Category Archives: Philosophy

How much I loathe “How R U?” & “Wassup?”

As I stepped inside the elevator at 6:30 pm, a colleague leaving work at the same time asked me, “How are you?” with a smile that sparkled.

It sounded as odd and out of place as “good morning” to me at that time of the day.


Swallowing my tears, I pushed myself to utter the socially acceptable answer to the question.

“How are you?” Asked he again with his eyes sparkling this time. Apparently, my voice was too feeble to be heard or too damp to be believed. He probably expected me to return the question with a big, bright beam.

I’m good! Didn’t you hear me say so? Had there not been a dam blocking my throat, I would’ve protested. Yet I simply whimpered again, I’m good.

Were I allowed to tell how I really were? Were I allowed to give any alternative answers other than ones that exuded optimism and confirmed how good I was feeling?

“How are you?” is one question that I find even more imbecile than “how was your weekend?”. Not only does it not help to initiate a meaningful conversation, it imposes absolute social obligation on the respondent to comply. 

Does the following dialogue sound familiar?

A: How was your weekend?

B: It was good…You asked me that 3 times today.

A: Hey how’s the coffee?

B: It’s good…Your friend just asked me the same thing. 

What does “how are you?” help to accomplish? Perhaps the one question that outshines “how are you” in vacuity is “how’s the weather?”

Say that I responded with “oh I feel terrible today.” He’d probably feign with sympathy, “oh how come?”

Where would that lead anyway? Pouring out all my personal feelings to someone who is not your best friend is probably not the most judicious choice.

Another variation of “how are you” is “what’s up” or sometimes known as “wassup?”, which allows a lot more flexibility and creativity in your answer. However, the fact that it is an open question tends to throw some people off guard. Instead of multiple choices, “wassup” can be just as challenging as a question that appears on an essay exam. The typical answer “I’m good” no longer applies here, unless you don’t mind coming across as uncool.

A friend of mine echoed similar discomfort in responding to “wassup?”

“I just don’t know what to say when people ask me what’s up!”

You’re not alone. “How are you” might not lead anywhere, but at least it’s within the comfort zone of most people, whereas “what’s up” poses risks that delight only the unbridled spirits .

Anyhow, both are way too ambiguous. A greeting that I’d feel most comfortable with, other than statements like “hello”, must be specific to the needs of the respondent and take into consideration of the present context. It has to be tailored to the respondent’s interests in order to bring out any genuine response.

The majority, unfortunately, are not that considerate or percipient, to customize legitimate questions just for you. That’s why they often resort to the prepackaged generic ones: “how are you?”, “what’s up”, or variations of either one.

And that leaves the rest of us frustrated and me, frightened.

An equivalent of “how are you?” in Chinese is “have you eaten yet?”, which plagues me just as much, and makes me wonder if a so-and-so’s auntie expects me to have 10 meals in 3 hours?

Why not just say “hi”?


“Don’t be a Hypocrite!” – Says the Hypocrite

haha you're half empty
It’s another day! Therefore I deserve another chance to rant. It’s 1:51 AM precisely. Pat on my back for waking up exactly 12 hours ago.

I just stumbled upon the blog of this guy that used to hold ineffable, irrational contempt for me back when I was part-time at the Consulate during my studies. His blatant contempt for me really disturbed me to this day. My natural response, upon the stumbling, was trying to seek out flaws in his blog that I could belittle with just as much intensity to my heart’s content.

Much to my consternation, his blog is full of insights about different cultures and current events. The first few pages on his observation of the American culture was rather humorous and refreshing. The next few pages on his view on prostitution in Asia was rather feminist.

Aside from the content, his English writing was superb. I didn’t know that before since I always converse in my awkward French with all French speakers, even with those whose English is far superior than my French.

I was a bit perplexed. Someone with so much righteousness and smarts treated me with scorn for no apparent reason. Now when you’re not appreciated by someone like that, you start questioning yourself, your own manners, your own disposition, your own getup, your own personality, your own behaviors, your own appearances, and you bombard a spider web of why why why ’til you drop dead from all the giddiness.

Now this isn’t a post about low self-esteem. What I’d like to point out is the hypocrisy of these righteous people who claim to love humanity, who claim to treat women fairly, who claim to be active in the “stop world hunger!” campaign.

made in china, boycott beijing olympic

Reminds me of the Singaporean salesman's famous gimmick: "This umbrella is not made in China! It's from Singapore."

What they say and display are grand and magnanimous. Yet how they treat people around them are completely contrary to the principles they claim to embrace.

I’m one of them. I admit. When I first came to Singapore, I felt scorn for this girl who was fidgeting with her hair while catching her reflection on iPhone. I thought, How pretentious! How vain!

Now that I recently got an iPhone, I gotta admit that it is a wonderful mirror.

I also dismiss the trend of wearing super duper fake long eyelashes and colored circle lenses in Singapore. However, one day I found myself hovering around a contact lens shop, staring at the “natural lenses that make your eyes bigger” ad. Approaching the sales lady with caution, I inquired, “Um…how much are these? I mean I just want to try them out for few times because I’m curious. No no no I don’t need 10 sets. 2 pairs enough. I’m just curious.” There I was emphasizing that I was plain “curious” – a true fact – and not trying to enlarge my eyes in any unnatural way. In the end, after internal debates, I didn’t get these magical lenses.

And what about beauty pageants? Again, I dismiss them big time. I find it just another ostentatious way of objectifying women. The message delivered is clear: to be a queen, you have to have a perfect face and body above all – that’s a prerequisite. Intelligence is desired, but secondary to outward beauty. A good heart is optional.

Fine, I’ve signed up for and participated in a few in the past myself. Who am I to judge? Had I won any title I would’ve been tilting my opinion otherwise, probably glorifying the whole event as something that empowers women (and contributes to world peace)!

I’m a hypocrite, apparently.

When I was in Battambang, Cambodia, I grew so sick on my last day that I had to excuse myself from the dinner table of few new friends that I had just met. Two of them were starting up some non-profit organization in Cambodia to save the orphans.

“I’m so sorry. I really have to go back to the hotel room to rest. I can’t eat any of this.”

“What? You mean you’re not coming back?”

I was met with apathy and skepticism, as if I were sick by choice or pretending to be sick. They could at least pretend to have sympathy. Or were I just too inept at giving credibility to my sudden illness? It wasn’t malaria, I know. It was just some plain old stomach-ache that deserved to be dismissed.

I’m not name calling anyone.

What I am trying to illustrate is that…everyone, each one of us, is a hypocrite, in one way or another.

That no one is truly honest with him/herself. No one is impeccable and divine. Every one of us must’ve offended someone in our life whether or not it was intended. Every one of us holds dear to some grand and noble principles or morals, be it vegetarianism or environmentalism or whatsoever, but none of us is able to act 100% on our beliefs and assertions.

As for that blogger guy, he should probably treat people around him more fairly to do justice to his tirade on injustice.

Make the world a brighter place by tearing down all the facade.

Fine Line between Originality & Plagiarism

At the initial scanning of the letter, I was a bit shocked, terrified, and on the brink of falling off my bed.

(Don’t worry. It isn’t a bed of grand stature that you find in five-star hotels like Shangri-La. I wouldn’t be injured even if I did fall; mostly likely I’d suffer from a spank on my behind, which should have adequate cushion for shock)

My heart yelled, “This is plagiarism! 80%, no, 90%, no, 99%, no, in fact, 99.999% plagiarism!”

I yanked out of pain as if someone had just trespassed on my private property, as if she or he had caught me while I was in the shower baring it all. Now I know how silly it was for Apple and other giants to freak out over name infringement (anything that begins with a letter “i” is mine!). For a split moment I empathized with them.

From an objective, scientific angle, how dramatic was my reaction? And was it necessary? It was a letter of self-accolade I personally wrote to show to my previous manager.

(Indeed, now the burden of  drafting and crafting letters of praise is imposed on the requesters. You, as a candidate, are supposed to master the art of elevating yourself in the eyes of the beholder, or the reviewer, or the future employer. Modesty is bygone. Bragging shall be exercised to the fullest extent.)

The bigger question is – did I really write it? Was it really that original? In what position in the world were I to accuse others of plagiarizing “my” template? Like many academic research papers for which I received A’s by pulling all-nighters, this letter of praise was the product of research efforts, which means I sagely picked and plucked content, sentences, wordings from sample letters of praises online and arranged them in a neat and logical order.

I pieced the puzzles together. I didn’t create the image on the puzzle. Anyone else who is willing to piece the same set of puzzles is free to do so.

Information is free. Knowledge is abundant. Creativity is scarce. Mine isn’t any more valuable than yours or his or hers. Therefore all goodies shall be traded and shared! Secrets are not endorsers of today’s information society.

Any author of the online sample praise letters might react in similar manners, upon sighting my “original” letter.

Let us bask in the deluge of praises! Criticism comes in all shapes and forms. Praises are consistent. So there’s no one to blame if our letters resemble…a bit like twins or triplets, right?

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