What the payphone taught me

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A public telephone in Kuching, Sarawak

Today, not for the first time, my phone died on me – not surprising, considering that I’m using an iPhone 4…I know. Probably an antique by today’s standards – where were we, iPhone 8S or something?

Technology and I are not the best of friends, and I definitely consider myself more of an old school person who would rather live in the 80s or relive the 90s of my childhood. Definitely not the typical millennial you can think of.

Tonight, I was supposed to meet my boyfriend after work and after his night class, and we hadn’t arranged a meeting point or time. So when my phone died on me, I resorted to…the good old payphone. And guess what I hadn’t even realised (and probably very few people know) that every MRT station in Singapore has a payphone (I think)!

So I was at the MRT station near my workplace, clumsily trying to put a 20 cent coin through the coin slot, all while attracting curious (mortifying) stares from the security guard and the staff at the control station. My boyfriend, who was still in class, did not pick up the call.

You see, unlike the mobile phone, the person who received a missed call from you can’t just call you back. There’s also no caller ID. You can’t text the person to tell them you called either.

So I took the train in the direction of home, hoping that he won’t end up blindly waiting for me somewhere, only to receive a text from me when I got home and managed to revive my phone with the charger.

When I arrived at my stop around 40 minutes later, I located another payphone and called again. This time, my call got through. I was so happy and relieved. Suddenly, it seemed like he was so far away. Someone whom I’d held close every day, reached easily and effortlessly with a text or a sticker on Telegram, was suddenly so unreachable.

Tonight I learned for the first time (or maybe remembered what I’d forgotten from my childhood), that every 10 cents gave you 2 minutes of call time. Because I had 20 cents, I could speak with him for 4 minutes.

Suddenly, those four minutes, usually so easily passed and idled away with a few mindless scrolls on Facebook, watching Insta-stories, and refreshing my Inbox, became so precious and so genuinely felt. I literally saw the passing of time on the payphone timer, and hours and minutes, taken for granted as part of each day, became reduced to the split second. Suddenly, I recognised time again, like an old friend I’d long forgotten.

In this digital age where technology and smartphones reduce everything to mindless routines and effortless endeavours, we take time for granted. Everything is sped up, passing by, convenient and half-hearted at the same time – you could be talking to someone while dealing with a few other screens, or checking your social media feed.

We’ve managed to speed life up, do more things with less time. But are we really making the most out of the time we have now?

What advertising could be

Seriously. I was browsing through advertising work from different agencies, and this one really takes the cake. So much love and charm and heart oozing out of every frame.

And then you watch the Behind the Scenes video and be like -I CAN’T EVEN-

Seriously.

This just made my day and makes me so happy because it shows me what advertising is capable of doing, and being. :,)

Creative concept by TBWA\Singapore

Cinema & consciousness

In the science fiction anime film Paprika (2006) by Satoshi Kon, Paprika is Doctor Chiba’s alter-ego which she uses to treat her psychiatric patients by entering their dreams. They are polar opposites in personality. This alter-ego is a symbol of Chiba’s subconscious.

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“Have you ever thought you were a part of me, instead?”

When Paprika says that to Chiba, it is a sign of the subconscious mind expressing its repressed emotions and desires and gaining control over the rational self. and in the larger world of the film, of dreams and reality merging.

The world of dreams is portrayed as dangerous because it is a place of great instability and chaos. Nothing is certain, even the most rational and cool-headed of people are destabilised.

Who knows? Maybe we are all part of our subconscious – instead of the other way round – falsely thinking that our conscious minds are agents of free will. Sigmund Freud’s theories of psychoanalysis left a great impact on psychology.

The amazing thing is how film and cinema could be linked so closely to the study of the human mind – this connection fascinated me endlessly when I was learning about film theories in college.

Which is why films like Paprika were made. Or maybe even the Matrix series.

Paprika: Where cinema and dreams meet

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Watched the classic Japanese animation film Paprika yesterday at The Projector. I’m using this image here because I realise most of the movie posters look kind of creepy – and the whole movie kind of is that bizarre.

There are so many dimensions and messages in this film, but perhaps as someone with academic background in film studies, I was able to read it on a more critical level. Themes found in this film: blurring of lines between dreams and reality, the allusion of movies to dreams and movie-watching to dreaming, the subconscious mind, trauma.

I actually watched this for the second time and understood it slightly better, but couldn’t say completely. It is that kind of film that demands re-watching, but it’s also easy for audiences to feel frustrated and simply give up on understanding what’s going. But to me, that was the whole point of it. The first time I watched it I was questioning the logic and concerned with plot developments – who’s the mastermind, is this scene dream or reality etc. But watching it again helped me appreciate the film more on the meta levels.

As the film progresses, the lines between dreams and reality get even more blurred, and we as the audience feel increasingly confused and disoriented. But that submission – the relinquishing of control on reality and knowledge is important to truly understand, ironically, the film’s true message.

Just as we slowly fall asleep and descend into the deeper layers of sleep and dreaming, watching this film and seeing it morph into increasingly bizarre and surrealistic imagery, is like the act of dreaming itself. In fact, we leave the theatre feeling as though the whole movie had occurred in our dreams. But why not? If there was a way to project our dreams into images, isn’t this how they would look like?

Also, there is the recurring motif of alluding movies to dream. Because the inspector character abandoned his friend halfway through making their film, and his friend passed away shortly after, he keeps having recurring nightmares of himself killing his friend in a hallway. When he finally manages to overcome his guilt and trauma, the movie ends with him buying a movie ticket at the cinema, finally overcoming his long-time aversion to films and the cinema too.

That closing scene is also impactful because this movie essentially ends with a character going to watch a movie, as though bringing us back to the start, like an endless loop on repeat. Again, isn’t that what a dream feels like? We never know where it starts or ends do we?

There is another scene where the inspector (although his story is kind of a subplot but I find myself very fascinated and even convinced that there is a deeper message – if not why would the movie close with him?) takes on various personas – Tarzan with his lover, a detective wresting with a criminal, a superhero killing the villain

This too, is another allusion of cinema to dreams, because when we watch films, we identify with characters or stories that we aspire to. In a way, enjoying idealised versions of ourselves on screen is an expression of our subconscious mind, one of the reasons, it can be argued, why Hollywood movies are so popular, with happy endings after a conflict, and a beautiful cast.

On so many levels, isn’t watching a film like dreaming? And when we all share the same screen together in the darkened movie theatre, aren’t we all sharing a collective dream?

I’ll leave this fascinating image here, the scene where dreams and reality, dreams and movies converge.

Paprika

Paprika is one of the most powerful films I’ve ever watched, although it is animation, but perhaps also because it is animation – for the medium allows so many limitations and boundaries of live-action movies to be broken.

Speaking of boundaries…

The meaning of design

A design studio is not a factory. Design – whether a website or app, a packaging or visual – is not a cookie-cutter product.

Design is a visual manifestation of something that is deeper – a belief, an idea to communicate, or an extension of a company’s values.

A design has to say something and mean something to the client, for the client, and to the end user.

Been doing some self-reflection recently. Reading through my past journal entries, I find a passion burning in me that cannot be extinguished.

Perhaps my biggest strength (and sometimes weakness) is that I question everything (deeply), and have a strong set of beliefs. Sometimes, that just doesn’t sit well in society. I have learned to tone down my passionate self-expression, but I am still trying to find the balance between living true to myself, and making a valuable contribution to the world I live in.

So much has changed over time. The core in me has never left, but my thoughts and mindsets have matured through a lot of weathering. Which can be a good thing I guess.