Monthly Archives: June 2016

If you’re going through hell; keep going. -Winston Churchill


Photo: circular section of Regent Street leading to Picadily Circus

When you’re at the end of your rope, all you have to do is make one foot move out in front of the other. Just take the next step. That’s all there is to it. – Samuel Fuller

Now is not the time to think of what you do not have. Think of what you can do with what there is. – Ernest Hemingway

He who loses wealth loses much. He who loses a friend loses more. But he that loses his courage loses all. – Cervantes

There is nothing stable in human affairs; therefore avoid undue elation in prosperity or undue depression in adversity. – Socrates

It is dangerous to abandon one’s self to the luxury of grief; it deprives one of courage, and even of the wish for recovery. -;Henri Frédéric Amiel

If you think you have it tough, read history books. -Bill Maer, Comedian

Statue of Sir Stamford Raffles at the point of landing – Singapore River. My grandparents lived in one of the old shophouses along the river, segregated for Teochews – my Chinese dialect group.

Don’t forget to Sing in the Lifeboats by Kathryn and Ross Petras

Art is the only way to run away without leaving home. Twyla Tharp


Not exactly art but a watercolour  painting session at today’s #carfreesundaysg# at the civic district.


Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life. – Pablo Picasso  ( quip taken from the brochure of Singapore Association for Mental Health)

The night before, I was reading  “Secrets of a creativity coach” where Eric Maisey bared his email coaching with artists, writers and others in the creative profession.

For writers, he suggested to write a few minutes day (aka 3 pages of Julia Cameron). For artists, he suggested 45 mins a day significant art.

1. List down 3 goals. (WOW goal)
2. Work on the first goal on day 1, second goal on day 2.
3. Work on the goals for 3 weeks.

For the clients who cannot find time, he advises them to list down the areas that they can do less of.

While these instructions seem easy enough, the typical goal setting plan that every self help book starts with. I realised that coaching ultimately is also about commitment to spend time on your goals and accountability to someone.

Don’t wait for inspiration to strike.

“The art of the Compliment, using Kind Words with Grace and Style” by Christie Matheson

Peonies at the Chelsea Flower Show.

Fun fact by Matheson:
2008 study published in the journal Neuron found that giving someone a compliment activated the same reward centre in the brain as paying him cash.

I can live on two months on a good compliment – Mark Twain

I’ve been on the receiving end of “not compliments”. When I was younger, I’ve received congratulations, “how many months are you pregnant” from quite a number of well meaning ladies. I got the hint, I needed to head for the gym.

Personally I’ve indulged in a few faux pas, when I asked someone who skipped a dish “are you on a diet”.

“I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn’t it. ” Groucho Marx.

Christie Matheson advises next time you give a compliment, no back hand compliment.

When someone gives you a compliment, don’t dismiss or wave off a compliment.

There is no obligation to return a compliment. Eg. ” I love your dress.” Do not be quick to say “No. I love your dress.” It doesn’t come across as sincere and it doesn’t give you the chance to appreciate the person who gave you the compliment.

When you do it too soon, you give the impression that you couldn’t handle the compliment – and all you wanted to do was get rid of it.

Next time someone compliment you on a nice pair of earrings, there’s no need to say “they’re not real.” Just thank you will do. They aren’t looking for that information. (Okay, Christie.)

What about giving compliments ? Especially to strangers ?
Keep it simple and brief.
Don’t expect anything in return.
Don’t make it too personal eg “I love the smell of your perfume.” Or “nice legs – do you do athletics”. It makes the listener feel flattered at first but then get totally repulsed. (Some of the dating gurus need to check their notes and do some updates! )
Avoid complimenting by comparison

Not compliments
1. Your boyfriend is unbelievably hot. I’m really into him.
2. You’re much cooler than your husband.
3. It’s really cool that you just don’t care what you look like.
4. That sound like a fun little project. at least it will keep you busy.

How to give compliments?
The most seductive flattery flatters the You you wish to be. – Willis Goth Regier
Do not interrupt
Look someone in the eye (but don’t stare)
Ask questions
Remember what you’ve talked about

What areas to compliment someone?

More people are flattered into virtue than bullied out of vice – Robert Smith Surtees

Do you agree? Start complimenting your love ones, your parents and your co-workers?

Seeing comes before words. It is seeing which establishes our place in the surrounding world.

Marxist art critic John Berger’s “Ways of seeing” peels through the layers of meaning in these oil paintings arguing that paintings project the painter’s (or patron’s) assumptions of beauty, truth, civilisation, taste, class and gender.

Take this painting of the”Ambassadors” I saw at the National Gallery, London last year.


Who are these people being painted ? How do they look at the painter or at us (spectator/owner)?
What were the relations of such men with the rest of the world?

“Centuries later, we can interpret the objects on the shelves according to our perspectives. The scientific instruments on the top shelf were for navigation. This was the time when the ocean trade routes were being opened up for the slave trade and to siphon riches from other continents into Europe and later supply the capital for the take-off of the Industrial Revolution. “. A class of people, convinced that the world was there to furnish it’s comfort.

Man and nature. And Gainsborough’s Mr and Mrs Andrews as proud landowners. Why did Mr and Mrs Andrews commission a portrait of themselves with recognizable landscape of their own land as background.



Consider the category of nudes in paintings. In them all remains the implication that the subject (a woman) is aware of being seen by a spectator. Is it merely a celebration of the human form? Or a depiction of the painter’s experience, turning desire into fantasy.

Women are depicted in quite a different way from men – not because the feminine is different from the masculine – but because the “ideal” spectator is always assumed to be male and the image of the woman is designed to flatter him.

The claim of the theme is made empty by the way the subject is painted, writes Berger. He compares 3 different paintings of Mary Magdalene of the Bible in different levels of undress. Mary Magdalene was depicted in the bible for her love of Jesus and transformation of her life by her repentance. The way her pictures are painted contradicts the essence of her story. (A naked Mary Magdalene certainly does not evoke images of religious piety in the spectator regardless of how the painter chooses to name it.)

Next time you look at a painting or a advertisement, look at the devises (Berger):
The gesture of models and mythological figures
The poses taken up to denote stereotypes of women: serene mother (madonna), sex-object (Venus, nymph surprised)
Materials particularly used to indicate luxury: furs etc
Equation of drinking and success
Gestures and embraces of lovers, arranged frontally for the benefit of the spectator.

Does venting help with anger management?


Painting by Thai artist Tang Chang at the National Gallery, Singapore. The painting was painted in remembrance of the brutal police oppression in Thailand in 1973.

Psychologist Brad Bushman designed an experiment to make people angry. He found that venting doesn’t extinguish the flame of anger, it feeds it. When we vent our anger we put 😠a lead foot on the gas pedal of the go system, attacking the target who enraged us.

Instead, focusing on the victim activates what psychologists call empathetic anger – the desire to right wrongs done unto others.

Research demonstrates that when we are angry at others, we aim for retaliation or revenge.

But when we’re angry for others, we seek out injustice and a better system. We don’t just want to punish; we want to help.

Next time when someone makes you angry, don’t think about the countless times s/he has disrepected you or disregard your feelings. That’s a sure way of exploding. Instead, think about why this person is a victim of his or her circumstances/ stress. Focus on what can be done.

Adam Grant concludes his chapter on those who championed women suffrage and minority rights that “becoming original is not the easiest path in the pursuit of happiness, but it leaves us perfectly poised for the happiness of pursuit.

“Originals – how non conformists move the world” by Adam Grant

Recently I saw a young man explode because his dish was accidentally cleared by an old cleaner. It was obvious that it was the old man’s first few days at work and he made a mistake. Instead of confronting the young man to give the guy a break, I slipped money for him to buy another plate. Berating him for showing his temper over something so insignificant and cheap like a $4 plate of rice will only embarrass him and not change the world. Surprisingly he accepted the money. Perhaps he’s under dire circumstances as well.

What would you do? Something similar happened recently and someone chose to take a video for the whole world to see.

“Normally we allow our enthusiasm to elude us when we are involved in such mundane activities, those that have no importance at all in the overall scale of our existence.

We lose our enthusiasm because of the small and unavoidable defeats we suffer during the good fight.

And since we don’t realise that enthusiasm is a major strength, able to help us win the ultimate victory; we let it dribble through our fingers; without recognising that we are letting the true meaning of our lives escape us.

We blame the world for our boredom and for our losses, and we forget that it was we ourselves who allowed the enchanting power which justifies everything to diminish – the manifestation of agape is the form of enthusiasm.”

Paulo Coelho on his pilgrimage on the Road of St James or the Camino de Santiago where he looks for his sacred sword. Along the way he learns about his fears/demons and facing them. The most important lesson is not finding the sword but discovering what he intends to do with it.

Coincidentally, a few friends are visiting Spain this period, and doing the road of St James, so I picked this book from the library. While I enjoy his writing especially the Alchemist, Coelho’s spiritual exercises tend towards the occult although he references many Christian texts. So I read the story like a fantasy.


Mount Kinabalu trail

An interesting documentary series “The Naked Pilgrim” by Brian Sewell offers a different perspective on the arts, architecture along the 4 different routes.

There’s something spiritual about a journey, the ups and downs that parallels life. Treasure could be a manual like the “Journey to the West” about a Buddhist monk who went to India to get some sacred texts. Or the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca.

If I run a marathon, is that a close substitute ?