The shallowness of reality TV

How serving up trash on national broadcast television tells us where TV owners’ priorities really are- and it’s not with us.

By Peter Rosengren


Forgive me if what follows seems unduly skeptical. But when a close friend rang me last night and told me his seven year-old son was watching big Brother, I felt a pang of regret for that boy that was hard to express.
Whoever thought it all up was on a winner. Take the following well-known program. Get a bunch of guys, introduce them to a beautiful transsexual, without letting on that ‘she’ is really a ‘he.’ Film all their advances to ‘her,’ one by one, the more titillating the better. Then reveal it all at the end of the series. Build up towards the big revelation episode by episode.
There’s Something About Miriam, as the show aired locally on Channel 10 was called, was a hit. No doubt about it.

Or let’s see… something different again? How about we go out and get some ‘white trash’ types; people at the bottom end of the socio-economic scale. Not necessarily too bright. But it helps if they’re plain; ugly doesn’t hurt, either. Offer them something they’re vulnerable to, especially the women – plastic surgery worth tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of dollars. Play on their belief that undertaking potentially life-threatening surgery will improve their happiness and self-esteem. Take them away from their families for months until all the (visible) scars are healed. Then play out the syrupy moment of revelation for all it’s worth.
The list goes on. Welcome to reality TV. Welcome to the new coliseum. Welcome to television’s latest attempt to make money. Out of us, our families, our children.
Here’s who reality television is really all about. The growth sector in broadcast television in the last couple of years is aimed at one person and one person only. You. Your family. Anyone in the house.

Reality TV, as it’s being called, really depends on two things: money and viewers.
Money is the motive. In fact, it’s the only motive. And you are the way to make sure broadcast television stations get more of it. In fact, it’s mainly what they care about.
The growth in American reality TV has also generated clones everywhere, carefully-premised situations contrived and populated with willing (we guess) audience members prepared to do almost anything they can to win the pot at the end of the show. Why? Money, money, money.

The success of such programs relies on the natural inquisitiveness of our audiences. It relies on that basic impulse most of us have to know what’s going on that we’re not usually allowed to see. Put other people’s lives, intimate parts and all, on display on free-to-air television and it’s a safe bet audiences will be unable to resist tuning in. Ratings soar. Advertisers pay to get into THAT timeslot. Watch the cash roll in. And there’s more. Get the viewers to participate by voting or registering opinions or the like by making charged calls. There- even more money. Oodles of it. Paid for by the viewers. And has anyone ever revealed how much money is made from this aspect of involvement alone?

If we want to analyse whether there’s a problem here we can generally count the TV station decision-makers and their corporate officially well and truly out. Heard any reservations from them about this trend lately? For them, there is relatively little question, if any, as to whether this sort of programming is doing anyone good. In fact, it’s almost no consideration at all, one would suspect, given the nature of what they are broadcasting in order to bump up ratings and improve profit margins.
And that’s part of the problem that thoughtful people are increasingly finding troubling, even disturbing. Reality TV is doing nobody any good. In fact, it invites the question: is it doing any harm?
Let’s be frank. What we are talking about here is, with rare exceptions, LCD TV: Lowest Common Denominator television. Really it goes further than that. Perhaps a better way we to put it is ‘How-much-can-we-get-away-with-TV?” Concern for an audience appears not to be a factor taken into account when calculating a show’s potential to make money. Concern for a ‘participant’ appears to be almost non-existent.

The formula for reality tv’s success is simple, often brutal and de-humanising. It’s de-humanising because usually it rests upon using people, especially their vulnerabilities or their freakishness (a la the Osbornes), to provide ‘entertainment.’ It depends on using its subjects. And, to maximise the take there’s a big motive for producers to hit the lowest common denominator button, push the moral and situational envelope to the ‘max’, so they get the biggest audience. Get down and dirty generally seems to be the golden rule of reality television. How? Easy: tits, bums, family feuds, innuendoes, angst between friends, plotting, conniving, betrayal of relationships, contrived sexual liaisons.

Reality tv is therefore far less real than it makes itself out to be. It variously gives people motives to be dishonest, deceitful, nasty, tasteless, bitchy or ruthless to each other. It extracts the maximum impact out of the human equivalents of putting lab rats in a glass box and stimulating them into performing for our enjoyment.
Only we don’t enjoy it. We goggle away, fascinated at seeing private moments broadcast publicly, gripped by the drama of the personality clashes, waiting breathlessly for the next development. So we really don’t enjoy it at all. We perve at it. We become the addicted peeping toms glued to our sets uncritically sucking in everything that’s offered. Using people in this way, one would think, is hardly a sound motive for creating a television program to be viewed by millions, especially the very young.

The absolutely fundamental principle, also to be found in the Hippocratic Oath taken by doctors beginning their careers, ‘Do no harm’ is simply absent from reality tv which doesn’t usually have to deal with the consequences. They are too remote, too in-the-past. When There’s Something About Miriam turned into a smash success for Channel 10 locally it was partly because of the controversy (golden rule number 2: any controversy is great publicity). The randy participants found out they’d been had. The tables were turned. Then they sued. Maybe the show’s originators hadn’t planned it. But maybe they had. The news, released early on in the series helped push the magic ratings through the roof. The money flowed in to television situations broadcasting it, courtesy of advertisers scrambling to take advantage of the amorally novel subjects and the controversy.

The two things reality tv lacks above all others are goodness – and reality. It usually relies on exploiting nastiness and tastelessness, goodness tends to be marginalised.
This trash served up by our broadcasters is only that and nothing more. I wonder if they care?
There is no fidelity in it. There is no nobility in it. There is no educational value in it. There is nothing uplifting, nothing that leaves us feeling happier, more determined to change our own little corner of the world for the better. We don’t come away more generous, say, to the starving in Africa or the poor in our midst.
Would the producers of Big Brother donate the same amount of prize money and revenue from charged calls to the starving in Darfur? I won’t tell you what I think the answer to that is.

Seen in its wider context, for ‘reality’ like this so prosper it helps enormously if people are convinced or lulled into believing that none of this matters or is immoral, that morality is nothing more than doing what you like as long as you don’t hurt anyone else.
Should we be fooled? Can we afford to be? This kind of viewing is called moral relativism, the view that morality is different from group to group, society to society, that there is no such thing as right or wrong, standards of decency that are universal.
A society that embraces moral relativism, much less broadcasts it into homes, very quickly loses the ability to defend any kind of absolute value at all. And, I sometimes wonder, what would the consequences of this be?
Counter-cultural parents and teenagers should start a TV revolution.

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KO!

I’ve had an interesting week. The main reason for this is because I don’t recall much of it. A few conversations here and there, a few flashes of memory, just disconnected images. Other than that, nothing. Collectively, my memories could explain about half an hour of Monday and Tuesday. Why, you wonder? Give me a moment, if you have the patience, to let me recount what I remember. If not, skip to the bottom few paragraphs.


The first thing I was aware of was the clock across from my bed. 20:42. So it was eight o’clock. I glanced down, and in my right hand I was holding a piece of paper that read:

13/03/07 Tuesday
Royal Perth Hospital.

No matter how many times I looked at that piece of paper, I was surprised to discover the date. And with each old discovery, I panicked, worrying I’d missed Ivy’s birthday by three days.

My next memory was seeing the clock again. It was 11pm. They told me I’d been very concerned with the date and time- that much was evident from the piece of paper I never let go of. I tried to remember what had happened, but I could recall nothing except 13/03/07 Tuesday, Royal Perth Hospital. It seemed logical that I was in RPH, although I couldn’t say how I got there. I think I recalled parts of the CT (cat) scan, but only an image or two that make no sense on their own. It seemed I was lying in a hospital bed in the middle of a corridor. I accepted it without protest, vaguely curious about the other patients.

One particularly interesting man was in the bed next to me. He was crying "Please let me die!" over and over. "Give me a needle and let me die! Please kill me!" He sounded very pained, and I wondered what he was enduring. One side of me hoped he would suffer and survive to tell about it. The other hoped they would give him an anaesthetic and let him rest.

I was aware that I felt nauseous, and I vomited on myself. I felt very guilty, and apologised to the nurse who replaced my gown and sheets. Wait- why was I wearing a gown? Where was my shirt? Looking down, I was wearing my school pants (although someone had undone the clasp and zipper. Had I been thinking rationally I might have blushed) but my shirt was missing.

I also remember seeing stickers on my arms, legs and chest, and not knowing how they got there. I was fascinated by them- and the IV cannula in my arm- the needle they attached a drip to.

My nurse’s name was Crystal- I fell in love with her voice. I wondered about the legalities of a nurse-patient relationship. Even now I pine for her. My doctor’s name was Liberty. I told her it was a beautiful name. She asked me to tell her what subjects I took in school. Was she amused by the idea of a study period? She asked me to remember apple, pencil torch- where I was, the date. She asked me these questions several times- the only reason I know this is because one such time she told me I was wrong. It had passed midnight, making it the 14th- Wednesday. I thought back to the late Tuesday and tried to remember what I’d done in school. Vocal ensemble felt like last week- what did I study in study period? Alas, it escaped me.

One thing I did remember was wishing I could watch Terminator 2. Sarah Connor’s escape from the mental institute was always in my mind and I wondered if I could pull it off too. When I got home, I rented out a few movies, T2 being on top of the list.

They told me I’d be moved to a ward so I could get a good night’s sleep. I wondered what they were talking about- they woke me up just to tell me that? The Orderly that took me there made jokes about being careful because my mother is a nurse in the hospital. Although I don’t recall climbing in- I just opened my eyes and I was in a bed next to the window. The light that filtered through the blinds was of the same colour and texture as the nocturnal streets of Singapore. I was drawn to get out of bed to gaze, before hurrying back guiltily. I wondered about Ivy- what she would do if she knew I was in hospital. My rational mind said she’d scold me for hurting myself. My exhausted mind said she’d look after me again and made sure I was all right. At any rate, I went to bed soon after. Every two hours, someone would shine a light in my eyes to check the dilation of my pupils and make sure I didn’t have brain damage. I used this to measure time until 7am.

After some struggle, I managed to turn on my TV and was horrified to find I’d missed Naruto, V for Vendetta, and the Matrix Reloaded. After that though, things started picking up. I’d been told my short term memory hadn’t been too crash hot, but I was making new memories and keeping them- at least for a little while. I even recognised Liberty, even if I didn’t remember her name.

Looking at my left hand, there were three blue dots in between my knuckles. I put them there in maths, I think. My right hand had been dirty, blackened by soil. There were scratches on my forearm and left elbow, too. From these vestiges of memory, I thought I remembered walking to the pavilion by myself. I know for a fact that I’d spent the day wondering about how many sit-ups I could do whilst hanging from a bar upside down. I can only guess that I was foolish enough to attempt it. Or perhaps worse, I hung upside down then let go, just so I could learn how to land without getting hurt. Anyway, I’m told a junior school boy found me lying on the ground. I called out to him for help, and together we staggered back to the roundabout. I kept asking the boy for the time and date- that would explain the piece of paper I found in my hand later on. Eventually, Mum came to school to pick me up. She talked to Mr Kenny, the vice principal, and took me to hospital soon after.

Sometime around noon yesterday they concluded I’d had a concussion. It meant I lost memories from before and after the event- the event being most likely some kind of head injury. Those memories will never come back, even though I may feel as if I remember something sometimes. I’ve decided against trying to recall what happened. I did learn a lesson from all this though: "No more monkeying around", as Liberty put it. At any rate, I’ve got a lot of time off, and I’m supposed to get plenty of sleep. I’ve been forbidden from Taekwondo for two weeks, although I’m allowed to practice by myself, and I’m off school until Monday which is a bonus I guess. I’ll have a lot to do when I get back though, so maybe it isn’t such a blessing.

At any rate, thank you for reading. I know it must have been very boring for you, but these are the only memories I have of what happened, and it’s important to me that I don’t forget them. I’ve lost a lot of my existence as it is- not to mention everything I learned on Tuesday only to forget it soon after. Ah well. Days and days (and days and days) of reading, writing and gaming are ahead. Life’s not so bad after all, eh?

~Xin

The Highwayman

The Highwayman

By Alfred Noyes

Part One
I
The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees,
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
The road was a ribbon of moonlight, over the purple moor,
And the highwayman came riding-
Riding-riding-
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.

II
He'd a French cocked-hat on his forehead, a bunch of lace at his chin,
A coat of the claret velvet, and breeches of brown doe-skin;
They fitted with never a wrinkle: his boots were up to the thigh!
And he rode with a jewelled twinkle,
His pistol butts a-twinkle,
His rapier hilt a-twinkle, under the jewelled sky.

III
Over the cobbles he clattered and clashed in the dark inn-yard,
And he tapped with his whip on the shutters, but all was locked and barred;
He whistled a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
But the landlord's black-eyed daughter,
Bess, the landlord's daughter,
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.

IV
And dark in the old inn-yard a stable-wicket creaked
Where Tim the ostler listened; his face was white and peaked;
His eyes were hollows of madness, his hair like mouldy hay,
But he loved the landlord's daughter,
The landlord's red-lipped daughter,
Dumb as a dog he listened, and he heard the robber say-

V
"One kiss, my bonny sweetheart, I'm after a prize to-night,
But I shall be back with the yellow gold before the morning light;
Yet, if they press me sharply, and harry me through the day,
Then look for me by moonlight,
Watch for me by moonlight,
I'll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way."

VI
He rose upright in the stirrups; he scarce could reach her hand,
But she loosened her hair i' the casement! His face burnt like a brand
As the black cascade of perfume came tumbling over his breast;
And he kissed its waves in the moonlight,
(Oh, sweet black waves in the moonlight!)
Then he tugged at his rein in the moonlight, and galloped away to the West.

Part Two
I
He did not come in the dawning; he did not come at noon;
And out o' the tawny sunset, before the rise o' the moon,
When the road was a gipsy's ribbon, looping the purple moor,
A red-coat troop came marching-
Marching-marching-
King George's men came marching, up to the old inn-door.

II
They said no word to the landlord, they drank his ale instead,
But they gagged his daughter and bound her to the foot of her narrow bed;
Two of them knelt at her casement, with muskets at their side!
There was death at every window;
And hell at one dark window;
For Bess could see, through the casement, the road that he would ride.

III
They had tied her up to attention, with many a sniggering jest;
They bound a musket beside her, with the barrel beneath her breast!
"Now keep good watch!" and they kissed her.
She heard the dead man say-
Look for me by moonlight;
Watch for me by moonlight;
I'll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way!


IV
She twisted her hands behind her; but all the knots held good!
She writhed her hands till here fingers were wet with sweat or blood!
They stretched and strained in the darkness, and the hours crawled by like
years,
Till, now, on the stroke of midnight,
Cold, on the stroke of midnight,
The tip of one finger touched it! The trigger at least was hers!

V
The tip of one finger touched it; she strove no more for the rest!
Up, she stood up to attention, with the barrel beneath her breast,
She would not risk their hearing; she would not strive again;
For the road lay bare in the moonlight;
Blank and bare in the moonlight;
And the blood of her veins in the moonlight throbbed to her love's refrain.

VI
Tlot-tlot; tlot-tlot! Had they heard it? The horse-hoofs
ringing clear;
Tlot-tlot, tlot-tlot, in the distance? Were they deaf that they did
not hear?
Down the ribbon of moonlight, over the brow of the hill,
The highwayman came riding,
Riding, riding!
The red-coats looked to their priming! She stood up strait and still!

VII
Tlot-tlot, in the frosty silence! Tlot-tlot, in the echoing night
!
Nearer he came and nearer! Her face was like a light!
Her eyes grew wide for a moment; she drew one last deep breath,
Then her finger moved in the moonlight,
Her musket shattered the moonlight,
Shattered her breast in the moonlight and warned him-with her death.

VIII
He turned; he spurred to the West; he did not know who stood
Bowed, with her head o'er the musket, drenched with her own red blood!
Not till the dawn he heard it, his face grew grey to hear
How Bess, the landlord's daughter,
The landlord's black-eyed daughter,
Had watched for her love in the moonlight, and died in the darkness there.

IX
Back, he spurred like a madman, shrieking a curse to the sky,
With the white road smoking behind him and his rapier brandished high!
Blood-red were his spurs i' the golden noon; wine-red was his velvet coat,
When they shot him down on the highway,
Down like a dog on the highway,
And he lay in his blood on the highway, with a bunch of lace at his throat.

* * * * * *

X
And still of a winter's night, they say, when the wind is in the trees,
When the moon is a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
When the road is a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
A highwayman comes riding-
Riding-riding-
A highwayman comes riding, up to the old inn-door.


XI
Over the cobbles he clatters and clangs in the dark inn-yard,
And he taps with his whip on the shutters, but all is locked and barred;
He whistles a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
But the landlord's black-eyed daughter,
Bess, the landlord's daughter,
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.

What is an enemy?

A question I’ve thought about, but am unable to answer. Do you have to hate your enemies? Then what is hate? I wonder of these things because of a lad named Roy.

Roy’s a blackbelt. Yes, you’re reading another Taekwondo entry. Look, I made a whole new category for it since it seems to be such a pivotal part of my existence as a human being. Anyway, Roy’s a blackbelt, 2nd dan. I think he should be somewhere up in the 5th Dan region though. When I first saw Roy he was pulling off unbelievable reverse spinning back kicks through the air. I can’t really describe them, but his kicks were fast, fluent and flawless. When I actually met Roy, we were practicing Hosinsul – self-defence. I grabbed him and a second later he threw me to the ground. I hit the back of my head on the padded floors, and he told me to break my fall next time. I was offended by his aggression and indifference, but took it as a lesson. The next time I saw him, the same thing was repeated, so when it was my turn I forced him to the floor a little harder than necessary. He called me a psycho because of my fervour, and I hoped he hadn’t meant it. Today he was hostile to me when we were paired up again, but I didn’t take it personally- he was way out of my league.

When it came to sparring, I cycled through half the blackbelts, each of them teaching me something about my technique. Countering left me open to a parry, which was something I honestly hadn’t really thought of. "Dylan"’s heel connected with the side of my head, and Master Ross told me what I was doing wrong. Dylan apologised, and I moved on to Roy. Now this is how it happened. I know that the blackbelts are far too fast for me to actually hit without getting my ass kicked in return, but when I tried to kick Roy in the ribs he had moved in before I could do anything about it. He blocked the kick and punched me in the solar plexis then nailed me in the head with his left leg. Both of the blows connected, although only enough to wind me. This happened over about a second. Master Ross stepped in and said;
"He’s just a yellow belt! Do it again and I’ll kick you."

I left class very bitterly. I don’t know if there’s anything I can do to get fast let alone strong enough to beat Roy. I felt his aversion to me long before the blows connected. For now I’ll have to continue training and not dwell on it too much. Peace.

My Criterion

I had my first grading today. Oh Do Kwan is far more scrupulous than Rhee. I admit, I was fastidious in my presentation at all times, even when I was sitting to the side watching everyone else. The grading itself (my part, anyway) was only 10-15 minutes, which surprised me. In groups of a dozen or less, we got up when our name was called and face the three masters who would be judging us. I was a little bit disappointed to be honest- I had expected it to be so much harder, and had mentally trained myself for a much greater challenge. Three blocks and a punch (demonstrated ten times each) was all we did for hand skills. The kicks were slightly harder, but where was the challenge? From there we weren’t tested on our patterns- a series of moves executed one after the other at our own pace- or one step sparring, where your opponent punches and you counter with a particular fashion. I had been training for these rigorously, and felt a little cheated when they weren’t graded. Instead we had self defence. For whitebelts, this means someone grabbing your wrist and you manipulating your way out of it, putting a hold or lock on your opponent. I didn’t do so well in that, lacking the control I might have previously had. Finally we sparred. I made the mistake of trying too hard too quickly, and burned out of energy towards the end.

As we lined up to receive our results, I forced myself to be calm. Although still recovering from my maladies, I yelled louder, and moved faster, than all those in my group. I was always one step ahead of them, which I admit gave some pride to me. Yet, as more and more names of those who passed were announced, I was getting more and more anxious; I didn’t seem to be on the list. Madam Carmella gave out the last certificate and all the white belts bowed- I had not been summoned. I held my breath- I couldn’t have failed, could I? Master Ross announced the nature of an Honours Pass, where the applicant has done well above the average of 65%. My heart raced- could it be me? Two honours passes were given, and still I had not been called. Finally he explained the notion of a Double Promotion- when the applicant has exceeded expectations for his or her particular belt- and called my name. Carmela smiled at me as I shook Ross’ hand hurriedly, and received my certificate. I later noticed it congratulated me on making it to 9th Gup- it looks like they hadn’t forseen a double promotion. I was both complimented and offended at once.

My grading form is shown below. I really will miss the symbol of a white belt- I no longer bear the marks of amateur. Albeit low-ranked, I am no longer considered a complete tyro. Now I’m competing with 8th Gup’s- “yellow belt two’s”. But no, I tell a lie. I’m not competing with 8th Gup’s, I never have been. I’ve been competing with black belts. I always struggle to meet their standards. I’m glad I did well today. Before I went up, I told myself to pretend I was a black belt. When I went up, I forgot entirely. Anyway, I’ll stop rambling now- you’re probably bored. Master Ross said that if I train regularly, I might be able to get my blue belt (assuming I get a second double promotion) at the grading next month. Lord knows I’ll try.

~XinTaekwondo grading sheet

Odds and ends.

"TOKA that, mofo."
-Mr Osnain, 2007.

Just an entry about all the bits and bobs of the universe. Seeing as I started with I nice Osnain quote, I’ll talk about him for a moment.

Mr Osnain is one of my most admired men on the planet. He’s spontaneous, doing partially crazy things for little good reason, and yet he knows exactly what he’s on about and can convey this very well. His humour can be slightly crude, but he’s a very funny guy who a) loves Singapore and b) is left handed, so he’s right up there on my favourite persons list. As I said, he’s highly spontaneous. Take Wednesday’s lesson for example.

Binuk mentioned something about some new school policy that planned to cut SOSE subjects in Year 10. He didn’t say anything, so we all went back to work. About ten seconds later, he announced,
"While I’m on my soapbox, why would you have to get rid of society and environment?!"
When I looked up, he was standing on his desk, his head centimetres away from the ceiling.
"The multiplier works in reverse! People lose jobs! People without incomes can’t find jobs! Society and Environment teachers are out on the street! No it doesn’t bother me Chew!"
Richard Chew looked up with a puzzled expression on his face, where he’d been writing quietly.
"Imagine sending people into society without having taught them about society and environment! They wouldn’t know anything about politics! They wouldn’t know anything about economics! They’d put me in a detention centre! I’d have to shave! That’s crazy!"

He went on for a little while, Binuk bursting out in fits of laughter, the rest of us quite awed.
"I’d love it if [the vice principal, Mr Kenny] walked past right now," he commented. Mr Osnain climbed down a little while after that, and returned to teaching us about the multiplier creating extra income yada yada.


Why I would regret dropping English Lit:
-I studied Literature instead of English in Years 10 and 11. Would they go to waste? Would I be ready for English when I haven’t studied films or advertisments?
-I’d lose Mr Mueller, who teaches both vocabulary, and the command of language.
-I wouldn’t be able to relate to friends of mine who do Lit.
-I would be able to relate to many non-lit peers.
-The loss of opportunity to more fully appreciate some of the greatest texts in all of history.

I would regret that last one a great deal. Mr Mueller is a fantastic teacher, whose command of English is unparalleled. Before I hit Year 12, I clung on to every syllable he spoke as if it were some kind of wonderful drug. And he does it so effortlessly, too! Yes, Mr Mueller has slowly but definitely changed my understand of the English language for the better. That said, I wrote a crap essay today which should get me about 30%. I feel awful, but nothing can be done now. There’s another essay on Wednesday, so if I nail that one, I might be able to redeem myself. He did say at the start of the year that if any of us fail the first two assessments, he’d basically force us to drop Lit and do English instead. My title as his student is endangered. He is a great guy though, not just for his language (which he uses to persuade, even when he’s wrong. He confessed this once, and I’ve held it to heart since- you have to watch out for him, because he can make you doubt yourself by the sheer fierceness of his imposing vocabulary), but for his thoughtfulness. He’s spiritual, even if he’s not religious (I daren’t ask or notice), and he left the class while we were writing our essays today to get me a cough lolly. I love him dearly, and would hate to leave because of my own incompetence. This next one’s important, so pay attention.


Girls, if you like a guy, for goodness sake just tell him so. If you drop hints, one of two things will happen. Chances are, he won’t notice them, no matter how obvious. You’ll feel hurt and he won’t know why. Number two. If he does pick up on them, and he doesn’t like you in the same way you like him, he’s not going to tell you so. You’ll probably think he hasn’t picked up on your hints and continue dropping them, and you’ll feel hurt and he will know why, but not say anything about it. So girls, do him and yourself a favour and tell him how you feel. Trust me; I’m a rat.


"Rhee is nothing to us." Mr Ross said he didn’t even consider it a real Taekwondo, and wanted me to start my gradings from whitebelt. I felt bad, and I’m still not sure why. Was I offended he indirectly said I hadn’t actually learned Taekwondo for those two years? Or was I offended that I claimed to be a student of TKD when I’d been following something like Rhee? Closer to the first one, I think. He didn’t respect the other club at all. Also, he told me to forget everything I’d learned because it was pernicious, and seemed very pleased that Oh Do Kwan taught more to their students. One-step combinations and hold-breakers for example. I’m not so sure if I like Oh Do Kwan so much now, but my first grading is on Sunday. If I’ve recovered suitably, I’m hoping to skip yellowbelt and go straight to blue.


And one more for Liam… [Written whilst waiting for Mum to get off the phone.]

Her left leg is straight, her right leg bent at the knee, pointing away from her. In her right hand, she clutches the phone as she leans against the head of the bed. She reclines slightly, slouching against its wooden frame and holding the receiver so its antenna points at the wall behind. Every time whoever’s on the other end speaks, the phone pierces the ait with a kind of electronic screech. She wonders why, and decides to ignore it. In her left hand, she holds the back scratcher, which she uses to half-poke, half-rub her legs absentmindedly with the wrong end of the claw. Her mouth is open and she stares at the ceiling blankely whenever she’s not talking. When she does, she sounds like she’s complaining in whatever Chinese vernacular she can whine in, punctuated frequently by english words, easier to recall for both parties than the Chinese alternative.

This is my mother, whom I love, and whom I am astounded by. Was she really the one to raise me? Amazingly so. God bless her.

Love,
~Xin