Some Pre-Bedtime Afterthoughts

I was consulting the Ngee Ann Polytechnic sidebar – yes, the very links I’ve placed to the left of this blog’s main page – and realised that, with the exception of the Storytelling Boffin, given his “unique” situation, and probably Hannah, I’m the only one in my year one class still keeping this place up to date with one essay-length post every now and then. Everyone else has either left their WordPress.com blogs for greener pastures, or have taken the trouble to close it down altogether, so now I ask myself this question:

Why am I still here?

This blog, along with virtually every other online account I’ve ever signed up to, came into existence for a single purpose: they were all necessities.

I joined up with Hotmail when I realised that I needed an e-mail address to use MSN Messenger. After almost three years since I stopped actively using Windows Live Messenger, I still find myself using this e-mail account, which was only needed back then to enter MSN Messenger.

My forum profile at Hard Light Productions only came about because I needed to troubleshoot an error in FreeSpace 2 that had me stumped. I only needed an account to highlight a single problem to a bunch of experienced people, nothing more, and yet, even until today, I still visit the Hard Light Productions Forums and being part of that community, despite never originally having the intention to be part of it.

Now we come to this, my WordPress.com blog. This blog came about because my Storytelling lecturer required everyone in his class to create one. See that Pages list? This blog was partly formed for every single page listed there. This Storytelling module of mine ended two years ago, and yet I still post here, albeit infrequently.

In recent weeks, I’ve created a Facebook account and brought it up to speed with a contacts of my co-workers and the people I trust the most combined, and to experience the fuss behind Bejeweled Blitz. Like this blog, my Facebook account was created specifically for one module that I’m taking for this semester (which ends in August). Given that I’ve already spent so much time fine-tuning it, I’m fairly certain that, like this blog, my Windows Live Hotmail account and my Hard Light Productions Forum profile, I will still be using my Facebook account in the years to come.

This, then, is probably the main reason why I’m still here: because I’ve made a home of sorts out of this place. During the duration of my Storytelling module, I grew a small bond to this blog, in the same way that I grew a bond to my current bedroom in a four-room flat at Bedok South. The reason? Everything about this blog was chosen or done up by me, and only me. The decision to use this weird sunflower theme was made by me, and every single blog post I make here was written up in the best way I think possible, with absolutely no outside influence whatsoever. Even during the Storytelling period, where posting here was part of a graded assignment, my posts weren’t forced out in any way. They just decided to take shape from me typing on the keyboard. The low number of visitors to this blog isn’t a deterrent; it may in fact serve as an incentive for me to stay here even longer.

My Hotmail account is still used by me today, simply because I’ve identified myself with it. Every form of spam possible has made it there simply because I specified this e-mail address as my own, and saw it as my own. Despite the occasional issue with the way Microsoft scripts the web interface of Hotmail, I just refuse to make a switch to, say, GMail, for this very reason. I’ve even tinkered about with it so that it automatically sorts e-mails on specific subjects into separate folders. I no longer view it as just another e-mail account; I view it as my e-mail account, something that I’ve tinkered with to make it my own and to be proud of.

On the other hand, it is the community at Hard Light Productions that convinced me to stay and contribute there, even long after they’ve resolved my issue. In my eyes, they are the greatest bunch of misfits ever to walk this Earth, and I enjoy chatting, replying, arguing and insulting them, and getting a fair share of the same in return.

Why am I still here, then? The only answer to this is because I choose to be here. There may be greener pastures at other places, but the greenest grass is hardly ever more appealing than the most comfortable sofa couch in the world. This blog is that sofa couch; a place for me to just lean back and write lengthy essays about my life as it is whenever I wish.

The Grim Reaper Concussed Me with his Scythe

Well, I didn’t see him or touch his scythe literally, but I had quite an experience, and I can assure you that it’s almost the same as the real thing.

Before I start rambling, here’s something I think I should mention: I’ve never envied a funeral that is observed by many people, nor do I really envy the person who died. I have never shed any tears at any funeral, let alone mourn genuinely for the one who has died, and I do not expect anyone else in this world to react differently to my death, even though I know that is impossible. The kind of funeral I desire is a funeral that does not exist. On the day of my death, I wish to pass out of all existence without anyone on this planet observing it.

If anything, the Grim Reaper, or whatever death is, has given me a taste of that death while I am still alive, and although it is a bit of a bitter pill to swallow, it is still less bitter than Chinese herbal powder, and hence a pill that will swallow with relish if I ever get the opportunity to do so again.

To those of you who are still in the dark about what’s going on, this is what happened on the day after I posted the previous blog post.

I was doing my work at Emoxis on Thursday afternoon, April 1, 2010, when my supervisor took my attention off my work for a bit. She sent me to the meeting room to have a one-on-two private chat with two of my school lecturers. I was a bit curious to know why they were here again; after all, one of them paid a visit about a week prior, highlighting my slowness when doing work.

The reason they came was this: they had spoken to my supervisor, and she said that Emoxis was unable to keep me as an intern without severely compromising the amount of experience I stand to gain from them. You might think that this is a load of crud, but get the facts right first.

Emoxis is not a large production house. The number of full-time staff it employs is five, exactly. That’s right, five people. It’s that small. In order to survive, Emoxis needs to handle a lot of projects and therefore deal with several unreasonable clients who either expect a modification to the product (which is usually a promotional video) at the eleventh hour or expect the final product to be shipped in several variants. Needless to say, they have to rush deadlines on several occasions every month. The lack of full-time staff and tight deadlines is further compounded by the fact that they are shifting out of East Coast Road in July, to a more normal office building in Bugis. Translation: they need to spend quite a bit of office time packing stuff and moving stuff. Ergo, they won’t be able to spare enough time to teach me anything.

My supervisor highlighted to them that, due to my lack of experience, combined with all the factors mentioned in the previous paragraph, she found herself struggling to give me tasks to do throughout the day, and I can reinforce this because, out of the twenty-eight days I spent working with them, at least three was spent sitting on a chair away from the workstations and reading the User Guide to Adobe After Effects CS3.

My lecturers emphasised, however, that this does not mean that I have failed the Internship module, and they also pointed out to me that my supervisor could see that I was trying my best to keep up. The problem, simply put, was that even my best falls far short of the standards that the company expects from anyone working under them. My lecturers told me that, if I were to continue the remaining four months with them, my school grades may take a considerable hit, and I can understand that. This Internship module is worth a semester, or half a year’s worth of grades; performing badly or failing it outright would land me in boiling water, and I would stand a very high chance of wasting a year of my life repeating my third year at Ngee Ann Polytechnic.

Before I continue, allow me to point out that the visual effects industry in Singapore is ridiculously small. Blackmagicdesign can say all they want about having the technology required to do a film like Avatar, but the cold reality is this: the visual effects industry in Singapore is still in its infancy, and all the production houses here are small. Ngee Ann Polytechnic was already scraping the bottom of the barrel when they approached Emoxis, so transferring me to another company was not a solution in this case.

The Internship module started on March 22, and would have lasted up to August 6 had I carried on working at Emoxis. Internship starts four weeks earlier than normal lessons for the other group doing the Industry-Based Project, which begin on April 19. However, at the request of my supervisor, I started my internship with Emoxis a full fortnight earlier, on March 8. As a result, my supervisor was able to identify this problem and alert the school well before normal lessons began for the other group. The school is hence able to settle all the necessary paperwork within those two extra weeks.

This was the solution my lecturers offered, the solution they followed up with the go-to man responsible for my education at Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s Digital Visual Effects diploma, and the solution that, a day after this meeting, they agreed to carry out: that I switch over to the group doing the Industry-Based Project. My four-week-long internship record with Emoxis will be wiped clean from the school’s records, although I will still get a month’s salary for the time I’ve spent with them and helped them.

I did not agree to this solution, nor did I disagree, instead pointing out that, since my internship was not self-secured, the school is free to do what it thinks is best for the student in question – in this case, me. It’s not that I could not decide, but it’s something they pointed out to everyone doing the Internship module. The final decision was not up to me to make it.

Having sorted that out, my lecturers said that they will try to get the paperwork done the following week, so that I can get some rest before returning to school.

A day later, they did … or at least, one of them did. She informed me, early in the morning and just as I was starting work, that that Friday, April 2, 2010, will be my last day of work.

I took it as calmly as I could, and I was able to keep a straight face throughout the day, but the state of my mind … well, that was another matter entirely.

In the first two hours after I got the call, I felt a little lost and unfocused. My right hand, which has never failed me when it comes down to note-taking, just refused to work as well as it did the day before, and I found it unusually painful even to jot down a simple note lasting only two lines on A5 paper.

At lunch break, my colleagues asked me if I wanted to follow them to eat lunch at a Malay restaurant. Having eaten there before, encountering problems getting my order and seeing (as well as consuming) the innards of a squid’s head, I told them I would eat somewhere else after I finished clearing up something at my workstation. That was three-quarters of the real reason. The other quarter of the reason was this: I wanted to be alone. I just didn’t want to be near them. In any case, it’s not as if eating alone would make any real difference; I always keep fairly quiet whenever I eat lunch with them, and they, in turn, never really probed me about anything.

By blind luck, my supervisor also had to stay behind a little to settle some paperwork or correspondence. She decided to have lunch with me, instead of joining the rest, so we spent the next hour discussing about the same things that led to the premature end of my Internship.

At about 3 pm, I finished what I had to do, so I left my workstation and sat down somewhere else to read the Adobe After Effects CS3 User Guide that my boss had so very kindly lent me on my second day at Emoxis. Unlike the previous days, however, where I would gladly just sit there for four hours reading that 600-page book and, more importantly, absorb what was printed there, my mind just kept wandering off. The words on the book just meant nothing to me. I tried to focus, but my mind just refused to take in anything.

Finally, at about 5.30 pm and with about two hours to go before I left the office of Emoxis one last time, I decided that trying to read a book was pointless, and ended up just sitting there and reflecting on the past twenty-eight days I spent with the company, remembering everything, from my first day at work, when another intern at Emoxis showed me the ropes to Adobe Premiere, to the day when I managed to anger my boss because I forgot what he said two minutes ago, to the one Saturday I went to work to help my boss mask out some stuff in After Effects and impressed him with the end result, to the few days I hitched a ride from that same intern who taught me the basics of Premiere, to the numerous occasions when I met and spoke to the freelancers working for Emoxis (which resulted in the Freelancing post), to the week I spent learning how to use the Trapcode Particular plugin for After Effects, to the few days I used the company’s Canon PIXMA printer to print out disc labels and covers, and finally to the four weeks I spent working with everyone I saw at Emoxis.

And the conclusion I had, after spending about half an hour going through all that, and another one and a half going through all that again, was that Emoxis is a nice company, and that it is probably one of those companies that probably deserve a good standing in the world more than the companies that resort to corruption or refuse to listen to the masses, instead wanting to line their pockets.

I decided that this, the premature end of my internship with Emoxis, would do them more good in the months ahead than if I were to stay with them. I mean, my presence there would only slow them down, so there is no reason for me to be there. My workstation would be put to better use in the hands of a more capable person, or a freelancer.

I harboured no ill-feelings towards Ngee Ann Polytechnic either. Why should I? Their job is to protect the welfare of the students under them, even if it means taking a difficult option like this. I have no reason to be unhappy with them at all.

In the final half an hour before I left, I saw everyone else working at the computers. Even my boss had come out of his office to lend a hand, and I stared inwardly at myself, sitting on a chair a good distance away. Up till last Monday, the only people who knew that April 1 was my last day were the school, my boss, and my supervisor. Everyone else at Emoxis still thought that I was going to work with them until August 6 (because that’s what I told them on the first day). I felt a little happy that they were all working together, and I realised how awkward it must be to tell my colleagues, at that point in time, that I would be leaving Emoxis forever in half an hour, so I decided that the best path to take upon leaving is the most discreet path, that I should make my exit as quietly as possible, so as not to disrupt them from their work.

The time: 7.40 pm. I returned the After Effects CS3 User Guide to the bookshelf where my boss got it from, packed up, muttered a simple goodbye to the company’s producer, who had a permanent workplace right beside me, and left. I just slipped my shoes on, opened the door, and walked out. No goodbyes to my colleagues, no word of thanks to my supervisor and boss (who were having a meeting at that time), nothing. Nobody saw me out; they were all too busy working.

And as I left the building, it struck me as ironic that my discreet departure from work that day was quite akin to the kind of funeral and death I’d like to have: a funeral that doesn’t exist, and a passing that’s observed by no one. I started to wonder if the Grim Reaper did this on purpose, just to let me have a feel of how it would be like if I actually died in such a fashion.

Given my attitude towards my father’s death on May 22, 2009 at 3.23 am, I feel that I fully deserve such a death, even though I still feel that my attitude towards my dad’s passing is not out of line with his expectations of me or my expectations of myself. He, after all, had led a good life, and he spent the last six months of it relishing what he has built up and what he has done. He died a content person, and I do not see why I should feel anything but happiness for him. I have never mourned, and do not see a reason to mourn for, his loss and likewise, I see no reason for anyone to mourn for or commemorate my eventual passing.

Just let it go, and get on with life, because every moment lost is a moment that cannot be recovered. Do not waste time mourning for the people who have done everything they need to do here, and no longer exist in this reality.

%d bloggers like this: