Archive for July, 2014

Old school

July.21. 2014

I’ve been coming back regularly to Borneo these past few years, mostly out of filial duty.

In the beginning, I used to look up old friends and classmates to reconnect and share some food with, but these past few years, I’ve decided to keep to myself. Better to leave the past behind and focus on the present.

Because I’ve found that the only thing more oppressive than the heat in Borneo is the pettiness of old schoolmates.

Despite all the water that has flowed under the bridge, these people are still apparently living their old personal rivalries and jealousies.

I was told about a recent class reunion.

I heard it was a successful event, everyone showed up, well, close to everyone. There were a few who didn’t make it, including one classical guitarist in Texas.

And when someone asked in passing about the missing classical guitarist, one person instantly saw that as an opportunity to unload some dirt.

Wow, talk about having an agenda.

And very convenient to heap dirt on someone when he’s not around to defend himself.

That’s what I mean about the old pettiness being worse than the heat in Sibu.

As I see it, when people are not happy at the mention of your name, it means you’re doing something right, so I’m not worried.

Perhaps it reminds them too much of their own inadequacies, perhaps they have an old axe to grind. Who knows what the motive is.

Whatever it is, if it makes them happy to unload that crap they’ve been carrying all these years, well, so be it

I can only hope it makes them feel much better after that.

Nobody’s fool

July.20. 2014

I’ve noticed that people generally have specific roles they want  you to play. And if you do not want to play along, they get upset.

I don’t have a problem with playing their roles.

Trouble is, most of the roles they want you to play is that of the fool.

So you have freeloaders who expect you to play their so-called ‘benefits’ for free and they expect you to do it out of the ‘goodness of your heart.’

And if you refuse, well, they’ll level accusations of ‘mercenary,’ ‘money minded,’ ‘money face.’

So I guess the next time I go to a restaurant, I can refuse to pay the bill and if the owner insists I pay, well, I can tell him he’s being mercenary and a money face too.

And then there’s this guitar colleague of mine.

Years ago, noticing my absence from some guitar festivals, he pointedly told me, “You need to get into the loop, Philip; you’re out of the loop.”

What he’s really saying of course is, “Come to our festival. We need you to play our fool and become our fan.”

Go to these mindless social occasions to watch one mediocre player after another pontificate on some finer points of guitar technique like how to hold your hand, at which angle etc etc? No thanks, I would rather stay home and practice.

Naturally, he was upset that I refused to play the role of his fool or fan and never spoke to me after that.

Religion especially is adept at playing these games with your mind and make it seem like you’re the party at fault.

If you dare to question any of the established rules and doctrines they’ve laid down for you, you’re called proud and arrogant, and you need to get rid of this ‘sin of pride.’

Years ago, I had the audacity to ask a question of my religious instruction teacher in school and straightaway, I was branded proud and arrogant.

Well, if trying to make sense of your complicated rules and doctrines is a sin, I plead guilty.

The Self-Appointed Son of God of whom I wrote about recently understands this mind twisting technique very well and plays it to the hilt.

He constantly reminds his congregation in words and song that they must ‘surrender to God’s will’ and not be proud.

And what’s God’s will?

Surprise, surprise, it’s the Appointed Son’s will.

Here, he’s expecting his congregation to play the role of mindless robots who would obey his every command and not question them. This is an ingenious way to control the minds of your followers, because you know the moment they start questioning you, your house of cards will start tumbling down.

(I mean, the Appointed Son of God with the name of a Greek god? Gimme a break. I think I will have less trouble believing in the tooth fairy.)

I can go on and on but the roles people expect us to play are endless.

It’s an ingenious ploy, a power trip, to get you to do what they want you to do, usually to serve their own interests.

Getting free music for their functions, getting you to become their fan, getting you to become their follower so you can pay your 10% ‘tithe’ so that they can live their lavish lifestyles.

All self-serving ploys.

And you’re the one that’s at fault if you don’t give them what they want.

You’re the one that’s too proud, or a money face, or you’re being uncooperative.

Whatever it is, never let yourself be manipulated by those who would try to control you and make use of you.

Be proud, be arrogant. Be uncooperative.

It doesn’t matter what they call you, as long as you stay true to yourself, and not compromise your freedom to live life on your own terms, and not somebody else’s terms.

In other words, don’t become nobody’s fool.


July.19. 2014

For some odd reason, people do not want to pay musicians for their services.

They’ll go see a doctor and pay for a checkup. They’ll call the plumber and pay for whatever repairs they need. They’ll go to a restaurant and pay for their food, but when it comes to musicians, they refuse to pay.

Their usual modus operandi, when they want you to play for free, is to call whatever event they want to put on a ‘benefit.’

You see, benefit is a code word for ‘free music.’

When it’s a ‘benefit,’ you’re not supposed to charge a fee, otherwise you’re seen as being too mercenary.

I get calls all the time for my students to play at these so-called ‘benefit’ events.

These organizers have no problem paying the caterers for food and paying for the use of the venues, and for all the other expenses, but when it comes to music, they not only want free music, they want the musicians to drive at their own expense to the event to provide that ‘free’ music.


I admit, some of these benefits are real and legit, in which case I usually insist that they pay at least some gas money to my students.

And if they don’t want to pay even gas money, I tell them to take a hike (well, maybe not out loud).

I got a call once to play a benefit in Malaysia.

Now in years past, I was perfectly willing to play these events.

First, I wanted to play, second, I was going to see family anyway. And so I gave willingly of my service and I didn’t mind even paying my own way to play at these events.

But these days, lugging a huge guitar case around with me with all my concert paraphernalia is not exactly my idea of a fun vacation so I try to avoid these commitments.

Unless, of course, if they pay my way.

But this fellow balked at the idea of paying my airfare.

Like all other freeloaders, he not only wanted free music, he wanted the musician to pay his own way to provide him with the ‘free music.’

What kind of planet do these people live on?

For these people, it’s all about getting a free ride at somebody else’s expense.

And of course when you refuse to do these things, they’ll call you a mercenary and money face.

Which is perfectly fine for me.

I guess they don’t get paid either where they work.

Especially this particular character who works or used to work as a teacher and principal at his old school. I guess he must be working for free for his old school, out of the ‘goodness’ of his heart.

I may be wrong.

That’s one thing about freeloaders. They’re very good at getting others to work for free, but not so good at working for free themselves.

The concept of monetization

July.2. 2014

I was made aware of how simple small town values are recently.

I heard about this pangang maker who had an order for 100 pangangs but turned it down because he had other things to do.

(What are pangangs? They’re coconut rice dumplings wrapped in banana leaves and barbecued, and yes, the flavor is out of this world.)

Wasn’t interested but think about all that money he lost simply by turning the offer down!

But that’s the thing about small towns, there’re other things more important than money.

I can imagine the guy probably had plans for the evening, and he wasn’t going to sacrifice those plans, not even for the princely sum the 100 piece pangang would have brought him.

And this is the difference between small towns and big towns.

In big towns, money is king. In big towns, they will do anything for money, including sell their grandmothers (okay, maybe not).

Like I heard about this big town big-time politician who is selling reverse mortgages on TV.

(Reverse mortgages are, of course, just a fancy way of calling home loans using your house as collateral.)

The biggest tagline of this one-time former politician: “You still get to own your home.”

Yeah right! If you believe that, you’ll believe in the tooth fairy (and that the loans do not have to be paid off with the proceeds from the sale of your home eventually.)

His second biggest selling pitch: “And there’s no credit check!”

And why would they need a credit check when you’re going to give up your house as collateral? Talk about obfuscation!

Speaking of politicians peddling their reputations for hard cash, there was another guy years ago who went on national TV to reveal to the entire nation that he had ED and by golly! that problem was gone after he took Viagra.

I’m sure that famous ad was the high point in that politician’s illustrious career.

The name of the game here is ‘monetization.’

Or in layman’s terms, ‘cashing in on what you got.’

Monetization is of course a concept that goes back to the world’s oldest profession, when people, usually women, who didn’t have many marketable resources, had to resort to monetizing the only asset they had – their bodies.

So in a sense, big town values are based on the world’s oldest profession.

Don’t care about pride, or shame, or dignity, or self-respect, or taking advantage of hapless old folks in need of a little cash. It’s all about bringing in the hard cash, and everything’s fair game for your schemes.

Going back to the pangang maker, that kind of small town integrity is rare and admirable.

After all, why put so much emphasis on money?

Once it’s spent, it’s gone, but time spent having a good time with friends or family, doing what you want, is worth more than all the money in the world, and the memories stay with you forever.