29 October 2009

The Emptiness Of My Mind

We bears have quite simple minds. We eat. We play. We write blogs like this. Human minds are more complex than that, I discovered. In most instances, their minds are cluttered with a lot of unnecessary things but sometimes it could also be totally blank. In between, there is a huge spectrum which I categorize as follows:

Sudden Emptiness - This usually happens when humans are confronted with a question they are not prepared to answer. This phenomenon usually goes together with a blank stare. It only lasts a few seconds and is quite harmless if it doesn't happen very often.

Conscious Emptiness - This usually occur at specific time of the day (evening) or specific days of the week (Saturdays and Sundays). This happens to most humans, Mr. B. included. The symptoms differ. Some would sit on the couch and stare at the television for many hours. Others may sit on a chair and stare at the computer monitor. In both cases, the whole body would be totally or partially motionless. Other symptoms include going out to eat, drink, walk in the park - a whole range of activities.

Forced Emptiness - This only occurs to only a few humans who can not have Conscious Emptiness. Some call it yoga, others call it meditation. The body could be moving very, very slowly until achieving an impossible pose or totally motionless in a sitting position.

Choiced Emptiness - Some humans with unpleasant characters have this. They will remember only the things they want to and forget the things they do not wish to remember. Specific type of humans are prone to these. They usually borrow money (or something) from another human and promise to pay back on a later date.

Total Emptiness - This is the worst kind. Mr. B. said he knows some humans who can be placed in this category. I believe this is genetic. There is another name for this phenomenon that starts with the letter "s" which Mr. B. said is not a nice word. So far, science has found no cure for this. It is a permanent condition.

28 October 2009

Hopeful Travellers

I think life is like a journey. As humans travel along, they encounter a lot of things - things that may be happy or sad, or things that make one mad. There are good days, there are bad days. It's all part of the journey. Some humans stop their vehicles dwelling on the bad parts, others shrug their shoulders and drive along, optimistic that the good bits will come ahead.

There was a point in Mr. B.'s journey when he stopped and refused to continue. This was many, many years ago. Something happened that made him lost all hopes that anything good was waiting down the road. He was there right in the middle of the lonely road, deserted, alone. Then along comes ME! He decided to give it another shot. The days to come could be challenging. But he thought at leas the had my company.

Ten years on and the journey has been quite smooth-sailing, well, driving. There were bad days, but mostly good days. Along the way he found D., who also boarded the vehicle. They took turns driving. It was something great. Something they both wanted.

Now I am happy to take the back seat watching the two of them driving along. I am happy to see two hopeful travellers in the journey of life.

Life could be complicated and frustrating sometimes. But I think there is no need to stop and muse over that for too long. One should just step on the gas and move on.

my philosophy's to travel hopefully
and making each day that I survive
an opportunity to share the company
that welcomes me when I arrive

Video: Travel Hopefully from Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical By Jeeves.

24 October 2009

Life Is Like Sukiyaki

Tonight, Mr. B. made a huge pot of sukiyaki. It's a Japanese steamboat-style dish made with variety of meats and vegetables cooked in a special sauce made of soy sauce, a bit of sugar and mirin (Japanese sweet rice wine). It has lots of stuff in it - thinly sliced beef and pork, cabbage, bok choy, enokitake mushroom, abalone mushroom and 5 kinds of dumplings.

While Mr. B. and D. enjoyed their supper, they talked about a lot of things. Mr. B. complained about this particularly dense person he had to deal with in the funny farm, about hooking up with an old friend on the phone talking about insurance policies and investing in properties. D. had some family issues to deal with but seemed fine. They talked about their past holiday trips and future plans; about how Mr. B. wants to have a Balinese-inspired interior if he ever bought a property of his own. At some point, D. checked Mr. B.'s daily blood pressure record to make sure he is fine.

I think life is like sukiyaki. It is all different things mixed up in one single pot. Sometimes you pick up the things you like first, sometimes you leave the best for last. But in the end, you will finish the entire pot, all happy and satisfied.

It has been a great day today.

Welcome To My Country!

Mr. B. got up very early this morning to attend his visa application interview in preparation for his upcoming business travel. He knew ahead of time that the process would be a rather frustrating one, and he was right.

Getting in to the visa office required a thorough check-in process like that of actually boarding a plane. One must remove anything electronic and metallic from the body, one needs to remove shoes and have them scanned through the x-ray, together with their bags. Long line. Long wait.

There was this little old lady just a few persons in front of Mr. B. She was by herself. She wasn't very sure what to do. Perhaps her first visit to the country. She has been directed all around. Then it was her turn for fingerprint scanning. What usually would take a minute took all of 20 minutes to get her finger photos right. She was told to wash, rub, press, stop shaking, stand farther away, higher, lower - again, and again, and yet again, just to get the perfect scan of her fingerprints. Then it was her turn for interview. Obviously she doesn't speak the language. The foreign interviewer communicated with her in her language asking about her travel plans. Mr. B. overheard "...travelling with a neighbor...", "... leisure travel...". The old lady gave the interviewer a polite bow before leaving the counter.

When it was Mr. B.'s turn to be interviewed, he was assigned to the same foreign interviewer. Mr.B.'s "hello" was not reciprocated. He took one look at Mr. B., skimmed a few pages of his passport, then gave him the claim slip. Mr. B. didn't bother to say "thank you" and left. The "interview" was done within 10 seconds.

"I don't have to go through that when I travel!" I told Mr. B.

"Lucky you. Some people have to undergo some sort of humiliation first in order to get a visa." he said.
Humans are strange. They allow themselves to be exposed to almost inhuman treatment just to set foot on other human's country. Perhaps this is the effect of mistrust and ignorance among them, or perhaps this is the cause.

19 October 2009

Mastering The Art Of Profitable Blogging

That human on the right is Julie Powell. Seven years ago, she started a blog/project in an attempt to cook all of 524 recipies in the classic cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking by the American legend Julia Child in one year. In 2005, the blog was rewritten into a memoir entitled Julie & Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen, the paperback version of which was retitled Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously. In 2008, writer/director Nora Ephron wrote the screenplay Julie and Julia and turned the book into a hit movie starring the great Meryl Streep and Amy Adams released last month.

While Meryl Streep was great in the movie, I am not here to talk about her acting. I am leaving that to the film critics. I want to talk about the power of blogging and how humans are profitting from it.

Not that making profit is a bad thing. I am just reflecting the fact that the original intention of blogging was to create an ongoing journal or commentary by an individual human to share his or her life and rantings online. In public. For everyone to read. And comment. Even if in the long run, their blog is never read by anyone but them. Blogs often become more than a way to just communicate; they become a way to reflect on life, love or just about anything. A few personal blogs rise to fame, such as Julie Powell's blog, which was made into a movie that opened a month ago (to huge success). The second movie based on a blog is Tucker Max's I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell (a huge failure), where he chronicles his drunken and sexual encounters, a misogynistic comedy I'm sure.

"So, will you sell your paws to be popular?" Mr. B. interupted my train of thoughts.

"It's not a bad idea, is it?" I answered. "I may save you from the funny farm and you don't have to work anymore!"

"Right...." Mr. B. said as he walked away which I found a bit insulting.

Anyhow, I really don't care about being popular. I just want to be able to share my observations and insights about humans in general. That was what I set out to do so that is what I am going to do.

"Will I be featured in your movie too?" Mr. B. shouted from the shower. Arrrgh!

Video: The great Julia Child with the chicken family.

17 October 2009

Becker Behind The Blog: An Exclusive Interview

Russell Sprout, backpacking bear and aspiring travel show host talks to blogger Becker in an exclusive virtual interview about his 100th post celebration.

RS: Congratulations on your 100th post, Becker. How do you feel today?
B: Thank you, Russell, I feel fantastic! I never thought I would start a blog like this. I couldn’t believe that humans would actually read and enjoy it.

RS: It seems like in just a few months, you already have a decent followings judging from your post box and the comments which are mostly positive.
B: That is true. And I am very happy that humans actually like my ranting, well, observations, about their lives.

RS: Where do you get your inspiration from?
B: Mr. B. would be my primary source. I think he live a very colorful life. He has such rich experiences that I can draw from. My friendship with him, the things we share on a daily basis, all these are my sources of inspiration.

RS: Are there any posts that are particularly memorable to you?
B: Sure. The most memorable ones are those that are deeply personal, where I somehow connect with human experiences. These are also the posts where I get most positive feedbacks from readers. I could think of a few now – Did He Die For Me Too? Dancing In The Dark and Daddy’s Boy were particularly emotional for me. To Say Goodbye and The Girl With Kaleidoscope Eyes were written as tributes to Mr. B.’s friends who passed away. Those were emotional as well.

RS: That doesn’t sound like you. A lot of people said that you are quite cynical and critical in real life. Is that true?
B: I could be that way if I wanted to. It could be my means of defense against unpleasant humans or animals. If I did sound like I was being cruel or brutal sometimes, especially to a particular species, it was just me being playful. I hope my readers will understand that.

RS: What about fun stuffs? Any memorable posts on lighter topics?
B: Lots of them! Sometimes I like to poke fun on Mr. B., especially about topics like his age or his weight. There Will Come A Day, His Salad Days, Are You Serious? and Glamorous At 50 comes to mind. I also enjoy writing about music and movies. Those are fun.

RS: How about travel?
B: Since I started this blog, I only got to travel once – to Sydney with Mr. B. and D. It was a super fun trip as you can see in the photos. I also posted a few stories from my trip – A Room With A View, Don’t You Want Me, Baby? and Eating Sydney. I would like to travel more and write more about those trips. I think traveling broadens up a bear’s mind.

RS: Some people say that you are Mr. B.’s alter ego. What can you say about that?
B: I honestly do not like that word – alter ego. It was first invented when schizophrenia was discovered and these people were supposed to live “double” or “multiple” lives. Mr. B. and I are not psychologically identical. We’re best of friends who share a lot of things in common. We are very different in many ways too.

RS: Are you saying that you don’t agree on certain things as well?
B: Definitely! He is a natural worrier. His life is built around the funny farm so I guess that makes up a big part of his character. The Fine Art Of Anger shows how certain situations get into his nerve quite quickly.

RS: Talking about funny farm. You seem to post a lot about it.
B: Oh yes! It started with Funny Farm Adventures which I posted in April. It is actually the place where Mr. B. works. Two readers, Panda and SheepM seem to enjoy my story on the funny farm and its members. There was a follow-up post called Energy Suckers Identified! which I thought was hilarious. That said, Mr. B. forbade me to write too much about the funny farm in fear of losing his job.

RS: That serious?
B: Well, you know how strange humans are. Anything can happen.

RS: What are your plans? What can your readers expect from Becker’s Eyes in the future?
B: I don’t have anything planned in particular, to be honest. I want my blog to be spontaneous. I don’t have a set agenda. But I want it to be fun, entertaining, inspiring and most importantly relevant to the lives of other humans.

RS: Is there anything you wish to say to your readers out there?
B: Oh yes! I want to thank all my readers for checking out my blog, for leaving your comments and suggestions as well as your encouragements. There are a few humans that I need to give my appreciation to – to D. for being so supportive of this blog; to SheepM and Panda for following my posts closely; to my followers Zookeeper, Jim and QQ; to my “silent” supporters Hender, Tiff, Courtney, BB, Bel and Lisa; to Vivian from Chicago; to Wen from London; to Mary from Portland; to Tom from Portsmouth; siennalee, your messages are always heartwarming. To everyone who ever passed this way, I thank you all! Best of all, I want to thank Mr. B. for sharing his life with me, he will be my best friend forever.

RS: It has been great talking to you, Becker. I am sure your reader will continue to support your blog.
B: Thank you so much, Russell. I am leaving this post with a song from David Archuleta. It's called Let's Talk About Love.

15 October 2009

Baby, Remember My Name

In 1980, Alan Parker made a film about a group of young, hopeful students through their studies at the New York High School of Performing Arts. Starring mostly unknown actors, the movie started the careers of Irene Cara and Paul McCrane. The soundtrack brought a number of worldwide hits such as Fame and Out Here On My Own. The film is, of course, Fame. Mr. B. told me that this is one of the two movies he ever saw where the audience actually applauded in the ending, something really rare and special.

Fast forward almost 30 years, someone thought of doing a remake of this classic and employed a choreographer and concert director to direct the film. Fame 2009 was release a few weeks back to generally negative reviews.

Critics mostly point out the movie's "lack of likeable characters" unlike the original one where audience can relate to the pains and struggles of Coco, Montgomery and Ralph. There also seems to be a "lack of resolution" in the movie where none of the characters developed, grew or learned anything. One basher said it best - "Why bother remaking this movie?"

Wanting to have my own take on this. I searched to find the main theme "Fame" online and this is what I got.

I say, eewww!

A lot of humans may be too young to remember the original Fame. If the critics were right, these young people are so unfortunate to only have Fame 2009. This makes me want to revisit the original Fame which Mr. B. has a DVD of.

12 October 2009

Sing Once More


On the 8th of October, Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber formally held a press conference to launch his new musical Love Never Dies, the sequel to The Phantom of the Opera, to be set in the turn-of-the-century New York, specifically Coney Island. Mr. B. of course, was elated by the announcement. I saw him watched the performance of a song lifted from the musical again and again, all teary-eyed.
"Now I have something to look forward to again!" he excitedly told me.
I am not a big fan of Andrew Lloyd Webber and I know that a lot of people don't like him as well. That is why I don't understand why Mr. B. thinks it is a great blessing and privilege to enjoy his music and/or watch his shows. Sure, he wrote music about great people, real and fictional - Jesus, Eva Peron, Jeeves, Joseph and Norma Desmond. He also wrote music about fun things - like trains and cats, and not-so-fun things - like soccer, mysterious woman, mysterious man and confusing love affairs. But he was also accused of plagiarism many times - from rock music to classic opera, although he was never formally proven guilty on anything.
Somehow, seeing Mr. B. so excited about the whole thing gives me some sort of relief. I know that he will be following this event very closely. As tedious as his life is now, perhaps it is good to have something "to look forward to".
Perhaps, Baron Lloyd Webber should write a musical called "Bears", then I would be a fan.

Video : Ramin Karimloo singing Till I Hear You Sing (Once More)

11 October 2009

Fame Or Fortune

This weekend, Mr. B. spent a great deal of time catching up on his favorite TV talent show The X Factor (UK) in YouTube (since the show is not televised here). I find it quite fascinating watching all these aspiring recording artists crying their hearts out if they fail to make it in the competition and cry even harder when they get through to the next round. It's as if that was the last chance in their lives and they cannot afford to fail.

But what really happens when they win the competition? Would their dreams of better lives really come true? Will they be able to live up to burden given to them by the millions of TV voters? Would these TV voters really support them when they finally come out with their records?

I made some research and here are the winners of The X Factor so far:

Steve Brookstein (2004 winner) - One of Mr. B.'s favorite, Brookstein came up with a best-selling album of covers. When he refused to record a second album of covers, his recording company dumped him. He release his second album of mostly originals independently and it didn't chart at all. He is practically forgotten now.

Shayne Ward (2005 winner) - Another one of Mr. B.'s favorite. The Golden Boy of The X Factor released his first album Shayne Ward and followed it up a year after with Breathless, both reaching multiple platinum status. He travelled to Asia to promote his records but it seems that his popularity was limited within the UK.

Leona Lewis (2006 winner) - Probably the only winner that "made it" across the continent with her first album Spirit primarily due to the song Bleeding Love. Her next album Echo will be release in November 2009 and she shall embark on a world tour in 2010.

Leon Jackson (2007 winner) - The "least successful" of the 5 winners so far. While his single When You Believe topped the Christmas chart in 2008, his first album reached only number 4. A number of his concert dates were subsequebtly cancelled due to poor ticket sales.

Alexandra Burke (2008 winner) - Her debut album Overcome shall be in the market 19 October this year. Whether she will be successful or not remains to be seen.

I find myself asking a question: So what changed for them after the glorious finale when they were declared the winners? For Steve, it's back to singing in small venues. For Shayne, waiting for materials for his new album. For Leona, a promise of a long, fruitful career if she can handle fame and fortune well and if she comes out with more songs to match the success of Bleeding Love. For Leon, not much. For Alexandra, probably depends on how her album sells.

Video credit : Leona Lewis - Bleeding Love

05 October 2009

This Old Heart Of Mine

"You have the heart of a 60-year-old man."

That was what the doctor told Mr. B. today after a rigorous physical examination. He went on to explain in clinical details how his heart is showing signs of being old. Signs that the doctor said can be reverted if Mr. B. can do more cardiovascular exercises, watch his diet carefully and lose at least 20 kilos (that is 44 lbs) of body weight. The rest of him was fine and can be corrected once he follows a very healthy lifestyle.

For the record, Mr. B. keep his weekday diet strictly on soy milk and cereal in the morning, cos lettuce and grilled white meat for lunch and at least 3 fruits a day. The thing he can't do is exercise because he cannot stand on his feet for too long.

On his way back home in the pouring rain, Mr. B. can't help but think of D. He also thought about his family, his friends. People who depended on him. People who cared about him. He thought of the funny farm and the farmers. The unfinished businesses. About finances, retirement, future. There is only so much a heart can take. He thought of his heart growing tired and old before he does. Suddenly, Mr. B. felt the weight of the world on his shoulders.

"I think the doctor is right," Mr. B. told me tonight. "I have the heart of an old man."

Photo credit : Jane Linders

03 October 2009

Love Slips Away

In my study of humans, I found that nothing is said, written, sang, drawn or filmed as much as love among humans. Yes, that four-letter word called love. While I am not exactly a fan of great love stories, I took to reading some of the classic stories of immense love affair, unrequited love, unconditional love and all the other varieties in between.

Many of Mr. B.'s friends are what humans call married, meaning, they attach themselves to one particular human and start building their little clans. Over the years, he has seen the best and the worst of them - from dreamy weddings to ugly break-ups.

"But I don't understand how two people who vowed to love each other at one point can after a few years become the worst of enemies?" I asked him.

"Love slips away." Mr. B. answered like an old wise man.

He told me stories about couples he know who had devastating break-ups, the running away and hiding, the affairs and infidelities; about how couples lost interest on each other to the point of not even physically touching each other. He told me that people grow apart and their differences that once make them unique and interesting becomes annoying, intolerable and unacceptable.
How sad.

I still don't understand how two people who vowed to love each other at one point can after a few years become the worst of enemies. Or at least become total strangers. Perhaps the love humans vow to each other was an illusion. A fantasy created by a moment of passion.
I don't think love slipped away. I think love was never there in the first place.

Leave My Eggplants Alone!

Everyone seems to be talking about Farmville these days. It's even in the news. Anyone who doesn't know this virtual farming game in Facebook must be living in the cave for a while. The addiction seems to have grown out of proportion that some companies prohibit playing the game during working hours (duh). Some people even wake up in the middle of the night to water their crops or make sure that no one steals the fruits/vegetables of their labors.

I personally went online to check what the fuss was all about. I got bored after the first 30 minutes. This impatient bear does not see the point of waiting for a couple of hours or even days for strawberries or eggplants to grow. And I don't see the fun of turning the 6 plots of land into another Neverland. I turn to Mr. B. tonight and ask if he is into it.

"Of course not! I work in a Funny Farm every day of my life. Isn't that enough?" he retorts while munching on snacks and watching TV.

Perhaps so. I heard that in the Funny Farm, the perpetual presence of the Black Sheep is annoying. It has the nasty habit of moving its bowels right on the crops or wherever it feels like it or other humans to step on. There's the Ugly Duckling that never turns into a swan. It remains ugly and stupid and you can't sell it for a single coin. Once in a while, the Brown Cow would appear but only produce a small amount of the much needed chocolate milk. Of course there are neighbors too. But they never help. They steal. They wait until your head is turned (or worse, while you're asleep) before to do it. If they don't get to steal, they trample on your crops so your farm won't be better off than theirs.

As an added bonus, the Funny Farm has its own unique sound effects as well. Instead of the animal sounds, you get the barking of the head honcho, the whining of the diva, the screaming matches of the head honcho and one of the farmers, the long nagging of the prima donna and the sobs of the honcho's victim.

I think I have a very good idea for a virtual game. I am calling Zynga.


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