Bodega Bay

September.6. 2021

Bodega Bay has captured my imagination since I saw ‘The Birds’ and this summer, I decided to pay homage to the great Hitchcock by taking a drive there.

There wasn’t much to see, unfortunately, as the place was largely a creation of Mr. Hitchcock’s imagination. Yes, there is a restaurant called the Tides but the town depicted in the movie was just a movie set. If you drove down Eastshore Road from Highway 1, all you see are a few houses and a pier where the town should’ve been.

And the famous church which was clearly visible from the bay in the movie is actually seven miles inland in a real town called Bodega, far away from the bay.

Still it was a memorable visit. As usual, before the drive, I decided to read up on the movie and one item caught my interest.

The lead actress, Ms Hedron, claimed that she was harassed by the great Hitchcock during the filming of the movie and their subsequent movie after that. Apparently, he was trying to weinstein her.

But what was interesting was her remark about her co-star in the subsequent movie. She mentioned she never had an affair with him but she wished she did.

Which just goes to show, it’s all in the eyes of the beholder. If you look like Mr. Hitchcock, it’s harassment, but if you look like Mr. Connery, it’s “I wished we had had an affair.”


Saint Teresa of Avila Church in Bodega, looking very sunny and bright and quite far removed from Ansel Adams’ gothic versions.

Love that is too painful

May.26. 2021

Another happy song from my summer playlist.

This is an amazingly simple song. There’re only four chords that are repeated throughout the song—G, D, Em9, and Em (three if you count the Em9 as an embellished Em).

But the range of emotions he’s able to extrapolate from these four chords is breathtaking.

Listening to it, you can probably detect the influence of a certain Mr. Zimmerman. But Mr. Zimmerman could never have written the song. As he himself said, to sing the blues, you have to stay outside them.

Which is why he could never have written this song—you can’t write this song if you’re on the outside looking in.

With this song, Mr. Kim is definitely very much inside—and that’s why it’s so powerful.

Truth and Beauty/3

May.24. 2021

A while back, I had a sudden flash of insight—beauty is truth manifested. And fake things can never be beautiful.

I should’ve guessed that someone else had already come to that conclusion before me.

None other than Keats.

Ever since my requisite encounter with The Eve of St Agnes in high school, I had never been a fan of Keats—Byron was my man.

Keats was too textbook, too pretty for me.

But why was I watching this old movie today?

Another flashback to my younger days.

Back in those days, I had read a bunch of Reader’s Digest condensed books and two stories in particular stuck in my mind.

One I had identified years ago, but the second one was more elusive.

For some reason, the story stayed in my mind.

And I finally decided to Google it and as it turned out, it was a rather famous story and even made into a movie by the great Selznick.

The dreamlike fantasy story that had so inspired me was about how an artist’s chance encounter with a young girl changed his fortunes and inspiration.

I haven’t reread the book but the movie is readily available on YouTube.

It was disappointing.

But that was the zeitgeist at the time—many dramatic details to hype up the story and an over exuberant film score.

It did lead me to another profound thought.

If beauty is truth, we are living in ugly times indeed.

Journey to Orcadia

May.4. 2021

Imagine if Earth is an electron circling around a nucleus called the Sun. And all the other star systems in the universe with their planets are just atomic particles.

And somewhere out there is another universe, a universe that is so vast it is beyond human comprehension.

A world where our solar system is nothing but an atom.

Sounds fantastic, but such a world did exist, in the pages of a now defunct magazine called ‘Look and Learn.’

For no particular reason, last week, the magazine suddenly resurfaced in my consciousness and I decided to dig it out.

One thing especially stood out in my memory—an earthlike world ruled by a kind and wise ruler called Emperor Trigo and an episode called ‘Journey to Orcadia.’

Through some freak atomic accident, the emperor is reduced to microscopic and then subatomic dimensions, and after some hellish encounters with supersized microbes lands on a planet called Orcadia.

Orcadia is a planet/electron that orbits around a nucleus at the subatomic level.

To make a long story short, and due to the limitations of its fortnightly serialized format, the emperor and his intrepid nephew, Janno (who decided to join him), are able to magically leave Orcadia and regain their original dimensions, and all’s well that ends well.

Half a millennium ago, when the world was so much simpler.

In the process of digging it up, I read some cynical comments online about how racist the serial is, how all the heroes are Aryan types with blue eyes and all the villains have bestial or Asiatic features.

Lucky no one pointed that out to me back in the days when I used to look forward to its fortnightly installments.

Not that it would mean anything anyway.

Back in those days, people were definitely less self-conscious.

Less concerned about appearances such as the color of one’s eyes or skin.

Definitely less worried about how this or that thing would somehow damage their self-image or sense of self-worth.

How to tell true teachers from false

April.11. 2021

Religious teachers tend to fall into two categories—true and false.

There is no in-between.

So how do you tell true teachers from false?

Here’re a few pointers:

First, look out for the money preachers. All they talk about is money, how they need you to ‘partner’ with them, etc etc.

Or if you send them a gift of a certain exorbitant amount, they would send you their latest books or some other merchandise.

Yes, money is a necessity in modern life, but if they have to get it from you, it’s a business enterprise for them and you’re just a customer.

A wise man told me years ago; a true teacher never asks you for money, they give you money.

Not literally of course—what he means is true teachers do not impoverish you, they enrich you.

Second, an overemphasis on physical and material things.

These include physical things such as support for a particular country, or physical concepts such as ‘in heaven the streets are paved with gold.’

Religion is first and foremost a spiritual thing.

God’s domain deals with good and evil, uplifting and downshifting, joy and love.

Once you get into political territory, in supporting one country over another, you’re in man’s domain, not God’s.

And if they are trying to entice you with promises of an afterlife with streets paved with gold, they’re playing on your lust for material wealth.

Third, religion exists to make our lives better, not worse.

So if they preach hate—hate for any group, they’re sowing the seeds of your destruction.

Hate is a negative energy and negativity always results in bad outcomes.

It’s a law of the universe—you reap what you sow.

If you sow love, you will be rewarded with love, if you sow hate, you will be rewarded with hate.

So distrust any preacher who teaches hate, whose message is about being judgmental, who will divide you and pit you against your neighbors.

Because nothing good will come out of it.

Fourth, distrust any preacher who only teaches rituals, rules, and obedience.

Rituals and rules are about power and control.

The operative word here is ‘obedience.’

For example, in a certain church, I hear they have a book of dogmas that is thousands of pages long.

Or in another religion, they actually prescribe how long your beard should be.

Rules and rituals are the perfect covers for conmen and hypocrites.

They use them to cover the evil in their hearts.

The funny thing of course is that these conmen would always be above the rules themselves—the rules are only meant for their followers.

Fifth, distrust any teacher who tells you not to think for yourself, and to leave the thinking to those who have been to ‘theological schools’ or seminaries.

Every spiritual journey is a personal one.

No one can undertake the journey for you.

Those who would try to stop you from thinking for yourself are trying to prevent you from embarking on your own spiritual journey

And they are afraid, afraid that you would discover their con.

They’re like the people who keep their pets locked in a cage afraid that if they let them loose, they would never return.

The ultimate goal of religion is to help you achieve your full potential, and achieving your full potential lies in freedom.

Freedom to experience, to question, and use your God given gifts to discover yourself.

Again, the great teacher taught the concept in the story about the talents. Note that the master in the story did not tell the servants to lock up the talents and not to use them.

On the contrary, he rewarded those who used their talents and punished those who did not.

This final point is perhaps the one thing that separates true teachers from false.

A true teacher empowers you, helps you achieve your full potential, and he does this by freeing you from your fears, from your insecurities, from all that stand in the way of your success.

The point of his teaching is for you to achieve self-realization, so you can leave the flock, and become your own person.

A false teacher will enslave you, and use you.

Mostly to feed their enormous appetite for material things, but also for their megalomaniac ambitions.

And they will do this by taking away your God given gifts, your freedoms, and make sure that you remain bonded to them forever.

And they do this with threats, of excommunication, or even death, if you ever try to leave the flock.

Chopin in Laredo/2

March.13. 2021

Two news items

March.12. 2021

Two news items caught my eye today.

First the story about the Uber driver who was harassed and pepper sprayed by two young women.

Thanks to the dashcam, the incident was recorded and the two perpetrators are now having to deal with the law.

But I wondered about an alternate scenario.

What if there was no dashcam video and what if the two women had gotten mad at the driver and decided to get him into trouble by making a false report to the police about being harassed by him instead?

You see, these days, in America, all you need is an accuser or accusers and you’re immediately presumed guilty.

No need for an investigation or trial by jury.

Which brings me to the second story.

A year ago, Governor Cuomo was riding high.

His news conferences were the thing to watch.

He was the perfect foil for the other guy, the dumb one who didn’t want testing because it would increase the number of positive cases which would look bad for him.

How the times have changed, all within the span of one year.

Justice American style.

Whatever happened to the concept of presumption of innocence?

Hopefully the Governor will not roll over, like Franken and others before him.


February.20. 2021

Continuing from my previous post about the friend who did not appreciate my attempts to debunk his conspiracy theories.

He probably thought I was getting a little too arrogant, in Chinese, the word would be ‘proud.’

The other word would be ‘disagreeable.’

You see, you’re not allowed to contradict someone who thinks he’s one-upped above you. You have to be a yes-man, and so when you start to contradict them, the usual accusation is ‘he’s getting a little disagreeable’ these days.

(Perhaps preceded by, “Whatever’s come over him? He used to be so nice and agreeable before.”)

There’s a peculiar American word which is unique to the country.

The word is ‘uppity.’

You might suspect that the word has something to do with one-upmanship and you would be right.

If you check the dictionary, the word is mostly defined as ‘arrogant’ or ‘haughty.’

But to people who know the word well, the word has a more sinister meaning.

Basically, it’s used to describe people who have the nerve to try to forget their place in life, a place that they have been preassigned.

And this place that have been preassigned them is (surprise, surprise!) one-down below whoever is doing the preassigning.

First, it’s important to establish that the upmanship and downmanship here exist only in the mind of the person who is doing the preassigning.

And that’s the thing about one-upmanship.

It’s mostly a personal thing, something that someone has created in his own mind, based on whatever distortions or delusions they may have about themselves and their presumed place in life.

To call someone ‘uppity,’ first, you must believe, for whatever reason, that you’re superior to him, that you’re one-upped above him.

And being one-downed, he’s supposed to play the role of a meek and mild person, someone who runs around at your bidding, someone who says, ‘yes, sir’ when he sees you.

In other words, a doormat.

And so when this little doormat has the nerve to forget the role you have assigned him, when he dares to contradict you, when he refuses to do your bidding, then he has become a little too ‘uppity.’

What do you do with people who harbor such self-delusions?

You could stay your ground and burst their bubble even more.

Or you could avoid them.

My personal experience is that when someone has created such an inflated sense of themselves, nothing you do or say will change anything.

Because they have already built an impenetrable armor around their fragile egos.

The best policy is to avoid them, unless you like confrontations.


February.16. 2021

I bought a book a number of years ago from a bookstore in one of the mega malls in Malaysia.

The book was written by a local author and the subject was about one-upmanship.

At the time, I had no idea what it meant but it sounded sufficiently intriguing enough for me to buy the book.

So what exactly is one-upmanship?

It’s one of the internal dynamics in human relationships.

Its main premise is that there’re no equal relationships, you’re either ‘one-upped’ or you’re ‘one-downed.’

It’s a holdover from ancient feudalistic societies where there is a clearly defined social hierarchy.

The way it works is, if you’re in a higher tier—one-upped—you’re superior to those in a lower tier—they’re ‘one-downed.’

I saw this dynamic clearly on a recent (2019) trip to an Asian country.

I was riding in a car with a rather successful self-made man and we were being driven around by his ‘friend.’

It wasn’t long before I began to sense that the two men were not exactly ‘equal’ friends.

For example, the ‘friend’ seemed extremely deferential to the other man. He didn’t initiate many of the conversations and seemed ready to laugh at the slightest joke.

Whereas on the other hand, the other man did not make much of an effort to return the friendly gestures. In fact, he spoke and treated the ‘friend’ almost like a servant.

In a way, it was a ‘master-servant’ relationship, even though the two were supposed to be friends.

A classic case of one-upmanship and the unequal dynamic between so-called ‘friends.’

I found the book to be quite revealing and captured the essence of some human relationships well. It reconfirmed my own observations, something I have always recognized.

I have noticed that in many human relationships, one party will try to dominate, creating a ‘master-servant’ dynamic.

It could be two seemingly ‘equal’ friends but the unequal relationship between them is essentially that of one above the other. One upped, one downed.

The dynamic is usually caused by one party needing to dominate the other.

For example, in my younger days, I used to have a ‘friend’ who always wanted to play the lead part in any musical performances. You could play a duet with him and he would want to play the first part.

These unequal relationships are only sustainable as long as the other person, the ‘one-downed,’ is happy to comply.

In my own relationships, and in years past, I had not bothered too much about it.

I had always felt that the person who wanted to be one-upped must have some kind of complex so I always yielded. No problem.

(No, I never ‘yielded’ to the point of being servile [being servile is not in my nature], but I simply did not try to contradict them even when I knew them to be wrong.)

But the pandemic changed all that.

For instance, I used to listen to ‘friends’ spout wild conspiracy theories—fantasies which I knew to be pure nonsense, but I would quietly listen and let them go on. No need to get into unnecessary arguments.

There was a ‘friend’ who was into the “deep-state” conspiracy used by a certain US politician to demonize those who had the guts to defy and even investigate him.

This particular friend living in an Asian country seemed to think he knew everything about the conspiracy and he believed in it whole-heartedly.

I, of course, never had the heart to tell him it’s some wild cockamanie political ploy cooked up by a conman.

Well, the pandemic and recent events taught me that wild conspiracy theories have consequences, as we saw on January 6, and in the high number of casualties lost to the pandemic ‘hoax,’ also cooked up by the same conman.

This friend didn’t take it too kindly when I started to debunk all these nonsense (including the Kennedy assassination, which was another of his favorite conspiracy theories).

Evidently, he felt it’s not my place to disagree with him. In other words, he thought I was trying to one-up him.

Long story short, end of a long friendship.

For me, losing friends like these is a relief, a liberation. I’m into friendships but I’m not into unequal relationships where one party harbor certain delusions of grandeur.

LSE Update

February.6. 2021

The new revised version of The Laws of Spiritual Energy is now available.

The book has been expanded to include a new chapter on the law of tethering, several chapters have also been rewritten.

Please download the book here.

The Laws of Spiritual Energy