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Productive Absurdity: Investment lessons from giant furry animals will make you rich!

Today I will expose the alternative investment strategies big playas use to roll RM30 million (USD8.1m). Thought I don’t mean to offend anyone with this essay, if I get in trouble for this blog post, please bail me out with all the money you might make from reading this. Deal? Deal.

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Photo adapted from Thinkpanama

Imagine this: RM30 million is yours. All yours.

How will you invest it? Think big playa. Big playas usually think for a moment before they invest RM30 million. So I’ll give you a moment to think.

Yes. Invest RM30 million in a smart way. What will you do…

What was that?

Buy 2 giant pandas?

Pandas you say. Hmm. 2 giant pandas. You’re thinking ‘out of the box’. I like that. Sounds like a plan. Let’s buy 2 giant pandas then.

JEEZ LOUSIE I GIVE YOU RM30 MILLION AND YOU BUY 2 GIANT PANDAS guess what sis that’s what Zoo Negara plans to do with RM30 million See the article on theStar.

Wait wow wow wait wait… let’s not jump to conclusions here! There’s more to the story.

First, let’s get our facts right.

In Zoo Negara’s defence, they’re not going to spend RM30 million just 2 giant pandas. They know exactly what they’re doing.

From the article in the Star:

… Malaysia was eyeing the giant pandas, ringtail lemurs, white tigers, and golden monkeys from Chinese zoos. “On our end, we might be sending them our milky storks and painted storks, and other animals which we have in surplus.

Golden monkeys! This how big time playas do deal-making. It’s not just “Oh I’ll take 2 of those what are they giant pandas yeah OK two of them for 30 quid” It’s more than that. Big deals involve golden monkeys. As in like, gold. And milky storks, just like in the stock market.

Think big playa investments stops there? The deal gets sweeter.

“If we do get the giant pandas, one male and one female, they will come with their own curator, veterinarian and Chinese bamboo.”

Don’t settle for the just the friggin Pandas, big playas get the works, like a McPanda Happy Meal, supersized to RM30 million.

Does it make sense now?

Maybe not. But this is where the lesson begins.

Introducing: Productive Absurdity

Some things don’t make sense at first, but they can be very useful to us if swung the right way.

I call this ‘Productive Absurdity’.

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Photo adapted from XianMing

To grasp the bull of ‘Productive Absurdity’ by its horns, or rather, the panda by its ears, do the following

  1. ACCEPT that some things don’t make sense to you, and might not make sense to anyone! Does absurd stuff really frustrate you? I understand. But then again, maybe I don’t understand. It’s absurd! None of us will never understand it. Our brains aren’t equipped with that kind of superpowers. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be in PEACE with things which don’t make sense at all, right?
  2. FIND a way to make it useful. Either by laughing at it, learning from it, tweaking the idea, letting it spike your creativity, use it to inspire others to take action, or use it make them laugh, cry etc. Think about it. The very same energy you use fighting with the absurd (knowing you will lose)… converted energy making the absurd very useful. Suddenly, you’re a Productive Absurdity ninja!

For the seriously introverted, this may remind you of existentialism and absurdism if you’re thinking about “In a world without meaning, you’re free to creating meaning for anything”.

You nailed it. Create meaning.

This is exactly what we’re going to do with the 2 giant pandas, since the big playas and golden monkeys involved in the deal seem unstoppable.

You too can apply Productive Absurdity to this example, as we return to alternative panda investment strategies used by big playas:

The big picture of Return on investment

OK, let’s say, on some alien planet somewhere, we have a zoo which aims to spend RM30 million of taxpayer money on 2 giant pandas. That may be absurd right? And perhaps, not so productive if left at that. But sprinkle a bit of Productive Absurdity and you will get…

Alternative Investment Strategy #1:

RM30mil for a giant robotic panda instead! If it’s going to be absurd anyway, might as well make it useful! Build a giant robotic panda! ROI? A giant robotic panda will attract more tourists than two normal everyday bamboo eating slow moving real pandas. Same price. More tourists.

And consider the positive externalities: It may even attract Ultraman to fight it. Now you will have a fight Don King might promote to get EVEN MORE TOURISTS just like how the Thrilla in Manila worked for the Philippines, we will have the Paannnnda in Malaysia. Boom. There’s another genius idea.

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ABSURD AND AWESOME ARTWORK: Love at first Fight, by Malaysian Artist, Munkao

Alternative Investment Strategy #2:

Extend the same logic to the Malaysian Economic Stimulus Package. Cancel entrepreneurship grants, and spend the cash not 2, but 200 pandas instead! Think big! That will attract tourists more than 2 pandas can. Do the math. 100 times more tourists, minimum. We can even put the 200 pandas on the F1 tracks and have this massive panda race. And shoot a Malaysian film based on these F1 pandas, called “The Fast and Furriest”. Kung Fu Panda grossed $631,910,531 so let’s say we gross the same, we would have made back our money, AND we get to keep 200 pandas for MORE box office hits. Eg. We get the 200 pandas to hit the gym, then shoot the film “200”.

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(Yes. Believe it. The view of this animated panda’s crotch. Stare into it. This grossed USD600M. Absurd. But productive. Imported oriental culture and sold it back to China. Very productive.)

See how far Productive Absurdity can take you?

Smart people don’t restrict their ideas to pandas. See how it can be applied to tigers in Penang: You won’t believe it. See article on theStar

In summary, Productive Absurdity makes life a ride in an amusement park. Just accept things in general may not make sense, and find a productive use for it anyway 🙂

Trust me, I do this for a living. I rally a generation of bored youths on YouthSays.com and carefully take time to unlock their potential to save the universe from doom.

Absurd? You bet.

//

Further reading thinking:

Why you need people to use you

In this age where anyone can shape the web, we have a shortage of ‘normal people’. Here’s why it matters.

Have you ever seen the words "Subscribe to my RSS" in blogs and such?

You have?

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What do you think, hun? Do you really want to subscribe to my RSS? Want to de-neutralize my car’s ABS? Want to hyperbolize the MMS and be my BFF too?

Talk to me, baby.

More often than not, when well informed robot savants who create websites go about, you know, creating websites, they talk like well informed robot savants who, well, create websites. And they want normal people to “get it”.

Sadly, normal people who use their websites don’t get it.

Happily, the best minds in the world see this as an opportunity.

Think: Why do people use one search engine over another? Or use one web application, social network, or email client over another?

Amongst different reasons, “Because it is easy to use” is one big one.

More people are realizing the need to make the web more usable by normal people. Not just in the interface, but in the choice of words. These best minds in the world will help brands communicate in the web, help presidents win elections by organizing the masses, and help any business get the edge in the age of the internet.

So why then are so many websites so difficult to use?

The worldwide shortage of normal people

Yes, my fiends, we have a shortage of normal people. It’s true!

Why? Because they turned into mutant people!

People tend to start off normal. Then, they decided to learn the language of the web, learn marketing, learn programming, and “learn” all this esoteric knowledge which converts them into mutant people.

They forget who they were: Normal people.

Or worse, normal people pay mutant people loads of money to do stuff they don’t understand. I see this all the time. Big brand pays ad agency who pays interactive agency who pays IT mutant graduate to ‘make a website’ and you end up with a 20MB Flash game which requires you to have a degree in aeronautics to meander. “WHOA THIS IS USER ENGAGEMENT HOLLA!” they holler.

Do we holla back, girl?

Don’t. Don’t feed the web with unusable junk. It’s cluttered as it is.

We expect marketers to know this, but they have not forcefully applied their consumer-centric thinking to web environments. This is still evident today, as new web applications, social networks, ‘websites’ and tools flood the market.

Will normal people return to save us from the de-humanization of web communication?

The ‘easy to use’ revolution

More interactive agencies, web designers, and programmers are getting on the human language, user experience design, and usability patterns bandwagon. Programmers, designers, and copywriters are getting in the loop. It’s been a hot trend for a few years now, I know, but it has not hit mainstream.

But it will.

Soon, companies will only want to hire these hybrid-mutant-normal-people, not super-mutants. Businesses which use hybrid-mutant-normal-workforce will get more customers consuming their stuff because it is ‘the most easy to use’.

What can normal people and mutants do about it?
  • Become a usability expert on top of your current profession. Whether you’re a marketer, copywriter, programmer, or designer, learn it, and shout about it for instant career-differentiation. It isn’t hard to learn, just go on Delicious or Diigo or Google and look for ‘usability’ and ‘ux’.
  • Use “Hallway Usability Testing”: Not just for websites, but ad campaigns too. Just get any random person from the hallway to use your web application, blog theme, Flash game, TVC etc and watch them fumble to grasp it. Experts say you avert 95% of usability problems with this alone.
  • Buy a copy of “Don’t Make Me Think” by Steve Krug for starters. The philosophies behind the book will change you back to normal again.
  • The next time you say ‘I need a website’: Remember, you want something normal people can use. And if you insist on being unique in how you want your audience to use your website, you might as well sell cars which forces people to use their hips to steer the wheel.

Being unique and new in your ideas and communication is powerful.

But forcing people to adopt new and unique ways of engaging with you costs normal people time and attention, which they might not have enough of.

Afterthoughts on RSS

Let’s wrap this up with a simple, practical example. The answer to my initial question which started it all. What is a more humanized way to get you to ‘Subscribe to my RSS’?

If you want to know what RSS is and what use it has, get this: RSS describes a way your blog posts (or any information) is output so other devices can read it. Like, say, when you want to know when someone’s new blog post is out, you can subscribe to their RSS with a RSS reader…OK Forget what I said. It’s mutant talk.

See this instead. (Can’t wait to get this in my upcoming re-design of my 3 year old blog) It’s one of the better examples of I’ve seen so far…

 

It’s taken from this original article from “Website magazine”.

So forget “Subscribe to my RSS”, just speak like a human! It’s a small step to getting more users to listen, and big step at humanizing the web, one experience at a time.

Cute “Don’t feed the dog” photo by jakobinac

Because Captivity Isn’t Easy

My impulsive Saturday morning digression produced a photoshoot with Jules the party animal. Some of you may recognize him from the infamous Cat Got Your Tongue parties, or thegreydelay comic strip.

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Yeah I know, he runs wild. So here I attempt to capture him: His emotions, running through his fur as he lounges on my Doof.

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I’m not paid to blog about the Doof btw.

It’s just that my friends behind Doof created a product I have been wetting myself about as a kid: A huge, invincible, comfortable beanbag! Way to go Kelvin for a solid satisfying product, and such a witty tagline like “Plush Booty, No Cooty”.

I am a huge fan of the bag. And so is Jules…

Jules the party animal says:

“Captivity isn’t easy for a wild cat like myself.”

“The urban jungle can really wear you down.”

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“Even cultured tigers like myself need a safe place to rest the weight of the world on.”

“Yeah. I use a Doof.”

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“I spend hours on my Doof. Sometimes, I spend minutes.”

“Yeah. That’s me. Just sitting there growling to myself, re-asserting my dominance over the food chain. Without hurting anyone, of course.”

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“Oh, and I do most of my reading on a Doof, too. I read, and read, and let it sink it in… Being the sensitive animal I am, sometimes I cry on it. My Doof tells me it’s OK to cry. It says it’s tear-proof. So I cry. And I feel like, like, everything’s gonna be OK…”

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Khailee says:

Um, yeah. OK. OK Jules, that’s OK for now. Just stop.

Right. Where were we?

Oh we’re about done, actually. I supposed to get real work done today.

So if you want to continue this conversation, leave Jules out of it and get in touch with them via their Facebook group or email doof.industries@gmail.com, ask em what colors and sizes they have. They also do beanbag rental for events.

Another dinosaur doodle on a CD

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This time, the CD ain’t blank. It’s got mp3s from my playlist ‘lostandfound’, ‘listeningroom’ and a whole bunch of Philosopher’s Notes.

I’d prefer if my white marker tip wasn’t super fat though. The previous black dinosaur doodle was drawn with my trusty dual tip Sharpie. I could be more elaborate.

Any quick dinosaur doodle is always good fun nonetheless, especially if you have the mind and drawing ability of a 5 year old chimpanzee.

Of Prosperity Burgers and Morality

Update: Part of this post was featured here in The Malay Mail, thanks Sheila!

image If I knew my brief encounter with the Prosperity Burger at McDonalds would haunt me forever, I would’ve never made that order. But you know how it can be difficult to predict the future right? It’s much easier to blog about the past, and act like you knew it all along.

However, this story plays itself out quite differently.

Some men say that a woman can tear even the strongest man apart.

But with a prosperity burger?

Well, let’s start this story at almost midnight, on a recent Thursday. A very hungry Thursday. My gut suggested grabbing a prosperity burger from McDonalds (yeah I know, I usually avoid McDonalds, but I was in the mood for beef, and there wasn’t many beefy options at the time).

Little did I know what a horrible choice it would be.

Because it led me to “her”. Yes, her. She was standing right there, behind the McDonald’s counter in her clean white headscarf. Innocent. Her pleasant demeanor invited me to approach her, and initiate the conversation that would change everything.

The deadly order

“One double prosperity burger, just the burger, no fries or drink or any of the other stuff”

Damn her. She accepted my money like a pro. Smiling. Clearly, she has done this before, many times. I didn’t think too much of it, after all, I was in McDonalds paying for a burger. I don’t overthink such things.

Upon handing me my receipt, she said “Duduk dulu.”, smiling. Which means “Sit down, first” in Malay. She didn’t give me much of a choice. Firm but friendly. I obeyed.

Moments later, she passed me my Prosperity Burger, still smiling. But my thoughts were only on the burger. For someone on the brink of starvation, everything looked like food. Her headscarf contained beef patties. Her lips were made of ketchup.

And she fulfilled my desires.

Having an actual burger in my mouth, at the time, was like having my daydreams come to life. Oh it was so, so good.

But funnily enough, something felt wrong.

It didn’t taste right.

I looked at the burger. Seemed fine.

I went for my second bite.

Yummy. OK. MM. Yes. Ok. Hmm. OK. Halt.

Something tastes wrong.

Something IS wrong.

Very wrong.

I looked at the burger again.

I knew it.

The edge of reason

What I was holding in my hands completely DISGUSTED ME.

It was actually a SINGLE prosperity burger.

What sort of vilified heartless soul would cheat me of my magic gastronomoment?

Didn’t she know I paid for a DOUBLE prosperity burger?

I was outraged. RM16 for a double burger is silly. Starved senseless boys like me fall for it. But RM16 for a single?

I was back at a counter with a burger in my hand, demanding the additional beef patty I deserved. Deep down, I was hoping she would even let me finish this single AND give me a new double. Then I would have TRIPLE prosperity burger and be a very prosperous guy.

But no. She had other plans.

Smiling of course, she said nothing. Her body language instructed me to instead, give up my single burger. I was hesitant. If I gave her my burger, I would have no burger. What would she want to do with my half eaten burger anyway? I bet she could get plenty of burgers from where she is at.

But after some more of her smiling, and hand gestures, I gave in, and handed her my burger.

I could see her. Holding my burger. Walking behind the trays. She spoke to some dude who I assume is a manager of sorts. Good. She is using my half butchered burger as evidence to give me plenty more burgers. Burgers I deserved. Right? RIGHT? Huh, lady?

But no. Like I said, she had other plans. Involving torture.

The moments which followed happened in slow motion. She would look at me, smiling, then gently look downwards, letting my burger slip out of her hands… I would stretch my arm across the counter shouting “Kaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaakkk….” (“Sister, in Malay. Polite way of referring to “devil woman”)

SLAM DUNK. She friggin threw a PERFECTLY GOOD burger into the bin.

A perfectly good burger HOLY MOTHER.

Sure, it was missing one beef patty. But surely it didn’t deserve the bin? Think about what could’ve been my free burger. Think about the starving African children without prosperity burgers. Wasted. Didn’t she hear me scream? What was she smiling about?

OK. No more Mr.Nice guy.

In perfectly broken Malay I demanded answers:

“Did you just throw the burger away?

Or did you put it in some drawer? Can you take it out? I can still eat it.

It was a good burger. Can you dust it a bit and bring it out for me? You didn’t throw it away, did you? C’mon. Did you throw it away?”

The only response was the same devious smile she so consistently maintained. Mocking me. Her lips no longer reminded me of ketchup. It made me think of blood.

“Duduk dulu”. She ordered me to sit down again, smiling.

Defeated, I went into the corner of McDonals and sulked. She eventually passed me a double prosperity burger (believe me, I checked). I didn’t even look at her, in fear of her safety. Hungry men can do nasty things. I wolfed the burger down and drove off, still grieving over the innocent burger sacrificed at the hands of that… that… heartless beast.

The drive home was a long one.

Between the traffic lights, I fought against my emotions. Stop. Go. Stop. Go. I obeyed, yet I didn’t want to. What’s the point? Why should I listen and obey the social constructs of our ‘civil’ society, when there may be dozens of innocent burgers out there DYING as a result?

Post trauma rationalization

Yes, I know you may be emotionally worked up upon reading this. It is kind of a big deal. That’s OK. I know how you feel. No need to over-react, my dear. Let’s slow down a bit and make sense of the situation.

Times like these are testing.

You question the deeper things.

What’s right and wrong? Was it right for the smiling lady to destroy my burger? Was it wrong for me to feel bad about the incident, despite me getting bonus burger bites at the end of it?

As far as my lawyer friends laughed, there are no statutory laws, landmark cases, or legal implications useful to the situation. Turning our backs against the law, we’re forced to fall back on something equally made-up: our moral compass.

To use this compass, we need to cut our heartstrings from the equation with the reliably sharp broadsword of logic, and invite a special guest onto this episode.

Meet my friend Norman. Normative ethics.

Normative ethics involves arriving at moral standards that regulate right and wrong conduct. In a sense, it is a search for an ideal litmus test of ‘what is proper conduct’ (I stole of all this smart talk from this website, just so you know I am not nearly as smart, or as original as I can sound.)

According to normative ethics, there are 3 ways to (very simplistically) look at, and judge the prosperity burger incident – and who was right and wrong.

1) Virtue Theory

This is where virtues, like values or habits, like wisdom, courage, temperance, justice, generosity, self-respect, etc is called upon to just
ify what is right.

Verdict:

Since

  1. I cannot describe any good virtues to justify the smiling lady’s waste of my burger.
  2. My good virtue is ‘Valuing food and not wasting it’

Hence, by virtue theory, I am morally right.

However, some might argue that the lady was protecting me from having too many prosperity burgers (which are clearly bad for me). Perhaps the lady didn’t want me to smell like pepper and onions for a month, or add too many calories to my diet. We need to look at this objectively.

2) Duty Theories

This suggests that all of us have some sort of duty, or obligation. Such as the Golden Rule: “We should do to others what we would want others to do to us.” For example: I shouldn’t spit at babies and young children, if I don’t like being spitted at myself.

Verdict:

She should not throw away my perfectly good burger, in the same way she wouldn’t want me to meet her at home later and throw away her nasi lemak.

Hence, she is morally wrong.

3) Consequentialist Theories

“An action is morally right if the consequences of that action are more favorable than unfavorable.” Or “the means justifies the ends”.The most popular form is Utilitarianism: Eg. “It is right if it results in the greater good to the most people”.

Verdict:

The disposal of a perfectly good burger benefited NO ONE. Ok?? NO ONE. However, giving the burger to me would have at least benefited me, right, and consequently my loyal support and positive emotions of gratitude will indirectly benefit her.

Hence giving me the perfectly good burger was morally right.

Conculsion

So there you have it.

A partially fictional (of course I’m not worked up about a friggin burger. Though it was a perfectly good one. A good, edible, burger. A prosperous beefy burger.) moral dilemma thoroughly detailed, debated, and demystified, without any tangible effect on what happened.

Looks like you can’t change the past with bitching rhetoric after all 😉

Though you can change how you feel about it. And perhaps how you would feel about the future incidents. Right?

You might even ask, how would I deal with a similar situation in the future?

Since you asked. I thought of ordering a DOUBLE prosperity burger, eat one of the patties, and bring it back to the lady and accuse her of giving me a SINGLE. Ha! Take that! But that wouldn’t be morally right, by any moral measure. Oh no. And it probably won’t get her stop smiling either.

Anyways. I’ve been working so hard lately, this blog post really is an absurd satire thingy to entertain myself. Not to be taken too seriously 😉

Hope 2008 has been a great year for you. Here’s to a prosperous new year!

What shall I mutate into this Halloween?

Here are pictures of some of my stupidest costumes.

(Not all of them were Halloween costumes. Many of them were you know, for casual Fridays and visiting relatives and such.)

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Absurd costumes. What was I thinking.

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All of my costumes are home-made. Even this lactating dog one.

Oh wait, not the Spartan costume… that wasn’t much of a costume, I just took off my shirt, that’s all.

So what am I going to be this year?

Come for the MOB. See if you can recognize me 😉

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Doodling dinosaurs on CDs

I used to draw dinosaurs as a child.

I still do.

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This time, a blank CD was my canvas victim.

Seated on my balcony, Broken Social Scene in the background, I ended up doodling for an hour.

Here’s a closer look at the damage. (Click on the picture to zoom in)

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That’s right folks.

I’m proud to announce, Doodling dinosaurs on CDs is the latest quick-fix stress relief fad!

Burst your medicine balls, undo your eye massage goggles, and delete your collection of naughty videos, because doodling dinosaurs on CDs will save your career and marriage.

It’s so simple even adults can do it!

Game?

You will need

  1. A blank CD
  2. Music you actually like
  3. A permanent marker (I use one with two different fatness)

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Benefits of doodle dinosaurs on CDs include:

  1. Avoid real work
  2. Save on petrol
  3. Return to your childhood moments (the ones involving no torture)

Try it, and shout “Grrrrroooooooooooooo! (a dinosaur sound) when you’re done. You’ll be glad you did.

And upload a photo of it online and leave a comment here!

Watching out for love

I never thought I would fall in love on the plane.

But yeah I’m on the plane right now, on the way to Sarawak, and guess what.

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No, it’s not the dude in the magazine.

I know you like looking at pictures, but let me give you the full picture. I think I found love. And it’s in the advertisement pictured above.

1. The ad copy

This is Seiko Criteria. Selected by Daniel Wu. A chronograph that measures in increments of 1/20 seconds for up to 12 hours with rotary slide rule. 10 bar (100m) water resistant. The watch for the man on the move. Is it you?

Babygirl, you read my mind! You must be psychic! Gosh it’s like we’ve known each other for ages!

“A chronograph that measures in increments of 1/20 seconds for up to 12 hours” is EXACTLY what’s missing in my life!

I’ve been dreaming of it ever since I started time traveling.

Or when I leap through trains doors on the way to work, the last thing I want is to miscalculate an increment of 1/20 seconds, right? Heck I remember being late for business meetings for up to 3/20 of a seconds WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL MY LIFE sweet mother praise the earth!

What was that? It comes with a rotary slide rule? Okay. Might come in handy when I bored on the throne, and decide to measure a body part.

But yeah. Just look at you. You’re a work of art. Just look at your face.

2. Your face…

What a round, smooth face you have…

I remember all those lonely nights, when I’m in my room, 100m underwater, I would dream of a face like yours. Mysterious. Look at all the junk on your face. You’re an enigma.

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Will you tell me more?

Nautical miles? Fuel? Oil? Stat? LBS? Calculator? Is the temperature in the cockpit okay? Is it tiger mating season yet?

Your face tells a thousand stories, and my brain will hurt if I knew them all.

3. Plain looking man

Who is this guy? Why is he undressing you with his eyes? This ticks me off a little. I’ll let him off this time. But you ask him to watch out okay.

4. My tie

My tie has nothing to do with my rant about this stupid watch advertisement. I’m just killing time before this aircraft lands.

And the pilot just mumbled some stuff about it (the landing, not my tie).

I guess this is where I stop bashing the advertisement. I mean, I’m sure some men will rush out and buy this watch, and I haven’t worn a watch since kindergarten so perhaps I’m out of their target market.

Conclusion

If you want to be seriously confused every time you want to know the time, or if you truly desire a chronograph that measures in increments of 1/20 seconds for up to 12 hours with rotary slide rule you can ask Daniel Wu for shopping advice.

Meanwhile, I’m off to the rainforest music festival in Sarawak, and forget time even exists.

Talk later.