there’s something deeper.

Something that I call its essence.

A quality that defines it.

And that something is spirit, for lack of a better word.

This spirit has nothing to do with the supernatural.

When musicians say, ‘capture the spirit of a piece of music,’ they’re not alluding to anything supernatural, they’re just referring to that essence.

Understanding the spirit of a work helps them express it better.

The key to life, I’ve found is to disregard the external, the facade, and focus on the essence, the spirit.

The spirit is where you find truth.

Why is truth important?

Because as they say, truth will set you free.

You tell me

October.21. 2016

Speaking of words and actions, it’s quite fashionable these days in some parts of the world to call a certain country the ‘Great Satan.’

And I do agree to a point.

There’re many things in that country that will merit that description.

But when Ebola strikes in some distant corner of the world, who are the ones who go (at great risk to their personal well-being) to help combat the outbreaks?

Funny, I don’t hear of any great martyrs from one particular holy land volunteering to go and help.

But I do hear of volunteers from the ‘Great Satan.’ (with volunteers from other  ‘Satans’)

Very satanic–risking your life to help your fellow human beings fight a deadly scourge.

Meanwhile, the self-proclaimed holy men are out in droves, on a mission to get to paradise where they hear, a few dozen virgins are patiently waiting for them.

So who’s the Great Satan?

You tell me.

Cutting through the crap

October.19. 2016

To live in the twenty-first century is to live with crap.

Crap from politicians, crap from teachers, crap from friends, crap from strangers, crap from well-wishers, crap from evil-doers.

But I’ve found a helpful way to cut through the crap.

The trick is to focus on results.

Ignore the hype, the clever words, the excuses, the alibis, the rationales.

Focus on results and on actions.

So if a certain religion insists that theirs is a religion of peace, look at the results of their teaching. If all you see is death and carnage, well, that’s a hint right there.

If a guitar teacher insists he has the keys to guitar heaven, look at his playing. If he can’t play for peanuts, that’s another hint right there.

If a life coach tells you he has all the answers to your problems in life, and he’s going through a third divorce, that’s a clue right there.

If a certain politician tells you she’s for the middle class but she’s hobnobbing with the upper class and getting paid quarter million dollar fees for opening her mouth, that’s another strong clue.

Cutting through the crap involves recognizing that Truth exists and it is non-compromisable.

And that Truth resides in actions and results, and you can’t hide behind clever words  (otherwise known as crap).

It’s based on that famous axiom, don’t tell me, show me.

If yours is a religion of peace, show me.

If you have the keys to guitar heaven, show me…

Sorry seems to be the easiest word

July.13. 2016

The Chilcot report came out last week, and it was interesting to see Tony Blair’s response.

In a statement, he takes full responsibility and ‘apologizes sincerely’ for taking the nation to war.

It reminds me of an incident a few years back in another country.

It was a case involving a few men who attacked another man. They bludgeoned him with every weapon they could find and beat his body into a pulp.

There was a huge outcry and the men were caught.

In front of the judge, the men were very contrite. One of them said to the judge, “Sorry Sir, we won’t do it again.”

Yes, sure.

That’s what Mr. Blair forgot to add, he won’t do it again.

Judging a book by its cover

July.8. 2016

People often say, don’t judge a book by its cover, but I’ve found that the reverse is true.

The best way to judge a book is by its cover.

There’s a reason it’s called a ‘cover’—it’s there to cover up something.

For example, I’ve found that people who pray a lot are the most dangerous.

Why do they need to pray so much?

Is it to cover up some unholy intentions inside?

People who are overly generous with their time and money—why are they so interested in helping other people?

Well, there’s a reason, which I call the Sandusky principle.

(This particular principle applies to older people who like to help young people, but you can change it to the Bill Cosby principle, in which case the target of the interest would involve a different segment of the population.)

Why the strong desire to help young people? Why not older folks who need the help more?

I find people who like to have titles appended to their names interesting too. (This seems to be a popular practice in some parts of the world.)

It used to be only politicians who sought these honors but now every Chong, Dick, and Ali with enough cash on hand are getting into the act.

Why the need for all these titles?

Is it to cover a lack of self-worth?

This is the ‘manufactured wood principle.’ If all you have is sawdust (and other crap) inside, better cover it up with some nice looking veneer outside.

Back to books.

These days, I never buy any book with a slick and overproduced cover.

That’s one sure indication that the contents are going to be pretty vapid.

If the book is really good, why would they need that fancy cover to try to sell it?

Got come got go

July.7. 2016

Every human relationship is a transaction. An old Chinese saying sums it up perfectly, “Got come, got go.”

This means if something comes in, something has to go out too.

If you give me something, I must return in kind.

This may sound like a calculative and cynical approach to life. Is this the only reason for relationships, so that we can take advantage of one another?

But let me give a few hypothetical situations.

Suppose you have a good friend (or so you think), and every birthday (his) you send him a gift but when it comes time for your birthday, he conveniently forgets it.

How long do you think will you keep on sending him those gifts?

Or you have another friend, (again so you think) and one day, you need his help with a certain problem but at that critical moment (for you) he is nowhere to be found.

Will you still call him a friend after that?

In my business, people are extremely touchy about supporting each other.

The operative phrase is “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.”

So if they give a concert, be sure to show your face because if you don’t, don’t expect them to show up at yours either.

(In the event that you still expect them to come to your concert even if you don’t show up at theirs, you’re either an egomaniac or a fool. What makes you so special that people should come and support you if you don’t support them?)

Blogging thrives on this ‘got come got go’ mentality.

If someone comes to your blog and post comments, be sure to return the favor, otherwise don’t expect them to be back.

I had a few people who used to come to this blog and post comments. At first I made valiant efforts to visit their blogs and return the favors too. But there is only so much of their cute kids that I could take and need to know so I stopped going after a short while and sure enough they stopped coming to my blogs too.

Which is perfectly fine with me.

This leads to a corollary to the law.

To be sustainable, the ‘come’ has to match the ‘go.’

If the ‘go’ comes at great cost to you, the ‘come’ may not be worth the effort.

In other words, if the required investment in time and effort is too great, then sometimes, it’s better to dispense with the return altogether.

So why is this good to know?

It puts you in the driver’s seat. You get to decide how much ‘come’ you want in your life.

First, despite what you may think, you’re not that special. Ultimately, the only person people care about is themselves, otherwise known as ‘Number 1.”

If you want people to care about you, start caring for them first.

And weigh the effort versus the return.

If it costs too much to perform the ‘go’, then forget about it. But don’t feel bad if you don’t receive the ‘come’ one day.

The heart of lightness

July.1. 2016

Summer is a good time to be stuck in the heart of Borneo with not much else to do.

The dry season doesn’t help, too hot to venture outside, best to stay indoors and practice, and ponder life’s great mysteries and wait for moments of enlightenments.

And enlightenments there have been aplenty.

Not of the spiritual kind but more the mechanical kind.

As in aligning certain fingers to produce moments of magic, effortlessly rippling in perfect harmony.

A wise man once said, “Knock and the door shall open.” This same wise man also told of the patient old man who waited for his prodigal son to return and was rewarded in the end.

Well, in the heart of Borneo, the door did open wide, not once but three times and the prodigal son returned too, after thirty years in the wilderness.

A summer of endless discoveries.

As I find myself penetrating deeper and deeper into the heart of lightness.

The difference

June.30. 2016

If you take two plants, same species, about the same size, but one is dead (perhaps the owner forgot to water it) and one is alive, and if you cut into them, you will see the same molecular structure.

Both plants essentially the same except for one difference.

One has an energy inside, the other one doesn’t.

One has the ability to draw water and nutrients through its roots and stems and produce photosynthesis while the other one doesn’t.

What is this energy?

It is best described as a life force.

I prefer to call it spirit.

No, this spirit has nothing to do with the supernatural, or the paranormal.

It is simply the life force within all living things that gives it life.

Scientists, of course, would laugh at the idea of a spirit that resides in living things.

That’s because the concept is beyond their understanding.

(And that’s why to date, science still can’t create life. You can’t create something you don’t understand.)

Think about it.

In an age where science has been able to travel to the stars and predict quantum and string theories and come up with massive weapons of destruction, no one has as yet been able to make a dead plant come back to life.

Simply amazing.

This life force is the key to our very existence and yet no one has any understanding of it.

Yes, you can sometimes zap a dead person with a jolt of electricity to revive him, but can you send a jolt of electricity into a speck of dust to make it come alive as an ant?

That a life force exists within all living things is indisputable.

Otherwise you and I would not be here writing or reading this.

We all have the life force running through us.

Religions have tried to explain the life force as the soul. (Which can pose certain problems because it implies all living things including plants (and ants) which are possessed of this life force have souls too.)

Perhaps language can provide us with the best clue in understanding what this life force is.

We say someone is “highly spirited”

Or “down in spirit,” or someone has a “broken spirit.”

All these references point to that energy within us.

Keeping the energy strong and alive is key to survival. You might have heard of people who after suffering great personal loss would sometimes succumb soon after themselves.

It’s their broken spirit that’s made them lose the will to live.

When your spirit is broken, that life force will be quickly extinguished too.

So how does one keep the spirit strong and alive?

Having a purpose in life.

Being surrounded by love and goodwill.

Having a good positive outlook on life, filled with hope and anticipation of good things to come each day.

In other words, living a good positive life.