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Category: life

The Seventh Seal

		Look how he howls again. 

		Maybe I love her.

		So, maybe you love her! Then, you poor 
		misguided ham shank, I'll tell you that love is 
		another word for lust, plus lust, plus lust 
		and a damn lot of cheating, falseness, lies and 
		all kinds of other fooling around. 

		Yes, but it hurts anyway.

		Of course. Love is the blackest of all plagues, 
		and if one could die of it, there would be 
		some pleasure in love. But you almost always 
		get over it. 

		No, no, not me.

		Yes, you too. There are only a couple of poor 
		wretches who die of love once in a while. Love 
		is as contagious as a cold in the nose. It eats 
		away at your strength, your independence, your 
		morale, if you have any. If everything is 
		imperfect in this imperfect world, love is most 
		perfect in its perfect imperfection.

		You're happy, you with your oily words, and, 
		besides, you believe your own drivel.

		Believe! Who said that I believed it? But I 
		love to give good advice. If you ask me for 
		advice you'll get two pieces for the price of 
		one, because after all I really am an educated 

The inconvenience called life

I have nice hobbies, I like my job, and I love my friends and family. However, I wake up every morning feeling like absolute shit because I am shit. More specifically, a 24 year old underachieving piece of shit. There’s more I can do and I know it. My mantra: contentment and happiness are the enemies of progress and eventual greatness. As painful as it is, I wake up every morning making a conscious choice of pursuing the latter two than the former. At the stage of my life, it’s absolutely fine not to be happy. Why? Because I haven’t done anything deserving of happiness anyway. Work hard and work smart and maybe I will feel better about myself someday. I hope.


A terrible day made wonderful by $2

I had a bad day at work two days ago. While waiting for the bus back home, an old man told me he lost his ex-link card and doesn’t have spare change for the bus fare and borrowed $2 from me. I had some coins with me so I gave him the $2. And because I was having such a shitty day, it occurred to me I should be a shitty person. So I idled at the bus stop and watched every available bus service pass by. The old man did not board any of them. I started throwing him glances askance and he tried his best to avoid eye contact with me. Until he broke the silence under compulsion and said he’s waiting for a friend. I replied him that’s great to hear because I am waiting for a friend too. 5 minutes later, he started striding away from the bus stop while looking over his shoulder at me. Then and there, I wasted 35 minutes of my life, $2, and through my asshole behaviour, the remnant dignity of a helpless old man. Nothing about what I did was productive or to be proud of but I can’t tell you how triumphant I felt over the incident. It turned my shitty day into a wonderful one immediately and I giggled to myself throughout the journey home.

Adverbs that people should either stop using

… or start using correctly.

1) Technically

It means: looking into the details or by way of with facts and figures. However, the word technical is also synonymic with practical, which then hints us to look at the surface of the matter and not confuse ourselves with its details. In turn, it is commonly used to mean the opposite of what it actually does; to magnify the fine points of the topic on hand rather than disregarding them. When the word is thrown out in speech or essays, it’s more likely to mean the construed version. And because of its ambiguity, the word can be used in almost any sentence without meaning anything.

Here’s a pop quiz to exemplify my point.

A) Susan just underwent her sex change operation last week, so technically she’s a boy.
B) Susan just underwent her sex change operation last week, so technically she’s a girl.

With A and B considered, was Susan a boy or girl?


2) Basically

It means: in basic terms. The definition is crystal clear. However, even knowing what it means, people insist on sneaking it in front of statements that already are basic, which defeats its only purpose.

For example…

Basically, my dog is my pet.
Basically, let’s meet at 4pm at Somerset tomorrow.
Basically, can I go to the toilet?

Do me a favor, with your palm, cover the word that starts with Capital B in front of every sentence and read them again. Is it equally understandable and as well, meaning? If it is, well done! You are on track of becoming an awesome human being. If not, you are the reason why injustice exist.

Basically(irony intended), sentences which already are basic shouldn’t be paired with the adverb, like this one. Using a 4 syllabi word in front of every sentences does not make you sound more eloquent than a 4 year old with Tourette syndrome. It only makes you sound unconfident of what you are saying.

3) Allegedly

It means: reportedly or as informed by someone. The word is hardly construed or mis-used(debatable since abusing a word could constitute as misusing it as well :/) but like “technically”, it also suffers the problem of it being thrown around without meaning much. Think about it, every piece of information that we know is the result of an agent(either yourself or someone else) experiencing it, identifying it and finally reporting it. So sticking the word in front of factoids or casual remarks such as…

Allegedly, 80% of us are decedents of Genghis Khan.
Allegedly, all killer whales are the descendants of pandas and humpback whales.
Allegedly, your dad inseminated your mum so you are reading this.

… would neither change nor add additional meaning to the sentence. So if you are guilty of constructing sentences like the above, perhaps it’s time you re-evaluate your life options and become a responsible adult.

The word is only useful when you wear the shoes of a news reporter who wants to inform the public that the information published may or may not be true and is informed by a third party that shall not be named.

Eg. Allegedly, Tom Cruise passed away last night due to drug overdose but since you are seeing him on another channel which is a live telecast so… allegedly.

4) Accordingly

It means: to perform something most appropriate to a particular situation or according to what is usually practiced. Seems like a perfectly legit and useful word right? Yep, but the problem lies with it being TOO useful. Like greeting cards with corny wishes that you will never say in real life, this seemingly innocuous word allows people to get off the hook from explaining how should certain things should be done.

For example:

Son, I know you are only 4 month old but would you mind helping me troubleshoot my car accordingly?
Dave, I know you are an engineering student but I would really appreciate it if you could help me write my philosophy thesis accordingly.
Dear passengers, the plane has ran out of fuel. However, I am sure the pilot will still land the plane at your destination safely and accordingly.

The above aren’t caricatures. People do use it in such silly ways. As functional as it is, you shouldn’t fall trap to using it because something is tricky to explain but when it is needless of explanations.

5) All in all

Basically, and not technically, if you have read the post accordingly, if the goal is to sound more expressively, these adverbs, allegedly, do more harm than good to your writings. If not, all adverbs.

Humour is degenerating

… and shitty memes are responsible for it.

There was a time when “humour sites” actually bothered to be both original and funny(and thankfully some still are: theOnion, XKCD, TheOatMeal) to generate web traffic and earn the revenue they deserve but nobody gives a shit now. Why? Because they don’t have to. Because people think that memes and giflist is the pinnacle of humour and fuck everything else. And for referencing to be mistaken as humour is degenerative towards humour itself and makes my skin fucking crawl. What do I mean by that?

Okay, imagine this, you are out with a group of friends in town and suddenly, one of the guys decides showcase his gigantic balls in order to impress his crush by slowly strolling through the traffic despite the light being red. And one of the other guys in the group reacts by saying, “Oh look! We have a badass over here”, the group bursts into hysteria. Now, it’s a matter of fact that the group did laugh but that’s beside the point, we should ask, WHY did the group laugh? Because A) The comment is original and witty and aptly applied or B) It’s a goddamm reference that they understand. I’ll let you decide the answer.

A picture of Picard “facepalming” isn’t funny neither is a picture of Nicholas Cage when someone states the obvious or worse still, being told to Keep Calm and blahblahblah. But that’s not all, going through a list of wacky gifs with one liner captions isn’t funny either. Sorry, just because you are staring at the screen with a silly grin plastered on our face still doesn’t make it funny. You are simply entertained because you could relate to it, which is yet another form of referencing. So fuck that as well.

We are hopelessly drifting into an age where referencing alone is funny and it’s a trend that none of us should be proud of.

PS: It may aghast you to think that I am effectively whining about other people being happy by cheap and lazy humour but I don’t care because I am NOT happy 😡

The Wolf of Wall Street

The real atrocity here isn’t the years of fraud committed but the wimpy impulse of ratting out on your friend for your own gain. And a life time of searching will not gather you the same friends nor will it rinse away the regret. Bad decisions, one after another, when the fork to redemption is just around the corner. Until no junctions are in sight and no more decisions can be made because you’ve lost it all.

The ending to the Wolf of Wall Street cannot be anymore brilliant as it subtlety encapsulates the real concern of the movie. Fraud and the high life of elite brokers in wall street are just decorations to help depict the “beautiful” friendship between Gordon and his pals. Amidst the allure of greed and other destructive addictions that Gordon got himself tangled into, throughout the movie, he remained steadfast on one principle: to always walk by his friends who are the pillars behind his success. Until the last moment, he wavered and changed.

A million dollar may grant you prison tennis in comfy polos but it will not buy you another chance to reverse a terrible decision made. At the end of the movie, Gordon had absolutely no interest in attending seminars and profiting from teaching sales technique. He’s only going through the motion while waiting for that one person to challenge him to write something on a napkin like what Brad, whom he honored as a close friend, did. But from the many confused faces from the last frame, his search will last for a life time.

Marty Marty Marty, such a genius.

PS: I feel thankful for being able to still pick up allegories in movies even after 7 grueling months of work that robbed me of art and the expressive part of life.

PSS: And even more thankful that I have you in my life. Goodnight turtle (:

The greatest introduction to any book ever.

In the 1738 the young Mirabeau sent a letter to his friend Vauvenargues, reproaching him for living from day to day without having any plan for achieving happiness: “See here, my friend, you think all the time, you study, and nothing is beyond the scope of your ideas; and yet you never think for a moment about making a clear plan leading to what should be our only goal: happiness.” He went on to list for his skeptical correspondent the principles that guided his own conduct: ridding himself of prejudices, preferring gaiety to moodiness, following his inclinations and at the same time purifying them. We may laugh at this juvenile enthusiasm. Mirabeau, who was the child of that time thought it could reinvent the human being and do away with the plagues of the Old Regime, was concerned about his happiness the way people before him had been concerned about the salvation of their souls.

Have we changed that much? Consider today’s Mirabeau-young people of all backgrounds and opinions anxious to begin a new ear and move beyond the ruins of the frightening twentieth century. They launch out into life eager to exercise their rights and first of all to construct their life as they see fit, such of each of them has been promised everything. From their infancy they have been told: Be happy, because nowadays we no longer have children in order to transmit them values or spiritual heritage but rather to increase the number of fully realized individuals on Earth.

Be happy! Beneath this apparently amiable injunction, is there another more paradoxical, more terrible? The commandment is more difficult to elude because it corresponds to no object. How can we know whether we are happy? Who sets the norm? Why do we have to be happy, why does the recommendation take the form of an imperative? And what shall we reply to those who pathetically confess: “I can’t”?

In short, for our young people, the privilege quickly becomes a burden: seeing themselves solely responsible for their dreams and their success, they find that the happiness they desire so much recedes before them as they pursue it. Like everybody else, they dream of a wonderful synthesis that combines professional, romantic, moral and family success, and beyond each of these, like a reward, perfect satisfaction. As if the self-liberation promised by modernity were supposed to be crowned by happiness, as the diadem placed atop the whole process. But this synthesis is deferred as they elaborate it, and they experience the promise of enchantment not as a blessing but as a debt owed by a faceless divinity whom they will never be able to repay, the countless miracles they were supposed to receive will trickle in randomly, embittering the quest and increasing the burden.

They are angry with themselves for not meeting the established standard, for infringing the rule Mirabeau could still dream, conceive unrealistic projects. Three centuries later, the rather lofty ideal of an Enlightenment aristocrat has been transformed into penitence. We now have every right except the right not to be blissful.

There is nothing more vague than the idea of happiness, that old prostituted, adulterated word so full of poison that we would like to exclude it from the language, Since antiquity, it has been nothing but the history of its contradictory and successive meanings: in his time, St Augustine already counted no less than 289 differing opinions on the subject, the eighteenth century devoted almost 50 treatise to it, and we are constantly projecting onto earlier periods or other culture a conception and obsession that belongs solely to our own. It is in the nature of this notion to be an enigma, a permanent source of debates, a fluid that can take every form, but which no form exhausts. There is happiness of action and another of contemplation, a happiness of the mind an another of the sense, a happiness of prosperity and another of deprivation, a happiness of virtue and another of crime. Theories of happiness, Diderot said, are always only the histories of those who formulate them. Here, we are interested in a different kind of history: that of the desire to be happy as a passion peculiar to the West since the French and American revolutions. The project of being happy encounters three paradoxes. Its object is so vague that it become intimidating because of its imprecision. It leads to boredom or apathy as soon as it is realized (in this sense, the ideal happiness would be the one that was always satisfied and arising anew, thus avoiding the double trap of frustration and satiety). Finally, it avoids suffering to the point of being helpless when it occurs.

In the first case, the very abstraction of happiness explains its seductive power and the anguish it produces. Not only are we wary of prefabricated paradises, but we are never sure that we are truly happy. When we wonder if we are happy, we are no longer happy. Hence the infatuation with this state is also connected with two attitudes, conformism and envy, the conjoint ailments of democratic culture: a focus on pleasures sought by majority and attraction to elect whom fortune seems to have favored.

In the second case, the concern about happiness in its secular form is contemporary in Europe with the advent of banality, a new temporal system that was set up at the dawn of the modern age and that sees secular life, reduced to its prosaic form, triumphing after the withdrawal of God. Banality or the victory of the bourgeois order: mediocrity, platitude, vulgarity.

Finally, seeking to eliminate pain nonetheless puts it at the heart of the system. As a result, today we suffer from not wanting to suffer just as one can make oneself ill by trying to be perfectly healthy. Furthermore, we now tell ourselves a strange fable about a society completely devoted to hedonism, and for which everything becomes an irritation, a torture. Happiness is not only unhappiness; it is, worse yet, a failure to be happy.

By the duty to be happy, I thus refer to the ideology peculiar to the second half of the twentieth century that urges us to evaluate everything in terms of pleasure and displeasure, a summons to euphoria that makes those who do not respond to it ashamed or uneasy. A dual postulate: on the one hand, we have to make the most of our lives; on the other, we have to be sorry and punish ourselves if we don’t succeed in doing so. This is a perversion of a very beautiful idea: that everyone has a right to control his destiny and to improve his life. How did a liberating principle of the Enlightenment, the right to happiness, get transformed into a dogma, a collective catechism? That is the process we will try to trace here.

The supreme Good is defined in so many different ways that we end up attaching it to a few collective ideals-health, the body, wealth, comfort, well being-tailisman upon which it is supposed to land like a bird upon bait. Means become ends and reveal their insufficiency as soon as the delight sought fails to materialize. So that by a cruel mistake, we often move father away from happiness by the same means that were suppose to allow us to approach it. Whence the frequent mistakes made with regard to happiness: thinking that we have to demand it as our due, learn it like a subject in school, construct it the way we would a house; that it can be bought converted into monetary terms, and finally that others procure it from a reliable source and that all we have to do is imitate them in order to be bathed in the same aura.

Contrary to a commonplace that has been tirelessly repeated since Aristotle (although in his work the term had a different meaning), it is not true everyone seeks happiness, which is a Western idea that appeared at a certain point in history. The are other ideas-freedom, justice, love, friendship-that can take precedence over happiness. How can we say what all people have sought since dawn of time without slipping into hollow generalities. I am opposing not happiness but the transformation of this fragile feeling into a veritable collective drug to which everybody is supposed to become addicted in chemical, spiritual, psychological, digital and religious forms. The most elaborate wisdom and sciences have to confess their inability to guarantee the felicity of peoples and individuals. Felicity, every time it touches us, produces a feeling of having received grace, a favor, not that of a calculation, a specific mode of behavior. And perhaps we experience the good things of the world, opportunities, pleasures, and good fortune to the degree that we have abandoned the dream of attaining Beatitude with a capital letter.

To the young Mirabeau, we would like to the reply: “I love life too much to want to be merely happy!”

Introduction of Perpetual Euphoria by Pascal Bruckner

Service charge? For good or for bad?

While having lunch at a kopitiam yesterday, I witnessed a young mother slapping the hand of her son because he attempted to throw scraps of unwanted food on the floor. And it occurred to me that the same mother might not do the same if they were in a restaurant. My speculation may sound counter-intiutive considering it’s only natural for parents to better discipline their kids in more posh and supposedly, civilized setting. However, speaking from experience, that’s not the case. I have seen parents let their kids throw food scraps on the floor, shred and waste pieces after pieces of serviettes and leave it floating around the dining area, allow kids to play with and again, throw their plastic cutlery on the floor even after my poor colleague have replaced it with a fresh one 3 times in a short duration of 5 minutes. And these parents let their kids do all that I’ve mentioned without remorse or embarrassment. More strikingly, it’s not just a handful of rotten apples that’s tarnishing the names of average, responsible parents. I would, with reservations, estimate that about 30% of parents is guilty of letting their kids go into “auto-pilot” mode while dining with us. However, whenever I have my meals at the neighbourhood kopitiam, kids become more angelic, or rather, parents become more proactive in making them behave.

The cause of this bizarre phenomena? 10% service charge and 7% GST.

Funny things happen when you attach a price tag to social goodwill. Few years ago, Freaknomics ran a social experiment on fining parents who picked up their kids late at the child care center. The results? When a fine was introduced, the situation with tardy parents got worse both in terms of frequency and duration. In fact, tardiness level went up by more than two times than before the fine was imposed! Without the fine, being late would mean having to apologise for inconveniencing the teacher on duty. However, with the fine, it’s a different ballpark altogether; be glad that I am paying your salary to take care of my kids.

The perception of goodwill becomes skewed when you mix it with a monetary incentive. Not dirtying the floor at a kopitiam is an act of grace to lessen the workload of the poor janitor. But to do the same at a restaurant? Who gives a shit, on top of the food that’s already costly, I am also paying cold hard cash for their service and they better do whatever it takes to earn it.

What I just said in italics may seem like a hyperbole but I believe it’s a propensity that deeply rooted in many Singaporeans when dining in restaurants, consciously or not.

It’s time we rethink if 10% service charge is for the better or worse in times when Singapore is struggling to fend off its rivals in the service industry. Having given one’s bearing to people who “abuses” the system, it does not inspire service personnel to provide good service but unyielding servility. And there’s a world of difference between serving with passion and stiff obligation.

ORD Reflection

Contrary to the values that the army had always strived to impart on young men like us, 2 years of joyless sound and fury didn’t teach me stoicism, nor did it make me more patriotic or independent. The only thing it did is reinforce the harsh truth of how ready people are to objectify others and more importantly, how is that stereotyping essential for anything to be done. And that lesson is way more practical than what the army preaches as “values”.

I should clarify that I don’t mean to make the word “objectify” sound like a pejorative verb. It isn’t. In fact, I used the word as a compliment to how reasonably our world has progressed over the years. It’s only best that people are objectified, otherwise, the world wouldn’t work the same elegant way as it does now; coal fueled steamships wouldn’t be built; the television wouldn’t be invented; industrialization and globalization wouldn’t happen. And my many experiences in the army exemplify my theory.

In the army, hard working NSFs who comply with orders are commended and lazy ones who exhaust every loophole to avoid work are hated. It may feel intuitive to think that the former is commended for his integrity and diligence and the latter is slammed for having poor discipline and an escapism attitude when dealing with obstacles but is that really so?

Yes and no. Because that’s only half of the picture. The other half of it is, people aren’t liked or disliked solely based on their virtues and vices but on whether they are a source of service or problem to others. Diligent NSFs are like well oiled gears of a machine that can be manipulated into lightening the workload of regulars whereas “chaokeng” NSFs only increases it. Like the hippies, they are hated not for who they are but for what they do, which translates to nothing.

More times than not, people are not disliked because they are “bad people” – that’s a name that only kids would use – but because they are useless to someone else. And based on that criterion alone, our society is ready to arm itself with brush and canvas and paint stories to please itself. Or in simpler terms, to judge. And despite the negative connotations attached to the word(judge), I will argue that it’s an essential mechanism of ours that allows any brand of progress to take place. Your reading of this reflection on a printed-paper instead of a handwritten one is not a result of understanding and compassion, but a critical eye in picking out faults. Progress and productivity depends on the unsatisfied man.

On hindsight, the hole in my lung, which resulted in my posting as a technician is a blessing in disguise for the work environment here is a minor simulation of how working life will be. Throughout the 2 years, the army has tried to propagate many of its “values” onto us, but all I caught is its subtle whisper: Love and kindness can wait, first you have to be useful.

The Master by Paul Thomas Anderson. A very thorough analysis.

I watched The Master on three different occasions, each time with a different attitude. The first time was roughly a week ago. I was restless during the movie and couldn’t pick up many of its underlying themes. Aware that there’s something large that looms beyond my skin deep comprehension of it, I left the cinema impressed with the movie but disappointed in myself. On second viewing, I made it a point to pay close attention to every word and gesture on screen. And true enough, the allegories of the movie became apparent and there was little left to doubt on the director’s intentions. The third time was two hours ago. As I sat in bed half awake, I trimmed off my remaining reservations and the resulting experience is bliss.

Like all PTA movies, there are many speculations to what the movie is about and they come in all shapes and sizes. Some say it’s a subtle biography of L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology. And that, quite obviously, isn’t true. The most that can be said about Scientology and The Master is Hoffman’s character is inspired by it. Nothing more. Others say that beyond appreciating the hysterics between Freddie and Dodd and their bizarre relationship, the movie doesn’t mean much and further speculations would just be incoherent. And my favourite group is those who claim that even PTA isn’t sure of what he’s talking about and all lucid interpretations of it is just a reflection of our own vanity.

But no one is nearer to the nail than Kenny Miles from themovieblog. He says, “What it is says about human nature and individualism [is] as man struggles to find connection and meaning between a primitive depraved nature and a civilized enlightened mindset, its not clear which aspect of nature triumphs.”

To put it simply, it’s a sardonic exploration of what human nature is.

I think the best way to analyze the movie is by going through it from head to toe. I know it’s tedious, but I can’t think of a better way to. I will be pinning out its important scenes and as well locate the few watersheds of the movie. Most importantly, explain the psychology and motives of the characters at every juncture. Which there are, only three: Peggy, Freddie and Lancaster.

Part A

The first 20 minutes of the movie is devoted in showcasing Freddie as a worthless drunk that the vicissitudes of war has left aberrant. The story progresses only after he boards the ship of Lancaster. In striking red pajamas, Lancaster introduces himself as a writer, a nuclear physicist and a theoretical philosopher. He bounces off the screen as a strong character with control with his life. At the same time, by signing himself off as a helplessly inquisitive man above all else, he’s gives off an extra vibe of rationality and modesty.

Freddie, intoxicated, slouches on the other side of the room. He wants work but doesn’t know how to carry himself in front of Lancaster who’s overflowing with charisma. The scene ends with Lancaster praising Freddie for his potion and inviting him to his daughter’s wedding. While Freddie refreshes his breath by drinking a bottle of mouthwash, he discovers a book by the basin authored by Lancaster titled “The Cause”. He picks it up and puts in down the next moment. Neither reading a page nor the blurb. We learn that Freddie isn’t the helplessly inquisitive man that Lancaster, just moments ago, accused him to be.

As the wedding takes place, Lancaster further establishes himself as a man of great presence. At the end of it, he gives a speech about marriage. After cracking a few jokes about the topic, he looks to his bottom right in deep thought before narrating a story about the slaying of a dragon. This story is no ordinary story but a parable of Lancaster’s deepest thoughts on marriage and the slate of human nature. Animals, as we know, are generally polygamous as they act on their sexual desires at every chance without having to struggle with their conscience. Humans, on the other hand, with marriage discovered and institutionalized, does the opposite. The dragon in the story represents our feral side; our ferocious sexual desires. And the man that wields the lasso represents our will to fight it. At the end of the story, the mighty dragon is tamed with a mere lasso and man has won. Lancaster tells this story with pride and gusto at this point in the movie to project his confidence that with civilization, man had long ditched their identity as mere animals. But on the flip side, it also reveals Lancaster uncertainty on our exclusive sapiency as we are not naturally the way we are but we have to wrestle, wrestle and wrestle our way out of our animalistic tendencies.

The scene jumps to a buffet party. Peggy approaches Freddie and tells him about the great influence he has been on Lancaster’s writing. Freddie appears indifferent to it.

Later, a group of students practices hypnotization/processing on a girl. Through the conversation between Peggy and Freddie we learn a little more on what The Cause is about: The search of ourselves through recalling the different “lives” of our spirit. And if that isn’t enough to trigger your skepticism radar, on the background, a blackboard is scribbled with words like “cellular level”, “pre birth, “sickness” and “coitus”. These are early indicators to show that The Cause is more or less a cult.

“Man is not an animal. We sit far above that crowd”, the radio transmits. This is the first time in the movie that PTA makes clear on what the movie is primarily about to the attentive audiences. Like the dragon story, but much less subtly, the recorded voice of Lancaster pontificates us as unique and spiritual beings. The scene ends in a comedic relief with Freddie proposing sex to one of Lancaster’s student via a hand written note. But this scene is not included so the entire cinema can burst into laughter, but to highlight the difference between Freddie and everyone else in the movie and to further reveal the existential thoughts that bugs Lancaster.

Part B

Part B begins with Freddie snooping around on the ship to find the ingredients to his secret potion. Among many other inedible juices , thinner is one of them(if you must know, there are articles on the internet devoted to investigating the different chemicals that Freddie pours down his throat throughout the movie and how credible it is as a substitute for alcohol). As ordered, Freddie brings his potion to Lancaster. Apart from bottoms up, this scene also calls for two interpretations. It’s either that 1) Lancaster is genuinely concerned for Freddie and wants to build a better relationship with him before “processing”. Or 2) Lancaster secretly admires the reckless side of Freddie and wants to do one of the wild thing that he does. Either way, it reveals that Lancaster has taken a keen interest in Freddie.

The processing starts and Lancaster harries a string of questions at Freddie such as: Are you thoughtless about your remarks? Do you linger at bus stations for pleasure? Do your past failures bother you? And most notably, are you unpredictable? On the last question, Freddie’s reaction was to, aptly enough, let out a fart. To which, Lancaster shakes his head and remarks “silly animal” condescendingly. Now it’s even more clear that Lancaster doesn’t see Freddie on the same ground as others and has serious issues with the human vs animal distinction.

The processing ends and Freddie is unhappy. He wants more and clearly has more to let loose that just a fart. It shows that Freddie is a lonely person deep down and a clear sign that Freddie has taken an affection in Lancaster and wants to be discovered by him. The questioning resumes but the rules of the game are changed; you can’t blink while answering them.

The second series of questions are more intense and personal. They include: Do you often think of how inconsequential you are? Have you ever had intercourse with someone inside your family? Where is your mother?If you were locked in a room the rest of your life who would be in there with you?

These questions reveal Freddie’s past, which will later be used against him. As tension builds up and emotions overflow, on the last question, Freddie slips into hypnotization, recalling the memories of his pre-war days with his sweetheart, Daisy. Having heard enough, Lancaster brings him back to present day 1950s, checks his sanity and calls it a day. With tears on the rim of his eyes, Freddie hangs his face with a look of satisfaction.

The ship reaches its destination, New York, probably by the way of the kennel. Lancaster and his family enters the house of a wealthy lady that’s virtually eager to be hypnotized. As Lancaster charms his superstitious and unscientific audience, a thorn stands among them and he challenges the claims and methods of Lancaster. Having exhausted his arsenal of rhetorics, Lancaster resorts to swearing. And this marks the second watershed of the movie(the first is very very very subtly the dragon story). Lancaster, the audience may think thus far, is a man of power and reason. And the instance of his vulgar Hail Mary strips him from that image. His aggression as a result from his vulnerability is much like Freddie’s behavior during processing just moments ago; someone pushed the right buttons to his inner most struggle about the legitimacy of The Cause. Deep down, Lancaster knows that The Cause is just a string of semantics plucked from thin air and he retaliates the surfacing of it with anger.

Freddie throws a fruit at the dissenter and Lancaster immediately commands him to stop as though commanding the dragon in his story. Freddie stops but only to assault him at night.

On the same night, we see Peggy Todd furious from the earlier incident and she’s dictating something while her husband punches away on the type writer. It appears that Peggy is more concerned about the image and prospering of The Cause than anyone else. She suggests that the only way to fend off the dissenters of The Cause is to not just defend but attack them back. What does this suggest? Is Peggy Todd the true founder of The Cause while her husband is just the charismatic mouth piece? It’s possible, but we still can’t know for sure right now. But what we do know is that Peggy Todd, polarized from Freddie, represents the ascetic side of Lancaster. Do take careful note that the word is not rational or spiritual but ascetic. As my dictionary would define it, it is the practicing of strict self-denial as a measure of spiritual/religious discipline.

The next morning, by word of mouth, Lancaster learns of the eventful night and reprimands Freddie for it. Once again, he does it like how a father would lecture a child and a man would tame a… dragon. He compares Freddie to an animal and reminds us for the third time(and even possibly fourth) that we are far above from that crowd.

By now, it should be obvious that Lancaster subconsciously sees Freddie in himself, as an animal. In fact, he’s unsure if man is just an animal and not what his book writes. But coming to terms with that would also mean losing everything he thinks he has “discovered” about the universe. He doesn’t want that nor does he want to live in an existential crisis. So meanwhile, he struggles to stay ascetic. The strength we thought we saw in Lancaster at the beginning begins to dwindle exponentially. 1) He may not be the founder of The Cause and 2) He does not whole heartedly believe in The Cause.

Part C

Part C begins with Lancaster and his family visiting yet another lady that’s paranoid with her life. The lady owner welcomes the family by giving a speech, that I suspect, may be written by Deepak Chopra and while so, something unexpected happens. As Freddie is listening attentively to the lady owner’s gibberish decorated by an excessive use of ambiguous terms, Elizabeth Todd, the daughter of Lancaster who is newly wed, sits beside Freddie and seduces him by rubbing his inner thigh with her hand. There have been speculations that say, like her father, she’s sexually drawn to Freddie and his feral side. But I don’t think so. It’s just a test, perhaps instigated by Peggy, for Freddie to contain his feral side. And Freddie passes the test well. If you notice, right after she’s rejected, she pinches Freddie on the shoulder as if to signal “Well Done!”.

The scene skips to Lancaster making merry with his students and hosts. Freddie rests in the corner watching the commotion and the camera switches several times between the worn out eyes of Freddie and the dance floor. As the camera zooms closer to Freddie’s eyes, all of a sudden, every lady on the dance floor becomes stark naked. Mind you, this is 1950s where razors are not designed for every part of our body yet and is that a octogenarian that I see?

This scene is designed to fool the audience into thinking that the ladies’ bare bodies is what Freddie sees after being aroused by Elizabeth. That is not false but definitely not all that PTA intends to convey. If you were to watch the scene(and not the ladies hairy bushes) close enough, you would observe that Lancaster is soaked with joy and blushing while dancing and his wife Peggy is not happy about it. PTA could be saying that this is Peggy’s view of what Lancaster is seeing or simply, this is not just Freddie’s view but Lancaster’s as well. Either way, it’s clear that Lancaster has pent up sexual tensions.

What happens during the next scene would confirm my suspicion. Peggy gives Lancaster a hand job while saying, “As long as no one I know knows about it, other than that, stop about this idea. Put it back in it’s pants. Didn’t work for them and it’s not going to work for you. We have enough problems at it is.”

Only after I left the cinema I realized this: The character of Peggy is designed to be prominently pregnant for a reason; to suggest that Lancaster has been celibate for quite sometime. So Peggy, the ascetic side of Lancaster gives Lancaster the “necessary treatment” to relieve him of his sexual tensions while reminding him to stay obedient and that the prospering of The Cause should be above all others. Considering that Lancaster is essentially a pastor and any scandal would destroy the cult they have established thus far, Peggy’s worries are justified. And over here, it should be confirmed, that Lancaster is just the charismatic mouth piece for The Cause while Peggy is the one that’s pulling all the strings. This is the third watershed of the movie.

Following the night, Peggy wakes Freddie up, tells him that he can do anything he wants to which translate to he can leave anytime he wants and if he wants to stay here, he needs to quit boozing, which translates to, “Stop being a bad influence to Lancaster, which is not just my husband, but the best man to spread the word of The Cause.”

The next morning, the cops arrive and charges Lancaster for practicing medicine illegally. Again, Lancaster doesn’t defend himself rationally but by verbally attacking his prosecutors by asking where their honor is. The cops captures Lancaster by force, and to his defense, Freddie tries to use an even greater force to overcome theirs. But Freddie’s fight is futile and both men get thrown into their respective cells.

Just a wall apart, Lancaster looks at the deranged sight of Freddie, tattered and bruise from the fighting, and psycho-analysizes him using methods from The Cause. Something surprising follows, half-way through, Freddie screams at Lancaster saying that he is making all of it up. Freddie knows. But Freddie doesn’t care about metaphysical notions such as meanings and spirituality. What Freddie wants is someone that understands and appreciates him. Like Doris or Lancaster. But the moment Lancaster psycho- analyzes him and effectively calls him a a lunatic that’s at war with himself, Lancaster betrayed this unspoken friendship that Freddie holds dear to and Freddie bites back. More shouting ensues and finally Freddie goes to sleep while Lancaster pees.

Both man are soon released from jail and they hug and re-conciliate.

Part D aka the tedious part

To change for the “better”, Freddie goes through more processing. They range from having to endure listening to a chapter of erotic novel without reacting to walking to and fro along a corridor and touching its walls.

But, I think, the whole point of the processing is to make Freddie feel important as a human being. If you notice, the “walls touching” processing ends when Freddie says he can touch anything he wants. And the “staring” processing ends when he asserts himself to be superior to Clark as he was the one that shipped the winning ammunitions that helped win the war. And if you think about it, their motives makes complete sense. After all, most organized religious that we know aims not just for people to worship their idol but for people to feel important and spiritual about themselves.

After the reformation of Freddie, the Todd family announces that Lancaster’s new book will be soon published. To promote the new book, Freddie becomes a functional man. He does everything in his means to publicize the book, such as attending radio shows, giving flyers on the streets and becoming the personal photographer for Lancaster.

The release date of “The Split Saber” arrives and we see Lancaster sitting alone in a dark room trapped in deep thoughts, as though he’s uncertain of the legitimacy book. He finally steps out of the room to address his faithful audience. Freddie sits among them and looks up at Lancaster at awe. Is he really a Changed man in the capital C sense? We shall see.

At the end of Lancaster’s sermon, Freddie leaves his seat and chance upon the publisher of Lancaster’s latest opus at the back room. The publisher criticizes the book and Freddie asks him to take a step outside before brutally beating him up. This answers our earlier question. The character development that Freddie has undergone is essentially nil. The drunk that first board the ship is the exact same man that’s wearing a suit and tie now. The only thin line drawn between them is that Freddie has now discovered the new Daisy of his life, which is Lancaster.

In the main hall, one of Lancaster’s devotee, the house owner from before, pesters Lancaster with a series of questions. She points out something contradictory between the new book and the previous methods used by Lancaster to induce past memories. Her innocuous observation makes Lancaster raise his voice at her. She sits baffled, and Lancaster rubs his temples perhaps in disappointment of his uncalled for outburst.

This is clear evidence that Lancaster knows The Cause isn’t real and he is just a sophist. His theories are all tangled up and contradictory because like his son previously said, he’s just making up things as he goes along. And again, when his theories are examined by an external party, it pushes the buttons on his deepest doubts about himself and mankind.

At the movie’s fourth watershed, Elizabeth, Clark, Lancaster and Freddie arrives at what looks like an dessert. Over here, they play a game called pick a point. The rules are simple, point to a place somewhere in the boundless horizon and ride there as fast as you. Lancaster spearheads the game and returns shortly after. The next player would be Freddie, he points to a place, mounts on the bike and never returns.

While Freddie is “playing”, Lancaster mumbles to himself, “He’s going very fast, good boy”. And he says it with an imperious tone confident that he’s still in control of Freddie. Only when Freddie visibly rides across the point he pointed to, he shouts FAIL at the camera.

Some say that this scene signifies Freddie’s sudden realization in his need to become independent. That could be true. But I don’t think that’s all PTA is trying to say. Like the hand job scene that followed right after the shaking of firm and saggy tits alike, this scene is directly related to the scene before where Lancaster losses his anger; his feral self. It meant to say that after years of finding and developing his theories on The Cause, of staying ascetic, Lancaster is finally leaning towards the fact that we are not greater than animals. Remember, Freddie is the representation of Lancaster feral self and now Lancaster is no longer in “control” of Freddie.

Part E

No longer in navy blues but a grey, solemn coat, Freddie walks up a familiar flight of stairs. It’s where Daisy lives at from Freddie’s memories when Lancaster first processed him. Daisy’s mother comes to answer the door and explains that Daisy no longer lives here and is happily married somewhere else. Freddie isn’t delighted by the news, but at the same time, he doesn’t make a furor out of it either. He simply accepts what he has lost. We could say that Freddie has changed in the sense that he doesn’t need to live for anyone anymore.

Losing Daisy and Lancaster, his past reasons to live, Freddie falls back into his old ways. We see him dozing off in a cinema and a porter brings him a phone. It’s a call from Lancaster explaining that he has spread the word of The Cause over continents and asks him to join him in England. The scene then skips back to when Freddie is sleeping and what we just saw is a dream. Honestly, I don’t know why the telephone scene is intended as a dream. Perhaps it’s PTA way of blurring the lines between if Freddie needs Lancaster more or vice versa. It’s the only scene in the movie where I admit I don’t completely get.

Freddie travels – if not how else do you get somewhere? – to England to look for Lancaster, to tie the remaining loose knots between them. Or rather, for us to understand how will Lancaster tie the final knots to his own struggle.

And here we have, the final duel between Freddie and Peggy, the feral and the ascetic side of Lancaster. This also marks the first direct duel between Freddie and Peggy under the nose of Lancaster. Probably to mean that Lancaster is finally ready and willing to face his deepest doubts about human nature, pitting the polarized notions in his head face to face.

Peggy interrogates Freddie and asks him if he can ever get his life straight and what does he want out of it. Freddie doesn’t know and is unable to give her a satisfactory answer. Peggy concludes that he isn’t interested in getting better and leaves the room.

With Lancaster and Freddie left in the room, Lancaster tells Freddie that free will is no tyranny to him. That he belongs to the sea, paying no rent and he is free to go where he please. Most crucially to the movie’s hidden theme, he says, “If you figure a way to live without serving a master. Any master. Then let the rest of us know will you? For you will be the first person in the history of the world“. Lancaster then tells Freddie he finally figured out why he seemed so familiar when he first met him, that he went back to the past and recalled that they were colleagues in Paris working for the Pigeon Post. He tells Freddie that unless he changes, he doesn’t want to see him ever again. And if they do meet again in their next life, they would be sworn enemies and he would show him no mercy. Then he sings to Freddie, like how Daisy did 7 years ago before leaving him. Freddie is reduced to tears.

Here are the choruses to Daisy’s and Lancaster’s song.

I’m sure of mother, I’m sure of father
And now I wanna be sure,
very very sure of you.

I’d love to get you on a slow boat to China
All by myself, alone
Get you and keep you in my arms evermore
Leave all your lovelies weeping on the far away shore

And here’s the wordy analysis for the entire scene. By saying that free will is no tyranny to Freddie, Lancaster recognizes that Freddie is different, that he doesn’t suffer from the existential crisis that everyone else does. Freddie simply is. And this unique trait about Freddie, metaphorically, makes him free like a sailor unbounded by land. Like what Lancaster says, Freddie doesn’t have a master, or rather, he doesn’t feel the need to have one. And this Master that Lancaster is referring to is somewhat like absurdism: Our fruitless pursuit in seeking a meaning in not just life itself but almost everything. This quirk about Freddie makes Lancaster realize that he may just be superior(for lack of a better word) to everyone else because he accepts himself for who he really is and doesn’t put up a false pretense to be “human”. In a way, Lancaster’s praise for Freddie is also his ultimate compliance with the fact that we are just mere animals.

However, having established The Cause over continents. Lancaster also knows that although we may be slated to be animals, but we cannot be. That because we are capable, we must too strive for a greater purpose. His mentioning of his relationship with Freddie in the past spikes us into thinking he still believes in The Cause, but in actual fact, he doesn’t. He doesn’t want to see Freddie anymore because although he admires Freddie for being real, he also knows that this is not how a “human” should live.

The song that Lancaster sings for Freddie, is similar to Daisy’s. It is his subtle way of pronouncing his admiration for Freddie and his desire to be with him forever. In fact, he wants more than just having Freddie by his side forever but he wants to be like him. Lancaster wants to be able to reconcile with the fact that he’s just an animal, but unfortunately, he can’t.

Freddie engages in intercourse with a lady he just met in a bar. While having sex, he processes her like how Lancaster did to him at the beginning of the movie. On the final frame of the movie, Freddie sleeps beside a pile of sand shaped like the breast of a woman just like how he did during his time in the army. That’s PTA way of telling us that despite the efforts of everyone that tried to change Freddie throughout the movie, he remains the same as before. If there should be a titular character, it’s Freddie and not Lancaster.


Congrats! You just read 4500words! And I am sure it won’t hurt to read a bit more.

Do be mindful that I never once claimed that my interpretation of the movie is the objective one and only. Because like most pieces of good literature, the implications are many and it can be interpreted in many ways. But what you just read is the best way I manage to connect the dots and when it’s done this way, I feel, paints a coherent and beautiful picture for the movie, which makes me love it to bits and pieces. So just for the records…

1st: The Master
2nd: The Purple Rose of Cairo
3rd: A Woman Under the Influence

PS: I don’t expect anyone to read this but I am a very happy man that enjoyed both the process and product it!