Search Results

Like to listen to what goes on behind the scenes in film making or acting straight from an actor? Click here.

A Reunion Dinner with a secret to hide. Click here.

Have you taken all the modern comforts for granted? Behind every modern device there is the technology and with them comes the management and risks. Interested to find out what goes on below the hood? Click here.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Rich Church Poor Church

In Poor Church, I watched a Christmas skit on their makeshift stage. A church goer next to me commented that it will be nice to have a real backstage where the actors can prepare themselves and emerge into each scene more seamlessly. I replied that it wouldn't really matter as this is a church and not a professional concert hall. Besides, the message conveyed through the skit was entertaining and clear - that we should celebrate Christmas with God in our hearts and not be overwhelmed by the frills of Christmas shopping and parties. Before the service, there was a simple buffet dinner. After that, we had a nice dessert buffet for everyone to get know each other better.

In Rich Church, we watched a Christmas musical on a collosal stage with props of an outlandish and stately American home complete with a winter fireplace; a huge back-up choir and live orchestra in the backstage, their silhouette focused by  cleverly positioned and synchronised lights and colours, visible through a translucent screen. The auditorium seats 3,000 odd of us with a professionally lit stage, pristine sound system and two large video screens magnifying the performance delivered by two camera cranes. It was an entertaining performance. The singing and entertainment were cleverly orchestrated with preachings in between and eventually culminating in a hard sell to convert non-believers. It was cleverly done by asking everyone to close their eyes and raise their hands if they so wish to be converted, to overcome their shyness. There was also peer pressure to ask believers to look at non-believers and say, "I will accompany you if you would step out to accept Jesus".

I am never a fan of hard sell of any product, religion included. Sadly, religion is a product and all religions are man-made without exceptions.

As the hard sell made its assault, I couldn't help but imagine how Jesus would have felt if he sees all these bright lights and sizzle displayed before him in the name of converting non-believers into believers. Couldn't it be done the same way as he did under the canopy of a tree in an open ground without any frills? Can we truly enlighten people about their spirituality inside by exploiting the crass materialism outside? Can we solve the problems of this material world that tempts us to stray away from God, with the same mind that had created them?

Big churches need big funds and these come from church goers. But should these funds be channeled to the teachings of Jesus and the Bible, or to commercial outlets and glitzy auditoriums?

May be among the thousands recruited in Rich Church, some will see the Light and experience salvation. However I suspect that many will be led into many blind alleys and meanders. Poor Church is materially poor, but I find its congregation warmer and its size of a more human scale. It also does not hard sell, or sell at all. It treats its congregations and guests as seekers of the Christian faith.

Of course, being spiritual does not mean that one has to be poor. We need material to survive in this human journey. However, if we are overwhelmed by material and lose ourselves in the insanity of the material world, then we will be led further and further away from our heart and God. That is my discomfort with Rich Church. This is my opinion. I am not imposing this on anyone. Rich Church goers will continue to do what Rich Church goers do. Ultimately, whatever we do, whether we are conscious of them or not, they are on our journey towards self realisation and salvation.

Have a Merry Christmas everyone!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Reading Books

I stopped reading books since I started having a smartphone. Then last month, while searching for my guide book to Guangzhou, I stumbled upon some fascinating books from my boxes. I had them for a long while, but haven't read them as they have been packed into boxes since I moved out of my old place.

Unexpectedly, merely seeing these books energised me. An instant lightness embraced my body as I recalled the bliss.

Smartphones, cyberspace, asynchronised telecommunications and constant multi-tasking fragment our attention. I believe that without technology and commerce, we all have an inherent natural flow that keep us in bliss. When this natural flow is too frequently interrupted it will break our intuition and tire us.

I am now back into reading books. The smartphone is still my pal and a useful one at that, but it is now carefully kept in check. I think it is the same that the soul should be firmly in charge of the mind. When the mind is overwhelmed by intense emotions, the soul becomes momentarily paralysed. :) While emotions flutter like leaves, the soul ought to remain sturdy like the trunk of the tree, unperturbed and in-charged.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Kid's Play - A Little Girl's Breaking News...

This post is borrowed from my friend Karen Tan's Facebook posting. It is reproduced here with her permission (with very minor corrections to typo errors and formality):

This is my daughter's most original way of breaking the news that she didn't do too well in her Chinese language test. She breaks into a song at bedtime. Completely improvised. 

"O Mama, your eyes are as round as the ... zeroes that I get on my Chinese paper... 

O Mama, your eyeballs are as crossed as the "x"es that my teacher marked on my test paper ....

O Mama, your lips are as red as the red ink that fills the pages of my test paper ....

O Mama, your cheeks are as fat as the scary Chinese test paper that I didn't like sitting for ....

O Mama, your ears are as wrong as the words that I wrote wrongly when I should have written something else .... 

O Mama, your legs as as long as the cane that my teachers threatens us with ....

O Mama, your hair is as black as my teacher's face when she returned me my test paper ...

and in her soprano finale ... 

O MAMAaaaaaa.......!! I love you SOOOOOoo!!!!"

Wouldn't anyone forgive this little angel easily?!! :)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


I have not updated this for three months. I have been busy acting and maintaining my other blog - about acting (click here), but that was not the real reason for neglecting Vacuum State. Rather, it was my recent obsession with my smartphone that has distracted me.

On the flip side, my smartphone has helped me extensively to communicate with agents, organise my gigs, negotiate terms, fix appointments, send invoices, check payments, record my lines and practise them, take photos of costumes and even helping me to find the shoot location on site. Ironically, my efficiency is at all time high. Without the phone,  I would need a manager and a secretary. But high efficiency comes at the cost of fatigue and fragmented attention. The result is a scattered brain and a monkey mind, as the phone turns from a useful tool to a distraction and then finally to an obsession of checking emails, advertisements, Facebook and other updates every few minutes.

In the public places, it is common to see people fixated with their phone. Many even extend their online expeditions beyond the necessary mundane chores, into movies, imaginary second lives, games and mindless chatter. I suspect that their their mental states would be more agitated than mine. An agitated mind becomes cluttered, forgetful leading to the ultimate drop in effectiveness and then the soul becomes a slave of the technology.

So a useful technology like a smartphone can easily turn to enslave us. Are you a master or a slave of technology? That is the question.

I notice that my intuition also drop as I rely more on technology. So, it is time to go on retreat to get my mind and tranquility back. You will thus see more posts here in time.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Remembering Foo Toon Jong

Foo Toon Jong, RIP 19 May 2012.

It took a few days for me to decide to write this post. Perhaps it is because it takes that long for me to accept the vulnerability of this human journey itself. 

Toon Jong was nicknamed "Tom Jones", because of how the two names rhymed and also because we had spent countless hours strumming the guitar and singing at the Club room. We both were volunteers in the Singapore Polytechnic Welfare Services Club (WSC) and Tom was a volunteer at Bukit Ho Swee Tuition Centre, Villa Francis Home for the Aged and Singapore Association for Retarded Children (now more politically correctly named as "MINDS"), from 1974-1978.

Toon Jong was at a staff bonding function in his new job, when during the activities, he had to excuse himself as he didn't feel well. He then went to rest on a couch and passed away peacefully there. Doctors concluded that he had a cardiac arrest.

During his wake, I learned from his wife that Tom never had any serious illness. He was a non-drinker, non-smoker, not over-weight and was always careful with what he ate. I last met his wife during their engagement held in a community centre in 1982 - thirty years ago. Time flies. Tom works for a civil engineering construction contractor. Such jobs are usually highly stressful, which could be the reason for his clogged artery and cardiac arrest. Some months ago, another younger WSC grad, Chang Yew Kee, died of heart attack in his sleep at the age of 49 - he was also working for a contractor.

This is not to prejudice the construction contractor business, but rather to say that we need to watch our stress levels, as stress is the single biggest killer.

After the wake, some of us suggested that we should meet at least once a year, before we never have the chance again. Sadly, it takes situations like these to renew interests to connect with each other. I used to phone them regularly, but gave up after sometime. I may have gotten a few phone calls from them (on their initiative) in the last 32 years, but too few to make a dent.

Perhaps now, things will change, alas getting back to be 'brothers' and 'sisters' in one big family - as we used to refer to ourselves as - back in the good old days.  :)

Monday, May 07, 2012

Feels Like 500 Miles

This is the 500th article and Vacuum State is completing its 7th year. Vacuum State started on the 4th July 2005, out of curiosity to dip my toes in the world of blogging and also the compulsion to express and share what I experience in my spiritual journey.

Prior to 2002, I was a hard-nosed engineer. Everything has to be logical and scientifically proven. If not, I would not take it seriously. That was the only way I would approach a subject and grow my interest in it.

Then one day in 2002, on a long and frustrating day, I decided to take a break and visit the Holistic Fair at Fort Canning, Singapore, not knowing at all what it was all about. There, I met the Self-Awareness Society and signed up for the 7-Day Transformation Journey and a Reiki I course with Master Parag Pattani, and I have never looked back since.

I began to experience the peace and clarity that I have overlooked when I was so busy running around working in the past. Through the clarity, I also began to get a 'feeling' of things to come. Then through Reiki, I started to feel vibrations of things around me, get a feeling of the meaning behind those vibes and see auras.

Then one day, unexpectedly during meditation, I merged into the ambiance in an instance.  I could not feel anything or any part of my body and was in total bliss. It was like I was not around, but yet, I knew I was there. Everything was ONE. And so I nickname this experience, and consequently the name of this blog, "Vacuum State".

There are many ways that the Universe reveals itself beyond the physical, some by vibrations, visions, feelings and even through numbers.

I found Dr Oliver Tan's numerology very useful and have since read the character of behaviour of numerous people based on their date of birth. Date of birth gives a clue to our character potential. However, there is no such thing as fate, but only destiny based on character, habits and thinking.

Similarly, our facial features are clues to our character and destiny as they are a result of our thinking. Hence to change our destinies, we only need to change our thinking. Nothing is fixed. Nothing is permanent.

What is most important is that my readings on my friends' date of birth and faces have helped them to understand themselves better and change their ways as they desire.

And so I share these new experiences in this blog.

I started attending talks by many spiritual gurus and write about them. Among them were talks by the Brahma Kumaris, the Art of LivingBuddhist Abbots, the Theosophical Society and other spiritually awakened teachers. Some of the talks in Chinese are interesting in that they look at the same thing in a very Chinese manner, from the perspective of 'balance' - the core precept of Tao.

I could then reproduce the speech almost in ad-verbatim in the blog. This is astonishing as I did not use any voice recorders. I don't know how I did it either, I just know and could almost hear the echoes of the speaker word-by-word, as I wrote. Perhaps I was so enchanted by the speakers that I was entirely in the present moment with a photographic memory like a child.

Then I also realised there are several very good videos online, like talks by Eckhart Tolle, Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, Ajhan Chah, Esther and Jerry Hicks, Hew Len, etc, and included them in the posts, as got more user-friendly to easily include video embeds.

The Buddhist Library's monthly Movie Nite in Singapore is also a good source of inspiring movies, carefully selected by the organiser for screening. You can read some of the movies here.

Then, I also joined a group called the Bucky Group in Singapore, who meet in an unlikely place of a hair salon called "Hair Affair" - on Saturdays and at MacRitchie Reservoir on Sundays. And they have been doing this for 17 years!!! They read books, watch videos and discuss the philosophies and teachings of Buckminster R Fuller.  There were also some video sessions that were kinda 'spiritual', like the group study of the "What the Bleep Do We Know" series, "Conversations with God" by Donald Neal Walsh, and talks by a Catholic Priest Father Anthony de Mello.

I am fascinated by the philosophies of Buckminster Fuller. He expressed the Universe in such a comprehensive manner and propounded that there are generalised principles governing what we see around us. And that what we thought were separate subjects in school like Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Mathematics,...etc, all belong to the same Universe obeying some 'generalised principles'. From such generalised principles come the technology to construct livingry - implements that improve the quality of living; though the other (destructive) use of technology to make weapons, called weaponry is much despised.

And so I started a series on "Technology", as it is a subject that helps us to do more with less and serve humanity. What more, I am a trained engineer and have been an information technologist for more than 20 years. It makes me proud to be a technologist. :)

The Education series was also inspired from the Bucky Group meetings and also through the books of futurist and author Alvin Toffler.

For a time, I also blogged about my experiences in the Futurist Group that was organised by Steffan Perner when he was residing in Singapore. That group stretched me beyond my comfort zone of looking at life and the future. I began also to listen to points of views of many atheists and some of their surprising anxieties of not being able to live forever, since they don't believe in God or reincarnation.

There are yet other atheists outside the Futurist Group that feel that they need to educate people that there is no god, and they are spreading this belief like a religion. I find this to be an oxymoron, as if they truly believe that there is no god, then there shouldn't be any belief to spread about. But, they are free to do what they like.

The same argument goes about their anxiety about the termination of life after death. If there isn't a life after death, then it shouldn't matter as one wouldn't be around to experience it.

Also through the Bucky Group, I got to know a Dr Aaron Lim. Dr Aaron is a botanist and runs a successful food business in Malaysia. He gives talks in Malaysia and Singapore on requests from people who knows him by word-of-mouth, with the seminar fees going to orphanages and children charities.

Dr Aaron's talks is yet another turning point in my life. He speaks about the light hidden in seemingly mundane day-to-day events and helped me to re-discover spirituality. Often, amid the maze and haste of our daily life, the soul behind what is physical is lost. He also taught me that one does not have to be poor, miserable and endure sufferings to be spiritual. Being 'spiritual' doesn't mean that you have to be financially poor, be submissive and allow everyone to walk all over you. In fact, being spiritual essentially mean the need to love yourself and stand up for yourself, as it is only when you are ok, that you can love and help someone else.

Dr Aaron's seminar series on the 105 Universal Laws, Spiritual Parenting, A Course In Miracles,...etc, espouse numerous spiritual reflections and explanations of what is behind many seemingly mundane daily events.

From there, I realised that spirituality is beyond religions, gurus and even the sit-down meditations. Spirituality is life, though we have been too blinded to see the light shining within; and our quest now is only to find our way home. So, I started blogging about everything from the spiritual perspective; beyond talks, books, videos and intuitive/paranormal experiences. The question  is that if there is something illuminating, or that there are lessons to be learned, then it ought to be in the blog.

I then blog about matters that are close to the common people, like  the monetary system,  usury and "design follies" as a protest against wasteful public constructions. I also write about the street concerts or  getais during the Chinese  Hungry Ghosts Festival.

Then, the light seems to shine everywhere I go. I even learn stuff going to the neighbourhood coffee shop, and that started the "Coffeeshop Thoughts" series.

Amid the 'everything' I blog about there are two topics that stand out: 

One is 'Nature', which never lies. Nature responds to what is around and offer what it has without expectations and without the need to understand the colossal whole but just with the mere faith that the whole will work seamlessly together.

My revived interest in 'nature' led me to think more about 'health' and ferment enzymes and wines. Fermenting wine is now a hobby. Alcohol is frowned upon by some religions and is also an extra load for the liver and kidney to process. However, taken in moderation,  enzymes in  wines aid digestion and carry nutrition to different parts of the body more efficiently.

My interest in nature also led me to join more nature walks. One particularly impressive one is the herbal garden maintained by Mr Tan and his team of volunteers. Together, they till the land and give out herbs free-of-charge. It is a labour of love and a service to anyone that approaches them. All these amid the rat race in highly urbanized and densely populated Singapore! Isn't this commendable?

The other topic of much interest is 'kids'. They are so true to everything and are in perpetual bliss. That is, until they hit puberty where the compulsion (and perhaps duty) to procreate distracts them away from the purity of their childhood. For that, I started the wonderful series of "Kids' Play".

My wish is that the "Kids' Play" series can someday be written as a script for a movie. There is so much innocence and wisdom in children. They have not forgotten as much as we have as adults. Children, together with puppies, kittens and flowers, are my window to the divine. Actually, there is someone I know who has got out of depression just by adopting a kitten - God does work in strange ways! :)

Then out of the blue in late 2010, I was spotted by a film director and asked to act for her film. What is more surprising is that some months later, two of the films won awards: one for the Best Film in the Singapore International Film Festival; and the other a Gold Award in the International Anti-Corruption Public Service Announcements Award, organised by the IAACA in Hong Kong. Further one of the feature films which I played a support role in, is securing world-wide distribution. Then, two months ago, I won the Best Performance Award in the 3rd Singapore Short Film Awards (2012).

And I have been getting many gigs - way above the average. The people I have met in the acting circles  have also been very kind to me. They have encouraged me, given me tips on acting, brought me gigs, and there were even producers who have paid me a little bit more without my bargaining for. This is amazing happening in a highly competitive industry which is tight-fisted with budgets.

I have learned a lot about society, human behaviour, life and myself through the scripts, roles and scenes I acted in, while getting into character and being the character, instead of outwardly 'acting' as the character. Like the master Sanford Meisner said, "Acting is the ability to live truthfully under imaginary circumstances."

There is so much I would like to write about 'acting' that I have now created a new blog Michael Chua, so as to separate the commercial aspects of acting away from Vacuum State which I would try to keep it away from dollars and cents, as much as possible.

Evidently, I am in the FLOW. It is easier to be in the FLOW, than against the FLOW. From here, I realised there is this 'flow' in our life. Learn to recognise this flow, and go along with it.  Especially when you are in the downside of your energy cycle and need an easier route.

So stick around with energetic people and avoid energy vampires - at least until you are ready to stand on your own. Places also differ in their energy levels. If you intuitively know of certain places that mysteriously energises you without your trying to perk up, then that place is likely for you. Frequent that place to charge up. And those energetic people and places need not necessarily be spiritual gurus, expensive life coaches, luxurious holiday resorts or grand churches. Sometimes, these humble saviors can appear as children, animals, a cozy corner in your house, or just your ordinary looking walkway by your neighbourhood.

My spiritual quests did not stop during my waking hours. At night while asleep, we all dream and I was curious about what goes on during that time. So I kept a dream diary and was surprised with its revelations about my sub-conscious thoughts and why I should watch them. Though of late, I have learned not to focus too much on 'watching' them, but instead to be sure that I control my thoughts and not let my thoughts control me. There were also instances when I meet people in my dreams first, months before I physically meet them in person.

I don't normally publish my dream log, but there is one so lucid that I have included it as a blog post in Dream Interpretation. That dream was probably about a mental tussle I have between spiritualism, organised religions and their accumulated material wealth. We store various thoughts in our sub-conscious everyday unknowingly, and re-organise them in our dreams.

I took lucid dream interpretations and logs one step further and ventured into astral travel. I did that with a master. During astral travel, everything I saw was no different from what I see in my waking hours.  There is virtually no difference apart from knowing that I am awake in my dream and have the ability to fly and walk through walls effortlessly. It is hard to convince those who haven't experienced astral travel about the surrealism of the experience, so I am not attempting beyond this.

The lesson I learn from astral travel is that it reminds me that whatever we see around us even during our waking hours are illusions, and so I will not take them too seriously. That means, I am IN this world, but not OF this world.

The other splinter blog that I have started is Vacuum State Travels, though I had not been updating it as much as I like.

There is a reasonable following in Vacuum State. Some have commented, some have corresponded with me, yet others have asked to meet up with me, which I did. It is all very encouraging. Vacuum State now averages 100-200 hits a day.

What I would love to see is perhaps a community emerging as a result of Vacuum State and also guest writers sharing their experiences. Every journey is unique and every journey would be a good mirror for oneself.

There are no easy answers of 'right' or 'wrong' in spirituality. I now look at matters as 'choices' and 'consequences'. Besides, what is 'right' or 'wrong' often depends on which side you are on or whether you are looking at it merely from a human perspective. For instance, a fallen tree on my roof would be considered a disaster to me, but would be a paradise for the termites.

There are even contradictions among religions and spiritual groups. I have been told by a spiritual group that Reiki healing is bad because it interferes with the person's karma. In another instance, a leader from another spiritual group turned pale when I told her I could feel vibes and channel healing energies. What is surprising is that she is willing to believe and revere the founders of her group, whom she believes are highly psychic, though she has not met before, nor are any of these founders still in the human plane. Yet she will not believe that one of her ordinary members standing right in front of her could possibly be psychic.

So accept beliefs that you are comfortable with and leave those that you are not. Not that what you did not accept was 'wrong', but rather that they did not resonate with you.

Of course, as we evolve in our consciousness, so will our beliefs. So our beliefs today may be our superstition tomorrow. We mustn't be foolishly attached even to our beliefs.

I believe if we were to put LOVE first, then everything else is secondary. As the late Teresa Hsu said, "When the Buddhists and Christians came to my place, they argue and cannot agree,... but when we speak about helping the underprivileged, everyone from both sides agree immediately." This, I think, is evidence that Love precedes all other rhetoric.

Personally, I do not have to agree with everything I listen to, or see. Sometimes I even learn a lot through disagreements. As such, I have even journal a Bucky Session that discussed about a book by an author I do not agree with. It is an exercise of separating the singer from the song. Read here.

There were also instances when I cheekily turned somebody else's article upside down on its head spiced with lots of sarcasm to see if we can force ourselves to look at the topic from an opposite direction. Read here.

Lest some of you may think that I am sitting here (or somewhere) in Utopia happily hacking away on my keyboard for Vacuum State, this is not quite the case. I am probably like most of you readers who  go through the daily grinds, tediums, frustrations and menial chores. I have also my fair share of encountering deceits, betrayals and injustice from people who continues to live in a degratory manner due to the insecurities of rejection and fear. Ultimately, we have to forgive them for they do not know - that they too, are divine. Our inner peace should never depend on them. And like most of you readers, I am learning everyday about myself and walking my own path.

I have given up wondering if all these are happening because of, or despite of all the problems that I had in the last ten years. Either way, it doesn't really matter. What is meant to be is meant to be, and everything happens for a reason.

Keeping up with at least one article a week in this blog is a challenge and that is why you  are not seeing such a frequency.  Not only that I am hard pressed for time and mind space, especially now that I have the new acting blog, but also the inspiration that has to come. Spirituality is unlike other topics like technology and finance where words can be crafted based on objective inputs. There needs to be inspiration for the words to flow and that is why sometimes I write in unlikely places like trains,  coffee shops or bus stops - whenever the light happens to shine. It is also often very hard to describe the experiences, as words can never encapsulate the whole experience.

This blog feels like 500 miles of a meandering and winding road, going through steep and undulating terrains for the last seven years.  It has been an enlightening journey. I always think that no matter what we do, whether we are conscious of it or not, we are taking a journey towards self-realisation. So enjoy the journey no matter what - accept all the sweet and sour, warts and all.

Last, but not least, a big HUG and THANK YOU for visiting Vacuum State all these years. Without you, the words will just go through empty halls.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Re-inventing University

Wrote the following in response to this picture upload, after my morning run yesterday. I didn't expect a long essay, but it just flowed. Here it is:


Universities need to be reinvented. No lectures. No lecturers. No classrooms. But a master curriculumnist that structures a syllabus to the student's needs, abilities and pace. Training material will be slides and videos, either from the university, or selected by the curriculumnist from the Internet.

The student can contact tutors of respective specialisations if they need academic help or if they have questions. At least half of the tutors must be full-time practitioners from the industry. The other half must be PhDs with ongoing research activities.

Exams will be set by a board, mutually exclusive from tutors and curriculumnists. Exams will test the students' knowledge and master of the first principles. Where practicable, all questions will be scenario based, preferably picking up a seemingly mundane happening that students see everyday. All questions are compulsory. There will be no multiple choice questions.

There will be no fixed quota to pass or fail students. Those who don't make the grade fail. Simple as that. The passing marking will be fixed at 50 marks.

There will be no students' appraisal of lecturers or anyone else. As there will be no lectures. If they fail, it will be their own bloody fault!!! 

Curriculumnists will be appraised by senior management of industries that employ his graduates.

Tutor performance is measured based on how many students under his charge pass.

Examiner performance is measured by how many students examiners fail.

Universities are funded based on number of students that pass (no mere headcount) and the quality of research work of their tutors. Quality of research work is based on the number references made to their papers and/or how many patents in their name are realised into products (and how successful are the products). NOT MERELY HOW MANY PAPERS THEY CHURN OUT IN A YEAR!!!

Now, the best part: since there is no physical classroom constraints and that all curriculum are individually customised, anyone keen can be admitted. There will be no school fees, however, students failing the course will have to pay the full fees of the course in arrears. Given that there will be huge savings in physical campus space, staff and the shedding of traditional infrastructures, governments should have money to afford this free education for all.


Then this morning, I got an email from about their newly created website at to encourage institutions to use their material for the lessons.

Such synchronicity!

Universities being turned into documentary video productions are mentioned by illuminating thinkers and authors like Buckminster Fuller and Alvin Toffler, as far back as the 1970s. Now we are seeing them in action.

For other posts on education, click here.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

My Actor's Blog

I have started a new blog to chronicle my acting journey. This is to separate the more technical and commercial aspects of my acting experience from the purer spiritual aspects of Vacuum State. This blog will continue to post articles from a spiritual perspective, whatever the subject matter may be, and that includes the subject of 'acting' and 'film making'.

Do visit the new blog "Michael Chua", by clicking here.

Do give me your feedback, as it is a new blog and comments and criticisms are critical to determine its future path.

And about the subject of "Who Am I?" as it depicted in the picture above. We are seen as different things to different people, but we are never what they think. We are not even what we do, for what happens is all outside in the phenomenal world in the physical plane. Who we are is more esoteric and more peaceful.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Enlightenment Guaranteed

This is a film screened by the Buddhist library on the 18th February 2012.
"Enlightenment Guaranteed" is a light comedy about two lost souls finding their way to a Zen monastery to rediscover themselves.

In the film, the two brothers are lost in Tokyo, but as it turned out, became an opportunity and experience for both of them to bond and understand each other. So, a seemingly adverse situation being lost in what was an outlandish city like Tokyo to them, turned out to be a blessing.  The secret here is to learn from the trouble itself.

The two brothers are contrasting characters: One who hasn't meditated before and another who meditates regularly, but it ended up that the one who hasn't meditated adjusted better to the strict and grueling monastery life. As the one who meditates regularly, took everything overly seriously and attempted to look for perfection in everything, leading to much psychological hardships during the retreat. Whereas, the brother who did not meditate before took in everything in his stride. Everything to him seems fine. Nothing worried him much.

Similarly, when we meditate, we do not look for perfection, but to go with the flow.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Kid's Play - Enterprise

There is this trusting little girl who never locked her school locker. Nothing had been lost, until one day when she left some sweets in it. The sweets disappeared, but some money was left there, presumably, by the taker.

Curious, she again left sweets in the locker, and then again found some money left there the next day, apparently in exchange for the sweets. 

Amazed, she repeated the process, but this time , leaving more sweets there, and voila, she found more money left in her locker.

She then thought this could become a business and bought more sweets to leave them in her locker, and true enough,  money flowed in and a business quickly flourished. Her locker soon became the popular de-facto candy store.

Then came a new student from a financially poor family who needed money. Realising that, she transferred her business to the new student and even bought the new stock.

And so, a social enterprise and micro-economy is born.

For more posts on Kid's Play, click here.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Remembering Chang Yew Kee

Two days ago, an old friend, Chang Yew Kee, died of a heart attack in his sleep. He was only 49. We were old Polytechnic friends and didn't get to meet after my departure from Singapore, and then we lost contact of each other soon after. 

During our Poly days, we were members of the Welfare Services Club. Then, we served the underprivileged in the Homes every weekend. It was also during this time that I learned the concept of the Buddhist espoused 'Cause-and-Effect' philosophy from Yew Kee. He also told me that he often pondered about the Buddhist ideal of ridding oneself of all desires, and that he would probably not be able to do so completely. This is something I ponder deeply myself too, till this day. 

It is important to treasure friends and express gratitude to them when they are still around. Truly, we don't know what comes next and when our time is up in this human incarnation. That is why I live everyday as if it is my last. I think it is better this way.

Lastly, I would like to take this chance to say a big 'thank you' to all my friends. Thank you for just for being my friend. 

 (Belated) Happy Valentine's Day!

Rest in Peace Yew Kee!

ps. Yew Kee has a Christian wake. I heard from his family that he converted to Christianity in the year 2000.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Kid's Play - Acting

It takes longer to act with kids, as their cooperation depends on their moods, and if you happened to hit on their lows, then your production will be stuck there for a while.

I was acting with a kid two days ago, in a scene which the kid character was supposed to have just gotten a severe scolding from me and that he was to sulk and to look miserable. However, he didn't play to instruction, and was instead, cheerful and restless. There were two ways for us to proceed: One, which was to scold him and make him really miserable (on and off-reel); or the second option, which is to persuade him.

We went for the second option, as we didn't want to run into the risk of putting him off acting permanently.

So the persuasion went:

Director: Imagine your teacher gave you a big scolding and you are now so sad.
Boy: But she didn't.

Director: Imagine if your most favourite toy is broken and you can no longer play with it! Forever!!!
Boy: But it is not!

Director: Ok, let's play a game. If you do what we tell you to do later, you will get a chocolate cake.
Boy: Ok.

Then we went for the shoot, but it still didn't quite work. He was still moving around and not looking sad at all.

So, the persuasion continued:
Director: Who else wants to play the game? But only the best person can get the chocolate cake as there is only one chocolate cake!

Everyone in the set quickly raised their hands. The boy then went into the set and performed!!! He saw competition! :)

For other articles on Kid's Play, click here.

If you like to visit my actor's blog, click here.

Friday, February 03, 2012

A Tale of Two Film Schools

I know of two film schools: School A and School B. 

In School A, the teachers deliberately mock their students' scripts and challenges them to substantiate or illustrate their story. The teachers expect the students to be able to stand up for themselves and defend their script. These teachers do not believe there is such thing as a ridiculous story (no matter how outlandish the students cut their story out to be), but whether it is one that is properly researched, structured, substantiated, depicted,...etc. They do not go along the directions of whether there is a 'right' or 'wrong' answer to the script, but only scripts that are well or poorly substantiated.

In School B, the teachers on the other hand, correct the the students' scripts, pointing to them what is wrong with their script and what needs to be corrected, what needs to be there in place and how to do it. The teachers get annoyed if the students think that they know better and argue against the teachers' suggestions. Teachers here believe that with their prior training, experience and maturity, they know better and that these young upstarts are merely wasting their time going one big round arriving at the  same 'right' answers.

For instance, in School B the teachers may comment that to play the role of a detective, the actor must look the part, ie. strong willed, lean, a good body gait, and other stereotype traits of how a detective should look like; and the students are supposed to cast an actor that looks like that.

In School A, the teachers will not change the student's choice of the actor, but will ask how the students are going to make that actor come up alive and feels like a real detective.

[Note: There are indeed examples of  untypical looking detectives in Hollywood, like Detective Theo Kojak in Kojak (who is wheelchair bound) and Jessica Fletcher, who looks more like a loving grandmother,  in 'Murder She Wrote'.]

In School A, students are assessed according to their final product, but also on their ability to defend their ideas and scripts. The final script may still appear to be ridiculous but yet well substantiated and described - that is, one that is able to convince the audience possibly of an unusual but interesting story. 

In School B, students are assessed according to their final product based on how they have corrected them according to their teachers' guidance. Errant students who refused to follow the guidance are  penalised.

There is no telling which one of these two schools come up with better scripts that win awards.

Which one do you think wins?

If you like to visit my actor's blog, click here.

Monday, January 30, 2012


. .
I have heard about Ho'oponopono and how Dr Len has facilitated the healing of an entire ward of criminally mental patients in Hawaii State Hospital. And he did that without even seeing anyone of them. However, when asked, Dr Len said that he didn't heal anyone, but worked within himself to let go of the 'data' in him that has caused the situation. That we are all cluttered with data, such that we have lost our Zero state. He says that we are all 100% responsible for what happens around us.
In Zero state, everything flows: like the right person will turn up at the right time and right place,...etc,   miraculously. That it can be so smooth that you don't even have to make a choice. He even added that if you have to make a choice, that means you are not clear enough.
This actually rhymes with what a wealthy Malaysian businessman once said to me when I interviewed him for a magazine. He said (in his halting limited English), "In life, no choice is the best choice". He said that as he related a time when he was financially broke and had nowhere else to go but to go to Indonesia to meet a cousin to start all over again. There was nowhere else better to go. Then, when over there, he grabbed the first opportunity that came, because he had 'no-choice'. Today, twenty years later, he is a fabulously rich man both financially and otherwise.
Then I thought "Has this Zero state happened to me before?  Has what happened to me in going into acting, a result of getting back to Zero?" 

The story of how I got into acting was surprising, even to myself. As it goes, I was asked to act in a film by a director who saw my photo online (not from an actor's portal), then during the shoot she praised me a lot and urged me to take it up acting as a career.  And so I believed her, and a year on, I have done over 40 gigs  and acted in two films that won international awards. And all that happened out of the blue, as I can't recall having made any intentions,about being an actor, at least not consciously.

The other experience I have was the watching of the video of Dr Len's explanation about his work. It came out of the blue from my friend who was screening the film. I attended the screening and in the video, heard Dr Len's mention of making 'solarised water' using blue glass bottles. Then there was a question from the audience of where one could find such blue bottles, and Dr Len said that if one is in the Zero state, then the blue bottles will turn up. At that point, I cheekily wondered if the blue bottles will turn up for me. 

"Where will I find those bottles turning up for me out of the blue?"
"Perhaps it will be at a pub, probably in town, like Clarke Quay?"

As it unfolded, I didn't go to that part of town nor any pub, but when I reached home, I found two blue glass bottles freshly washed in the kitchen!!! Now I must try getting water into those blue bottles, have them solarised and use them to 'clean' myself to get into Zero. Will keep you posted on my progress.

Actually going into 'Zero', isn't new. I can relate it to Guru's common advice to just "go meditate". And he often say that when you meditate, things will be clear and sorted. It is like polishing the diamonds. We are already the Divine - the Diamond, that needs polished, or 'cleaned' as Dr Len will call it.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Principles of (bad) conversations

1. We acknowledge one another as equals.

Remember to acknowledge everyone as equals, if you expect them to be able to listen intently (and so remember what has already been said), follow-up with what they have listened, and speak concisely and not hog air-time. But don't worry, because chances are that they won't,  so this is your opportunity to clobber the conversation.

The dangerous thing is to treat everyone as stupid or 'unequals', because if you do so, you will be too forgiving and patient to have a bad conversation.

2. We try to stay curious about each other.

Always wonder why on earth would they want so much to be right, since there are much more to learn from being wrong! Don't be fooled by their wanting to clarify themselves and that they have been frequently misunderstood.  Always be curious about why and how much ego they must have to not to want to listen to you, especially when you are older than them. Remember to insist that they are the egoistic one and not you. That way, you frustrate them and then they will blow up into a really bad conversation.

3. We recognize that we need each other's help to become better listeners.

This is your great opportunity to speak at length in your best English in complete sentences and to describe every nook and corner of your idea in monumental detail, to show others how clever you are and to teach others to be patient in listening. Reprimand them if they dare interrupt your speech. That way, they will have a lot of time to listen to you.

If you do this well enough, you may actually even get to listen to yourself. Learn how to speak general nothings in eloquent English, so that the conversation will still sound  impressive without getting into being good.

4. We slow down so we have time to think and reflect.

When the conversation is converging too quickly to a point, slow it down by throwing in some general statements to keep it divergent. Like, " there is no right or wrong answers", "there are many views and there are many ways of looking at them...", or "Over here, we all have different opinons, but we learn to accept everyone...".

But remember to say something that sits on high moral grounds and that is not contentious. The best way to do it is to quote from some famous motivational speakers and seminars you have attended. That way, you sound impartial and credible, and at the same time , throw everyone out of their tracks towards some understanding on converged points. So preferably, what you quote should be something out of context, otherwise you risk enlightening everyone. This is also to give them time to think and reflect instead of worshipping some singularly boring convergent 'truths'. 

5. We remember that conversation is the natural way humans think together.

Conversation and thinking are natural. They are as natural as crying out loud or walking over to the other person who disagrees with you and giving him one-tight slap! So don't break the spontanaeity. Even if you know that some speakers are spewing utter rubbish and wasting everyone's time, BE NATURAL! DON'T BREAK THE SPONTAENITY!

6. We expect it to be messy at times.

Yes! This is when you congratulate those who crack vulgar and irrelevant jokes at critical points of the discussion. Tell them that they are helping the rest of us get out of our tunnel visions and out of the box. Not doing so will allow everyone to flow too well into a good conversation. No, no, no, we can't have that!

Lastly, there is this mother of all principles of (good and bad) conversations. In fact, if you master this one, there may be no conversations to start off with. It goes:

"Maturity begins when we're content to feel we're right about something, without feeling the necessity to prove someone else is wrong."    --  Sydney J. Harris (1917-1986)

Note: This post is a parody of "Principles of Conversation". It shows that we can also learn from negative demonstrations. Also, points made on politically correct high moral grounds can still be twisted anyway you want if there is malice. I hope this article can be taken in the spirit of learning, albeit an unusual one. In other words and in the context of this post, the essential ingredient of a good conversation is compassion. Compassion = kindness + wisdom.

ps. Wrote this on my iPhone while waiting for relatives to visit me on Chinese New Year's Day.  As you probably suspect, nobody came!!  Guess they don't like bad conversations!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Acting - Ready, Set, Go...

This was unusual. I was feeling nervous before my voice-over assignment. I have never felt nervous before any shoot, not even my very first one. But this time, it got me till my stomach turned, like there is something I couldn't digest emotionally. Some regrets, some mistakes made, that I couldn't forgive myself easily.

Then as I entered the recording studio, as it turned out, the video clip to voice over was about a man regretting about his gambling addiction and his wanting to turn over a new leaf and then giving gratitude to his wife and family for their support. 

For some reason unknown to me (at least consciously) this was exactly how I felt. It was as if I knew the story before hand. Isn't it strange?!

If you like to visit my actor's blog, click here.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Acting - Beginner's Luck

This video from the Corrupt Practice Investigation Bureau (CPIB) of Singapore won the Gold Award in the International Anti-Corruption Public Service Announcement Awards 2011organised by the International Association of Anti-Corruption Authorities (IAACA).

It is only a 30 second clip, but took a whole day to shoot, starting at 2 am at the wholesale fish market in Sembawang. That scene took us till 5am, and then, we were to resume at 9am at Republic Polytechnic. With barely a few hours in between, I reckoned it was pointless to go home only to get refreshed and then having to rush back to the set. So I chose to go to Republic directly and slept on a canteen bench for a few hours.

The shoot resumed in one of Republic's student kitchen. Being a training kitchen, it was neat and comfortable, so the shoot was relatively easy compared to the commercial kitchen at Joo Chiat where it was hot and sticky, so I was quite surprised that we managed to pull off with our smiling  and sleazy look. The scene at Joo Chiat was quite long and we wrapped at 7pm!

The next film is the second film that I have acted in that has won an award, also last year,  called, "Hentak Kaki", directed by James Khoo, as his final year project in Lasalle School in Singapore. It won the Best Film, Silver Screen Award in the Singapore International Film Festival 2011. For more about the makings of "Hentak Kaki" and independent reviews, click here.

I attribute the two awards in the last twelve months to the dedicated and hardworking teams that I worked with and in part also to my beginner's luck as an actor. 

A beginner has advantages over older practitioners in any trade. A beginner is curious and  naturally open to explore any  possibilities to get something done, as he is fresh and doesn't know any better. A beginner is not bogged down by traditions and status quo - there is no pre-judgment and preconceived idea of how something ought to be done.

To continue to win awards, I will have to maintain this 'beginner's luck'. Steve Jobs put it differently, he urged young people to "Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish". How true!

For more posts about 'acting', click here.

If you like to visit my actor's blog, click here.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Happy 2012

The year much awaited for, 2012, has arrived. 

Many of my friends have sent me greetings of happiness and prosperity. Thank you very much. With such loving thoughts lurking around me, these greetings are surely to manifest! 

What will 2012 bring? If thoughts become things, then it is time to make our thoughts make the things we want - that means - making resolutions.

I usually do not make new year resolutions because I do not make a big deal out of the coming of a new year, in that I see time as a piece-wise smooth continuation, not one packaged into discrete modules of year, month and days.

But time seem to pass faster as I grow older, so my resolution this year is to be more conscious of spending each day to its fullest, as though it is my last (or first). Time not spent in the present moment is gone forever! Living in the heat of the cut-and-thrust economy, it is easy to forget this. Hence this resolution - an anchor to a thought.

What is your new year resolution?

For other posts on 'New Year', click here.