Academic Writing is a Chore

I am aware that I am treading on controversy with that proclamation.

I remembered the days when the keyboard was pressed firmly against my face as I raged silently (and tiredly) at the futility of it all.

Attending the lectures in the evenings for the three years was a different experience for me personally. I would observe my course mates trudge into the lecture/tutorial rooms with heavy hearts and leaden feet – most are working adults and they are making the extra effort in their evenings to study. In comparison, the younger subset of the university population are full time students without work commitments (largely) and were having the time of their lives.

I truly believed that I learnt a lot from my course mates, who come from a wide variety of industries and backgrounds – I was exposed to their collective wealth of experience and perspectives. Some of whom I can definitely get along with, and some of whom I just (I can’t help it) berate endlessly for jumping on different political bandwagons and sending class discussions off the metaphorical cliff.

Due to my certification process in adult learning, I can now make a connection to the challenge of teaching adult learners. During my university days, some lecturers try to explain certain concepts but sometimes they get corrected by the students. A typical exchange would have a lecturer going on about an outdated government policy, and the student (from the relevant government agency) who would point out the error and expand on the current policy in place.

I see it as a humbling experience for the lecturer, who may not be updated on the latest information. Maybe it is a cultural thing, some lecturers take it very personally and spend time trying to justify their explanations.

How gracious, these dwellers of ivory towers.

My favourite exchange was how a lecturer introduced herself as a “twenty year veteran in the communications field”. Her credibility suffered a dent when she marked down assignments for “not having a hook or enough media punch”.

The context was a case study of a serious matter related to a government linked company. The contention was that the context itself is a headline without the need for sensationalising.

Given the operation and media profile of the government linked company, any error that arises from their operations is an instant headline as thousands of people are directly and adversely affected. There is never a need for a press conference call – the reporters will be banging on the lobby door within minutes of the news.


“I don’t care what you think! EVERY news item NEEDS a HOOK! Every news item NEEDS a PUNCH!”

No wonder she is a freelancer for twenty years after a few initial years at a local agency.

After than incident, I don’t remember seeing her name on the list of adjunct lecturers any more. “Oh, you know… she could be too busy with her media work to teach us,” a course mate told me with a sly smile. “You’re terrible!” “I know. And I don’t think it’s just me.”

As I woke up from the soreness of my face, imprinted by the keyboard, I remember the very reason why I dreaded academic writing.


I love words. I love long sentences of long narratives and soul. Modern academic writing is the antithesis of my nature. Simple! Short! Concise!

I tried so hard to be concise. Then I hit the second wall, the legendary “provide a relevant example” and “explanation of the concept is too simple” comments from the lecturer.

Look, you can only summarise an entire chapter of a singular concept into a few sentences. AND stop asking me to write the explanations as if the lecturer is completely ignorant. If the lecturer is ignorant of the concept, wouldn’t a detailed explanation give the blank-slate lecturer an idea before launching into an “application” aspect of the writing?

Say, I want to condense the entire works of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels’ The Communist Manifesto in four sentences (summarising each of the four chapters), I can give you this gem:

Disparities in resource ownership lead to endless class struggles. Equalise all resources with common ownership. The road to common ownership is full of obstacles. All hail Utopia.

If you tell me that you don’t understand, as a blank-slate lecturer, it is your fault for giving me a word limit when you want me to talk about its preceding influences, core theory and ultimate destination where communism will replace socialism (where socialism is the interim period towards the common ownership that communism is about).

Don’t get me started about writing collaborative ideas, substantive applications, and examples – all for a low price of 800 words!

Rummaging in the Attic

I was rummaging in my boxes when I chanced upon a dusty old folder filled with illustrations made during my secondary school years.

I fondly remembered my Macbeth series; to me it was a terrible vengeance on my cohort’s literature teacher because my cohort studied Midsummer Night’s Dream, instead of Othello or Macbeth. I remembered being gleefully dismissive of my cohort’s literature teacher’s pleads to draw a series for Midsummer Night’s Dream.

The winner was my junior cohort’s literature teacher, a Ms Saleha. Sometimes when my juniors communicate with me in recent years, they would often talk about my Macbeth illustrations. I remembered one commenting that the principal was shocked that there was murder scenes being depicted in the illustrations.


Hello? Macbeth is bloody murder. Since when is regicide not bloody or not have dead people? For that matter, violence is constantly depicted on television, and I’m censored for drawing a regicide scene, a dead child and the death of Macbeth? While all illustrations were shown to my juniors in the literature cohort for their lessons, a selected number of those same illustrations were published in the school magazine (1997, I think) by the organising committee (some say, as a silent protest over censorship).

My only quibble (till today) is that none of the fashion styling, weapons, armours, interiors, and food were representative of the implied time period and locality. If I was to do this again, I will research it a little bit more before I actually start drawing.

For example, as the Macbeth implied time period (11th century) and locality (Inverness, Scotland), you would see the characters being armed with Viking-influenced weapons and donning early forms of mail hauberks and chausses.

Yes, I’m crazy like that.

After going through all the illustrations I had, scanning them in for archival sakes… I realised something… my illustrations are getting simpler. 😀


Comparing the series on Macbeth and my illustrations from IAL, it’s a sobering moment.


I mean, just look at it! They had proper tops and pants. Now? My illustrations are basically potatoes. Haha, nevermind.

And thus, Natsu’s Story

As suggest by a reader, there are fragments of Natsu’s Love that I can share with you – and perhaps to give you an adequate conclusion to Natsu’s story.

The eventual meeting with Tenjin’s mentally disturbed mother (she seems normal except the habitual preparing for the father’s meals) will unearth Tenjin’s personal motivations on the reasons of wanting to be a healer – to attempt to bring her back to health again. As Tenjin and Natsu spend the night at his mother’s place, Natsu encounters a strange girl in the garden when she is about to visit the outhouse (literally outside the house). The strange girl flees into the darkness and leaves Natsu puzzled over the trespassing.

Tenjin’s mother mentions that recently a pale girl has begun visiting her occasionally and often leaves behind packages of tea. Natsu is curious about the packages of tea and asks to take a look. Natsu is shocked to discover an insignia of her family on the packages of tea. Natsu attempts to contact her sister, Haru, but to no avail. Fearing the worst, Natsu decides to wait for the strange girl to appear again.

Tenjin wakes from a nightmare and describes a strange pale girl that was present in his nightmare. In the nightmare, he sees a floating visage of a girl rising from a pool of blood. In that pool of blood, he sees an arm that reaching out towards to him. He tries to run but encounters this strange pale girl who threatens him. [The images for this part was actually drawn and posted up]. Fearful for his mother, he walks out of his room and enters the room where Natsu and his mother is sleeping in.

To his horror, the girl is hovering over his mother with gleaming red eyes [sic]. He fires a holy arrow at the girl and she escapes out of the room with a wail. Natsu springs up in the commotion and begins pursuing the girl with Tenjin to the courtyard. The girl stops and turns around. Natsu does not recognise her and is relieved that she is not Haru. The girl does not move, but Tenjin and Natsu hears a commotion from behind them.

Tenjin’s mother enters the courtyard in a horrendous fashion. Her movements are awkward and jerky. Blood oozing from her eyes. Blackened nails and gnarled hands. Natsu is pinned by Tenjin’s mother as Natsu is unwilling to lay a hand on her. Tenjin is conflicted on what to do, but eventually kills his own mother with his magic.

Heart broken, Tenjin turns to find the girl but only sees Natsu in a daze. Morning has broken, Tenjin and Natsu lays his mother to rest.

They journey back to Natsu’s house, but Tenjin is again troubled by nightmares. Tenjin begins to feel the darkness enclosing in his heart and begins to act in erratic ways. Natsu makes enquiries about the girl that they have seen at Tenjin’s house. The common reply would be that there would be packages of tea before a string of deaths in the house the girl visited. Natsu discovers a common clue that in all the houses the girl visited, no one actually used the packages of tea as it was with Tenjn’s mother.

That is about as detailed as I can gather from Kaori’s notes.

The following are just short scribblings that eventually lead to the end:

  1. Haru was shadowing her sister, but felt compelled to help the people who were being targeted by some evil presence
  2. Her packages of tea were meant to prevent disaster from befalling these people
  3. Tenjin becomes the next victim of the evil presence
  4. Natsu could not bear to kill him
  5. Haru appears and purifies Tenjin, saving him from the curse
  6. The evil presences manifests itself [not written in what way]
  7. Haru becomes possessed and is eventually killed by Natsu and Tenjin
  8. With her dying breath, Haru tells Natsu that it was the right thing to do and she will always be with Natsu
  9. Haru disappears [in the typical anime fashion] in a burst of light particles but crystallises into a necklace in Natsu’s hands [oh gawd…]

Interesting stuff:

  1. The necklace shown in K’MA 51 “A Different Point of View” was a gift to Kaori from her late mother (probably a reference to Haru crystallising into a necklace?)
  2. A purple-green caped and masked girl does not seem to be referenced anywhere, but I remembered Kaori mentioning that this masked girl is a necromancer
  3. Tamiko, referenced in K’MA 37, is supposed to be the name of the strange girl Natsu and Tenjin encountered
  4. I don’t think the story ends with Haru’s death but I can’t find or remembered anything else regarding that

Reflecting on it, I am not entirely sure whether Kaori’s storyline is any good, but I think she references to some cultural things or personal experiences that she picked up over the years:

  1. Some Chinese folk use flowers/tea leaves immersed in water to “wash away” evil spirits before they enter their own house. You will see this custom being practised especially after attending Chinese religious funeral wakes
  2. Kaori grew up in a house with the toilet outside. She remembers being terrified of going to that toilet especially at night. Similarly, even in broad daylight, she has an odd habit of switching on the toilet light in my house when she uses it (and often forgets to switch it off)
  3. The horrible description of Tenjin’s mother movement and visuals is probably inspired by Sadako (from the Japanese movie, The Ring)
  4. Kaori does not want Tenjin and Natsu to get married, but to develop deep affection for each other as friends (I hear all the booing and wailing). This stems from her experience of her teenage relationship with someone she liked

I hope this article can help you piece together a story and a conclusion.

It has been a while

It has been a good 8 to 9 years since the last significant update in terms of content. I believe the last revision was made in 2010, and it was just a cosmetic change.

In that space of time, a lot of things have had happened to me. One of the most significant things was that I picked up a BA in Sociology and Communication (Merit classification, woohoo!) and now currently picking up an Advanced Certificate in Training and Assessment at the Institute of Adult Learning.

I would like to take the opportunity to thank my course mates at the SIM University and the Institute of Adult Learning for being a great group of people to communicate and work with. I do look forward to engage you folks again in my professional career.

Likewise, I found this gnawing feeling in my soul to start writing again – I have decided to convert this beloved website into my personal column, and as a portal to my portfolio of work. Perhaps through this, you will be able to know more about the work I am currently involved in and decide to support the arts community here in Singapore.

What are some of the content I would write about? Good question!

I am of the opinion that I would write not just about the arts community and my work, I would like to write about my past times and personal reflections on certain issues that calls for my attention. I think it may be an interesting situation to write to help me think, and at the same time, share it with others.


At this point of time, I am keenly aware of the joys and sorrows of one’s life journey. Since I have decided to take a different route at my journey’s fork, I would like to make the best of it. To be honest about it, this different route has caused much sorrow to myself and the people around me. While I am unable to assuage the sorrows of others, I have to carry my own sorrows and be responsible for the consequences.

In addition to that, I was confronted with ill health and deaths in my family network. It is indeed a time of sorrow and reflection. How fragile the human life is. I believe that it is best not to dwell on the deaths, but to remember all the good times and memories I have had with them. That way, the pain would not be too great.

One day, I hope to be happy again.