Friends Will Be Friends… or will they?

29 06 2008

My social life is nothing to brag about. In the history of my social life, there have been 4 kinds of people; friends (the people who actually do think of me once in a while), enemies (the people who will have nothing to do with me, or whom I will have nothing to do with), acquaintances (the people who couldn’t really care less), and family (the people that have no choice in the matter).

Also in the history of my social life, I have had to make quite a few tough decisions. We’ve all heard of breaking up with boyfriends and girlfriends, but has anyone ever broken up with a friend?

It’s a rare occurrence, but it does happen. I happen to see it on TV a lot, but in real life, most people just drift away, regardless of whether they are best friends or mere acquaintances (the latter seemingly more prone to drifting than the former, but all are just as susceptible).

I live by a set of principles presented to me at different points in my adult life, and thankfully, I am careful enough with who I call “friend” to not have to engage these principles often. But situations do arise nonetheless:-

  1. A friend does not stand another friend up (in local terms, we call it “let go my aeroplane”, for some godforsaken reason). It shows one is being taken for granted, and a friendship like that will not hold up under fire. once, twice, three times, five times, I would go, “Right, OK.” But if, of all the 50-100 times that a date and time has been set for lunch meetings, friendly gatherings, or even sit-downs for coffee, if you can only make good a meeting twice in the course of a 3 1/2 year friendship, please don’t blame me for giving up on you.
  2. A friend does not insult another friend (nor the people revolving around that friend, for that matter). This one, though, is quite subjective. I have laughed at people, and people have laughed at me, so surely I can take a lot of shit (I write a blog that’s enrolled in, for crying out loud). But here’s a tip for anyone reading this who’s a friend, courtesy of one ex-friend of mine that, earlier this year, broke this very rule (I could only take so much from that one, and I realised after our last meeting why I hadn’t called him for 2 whole years); don’t overdo the name-calling (pig-brain, jerk, stupid), and never, ever, joke about my decision to marry, much less make fun of my wife’s integrity in choosing me.
  3. A friend does not use his personal problems as an excuse to vent, snap at, or ill-treat other friends. As much as I would like to think I am close friends with someone, and as much as I would like to think I understand someone, I cannot claim to completely know what that someone is going through despite my own experiences, and hence will not tolerate being treated like an emotional punching bag when something untoward happens to this someone else. I can be there for you to share your problems, dish out advice, offer what I can as a friend. But if I am met with disdain, impatience, or even anger for something I didn’t even do to you, evidently you don’t require me as a friend, and so I will offer what I can as a friend; an end to this friendship, because you couldn’t care less.

As difficult as it is for me to call friends friends, the friends that I’ve called friends made it easy (except, of course, for situations 1, 2 and 3 above). These are the people who know and love me for who I am, and don’t mind me for all the shit I bring along with me. Most importantly, I am their friend as well. They have my utmost gratitude for being there for me, my sincere apologies for the inconveniences I have caused them, and any body part they require that will not cause permanent damage to my health (a helping hand, a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on, etc.).

And in the future of my social circle, I hope to never create any more new principles against friendships. But some things, as with life and death and many many other things in between, are inevitable.


Vampire Durian Puffs, Anyone?

26 06 2008

So the Balestier Food Centre has finally reopened to little fanfare. my wife and I went to check it out earlier this week, and we found it’s being run by the Banquet people (which largely means no pork anything there, though we have yet to verify that).

My first impression of the place was laid upon me when this stocky gruff-looking man in a slightly dirty white t-shirt comes up to my wife and I asking if we want to try the durian puffs he was selling (this happens to be the first stall you will encounter when walking into the new food centre, a branch of 717 Trading, specialising in durian confectionery and other cakes and pastries). He then goes on to say, “I call these durian puffs vampire puffs, you want to know why? Because on first bite, the puff will drool into your mouth like … mmmm …” and then he was cut off by my wife’s uncontrollable laughter.

No doubt this was good stuff, but before I got down to dessert, I wanted to get through lunch first. So I told the vampire puff man, “We’ll come back. It’s too bright for vampires to be around anyway.” Upon hearing my indiscriminate generalisation of the vampire species, Uncle Durian Puff went on to add, “No, no! I only cater to Daywalkers,” prompting another interruption by my wife’s uncontrollable laughter. We started walking away from the stall, bemused and bewildered, as Uncle Durian Puff called after us, “You come back and buy now, ya?” (almost reminiscent of our Chinatown incident, actually).

Okay, that was not the weird thing. THIS is the weird thing. During lunch, we were constantly reminded of Uncle Durian Puff’s existence in this food centre. After I started tucking into my carrot cake lunch, I almost spat out my first bite when I felt a slight brush of air behind me, turned around and saw Uncle Durian Puff’s face saying to me, “I know where you sit now…”

… and then halfway through our meal, he came back again, this time tapping me on my shoulder and shaking a finger at me with a smile…

… and then towards the end of our meal, he was behind me once again, this time apologising if he seemed to be disturbing us…

If not for the fact that I was genuinely interested in the durian puffs he had to offer, I would have bolted from lunch and ran back to office to pray for Buddha’s blessings. No, Uncle Durian Puff, I don’t think “disturbing us” is the correct phrase to use. “Stalking us” would be more appropriate.

At any rate, we decided to head back to the durian confectionery stall to see if the vampire puffs were really all that bloody good (pun intended). We bought a box, and tried to sneak off while uncle Durian Puff was out of sight, but as we turned around, there he was, staring up at us (he was a bit short), asking us if we wanted to try his vampire puffs.

We raised our plastic bag containing the 6 little puffs we had purchased to his eye level, signifying that we had purchased said durian puffs, thank you very much, please don’t follow us home. He then looked at the bag for an instant and said, “But I just want you to try, I never asked you to buy!”

To the benefit of Uncle Durian Puff, as creepy as his appearances were during the course of our lunch hour, his durian puffs really are quite fantastic. On our way back to office, we opened up the box of puffs and each popped one into our mouths. The moment the puffs started “drooling into our mouths”, we stopped dead in our tracks. It’s just one of those things that can only be described as an “oral orgasm”. I wouldn’t say they could be described as vampire puffs, though.

Note: After doing a search on the Balestier Food Centre  premises and finding this forum thread, I probably wouldn’t recommend the place to anyone either. To our experience, my carrot cake was so-so, my wife’s chicken rice was mediocre at best, and one of the thread contributors was right; my wife paid $4.80 for the 6 puffs that cost only $4.20 everywhere else. As good as the puffs were, and as nice as Auntie Durian Puff (the person who sold us the puffs while we thought Uncle Durian Puff wasn’t looking), I’ll probably be getting my “vampire puff” mix the next time I have a job to collect at Botak Sign, Highland Centre.

You sold me at “Hello”.

25 06 2008

Last night my wife and I went to Best Denki, Sengkang. Now, to pre-empt anyone reading this who finds my opening sentence remarkably mundane, I would like to present one of my life’s longstanding mathematical formulas:

Me + Electronics Stores = Me – Money

The other interesting point to note was that the last time I went into this particular Best Denki, one of the salespeople literally pissed me off with his wonderful lack of social experience (that would be another story for another time).

Last night though, one person managed to make me forget my previous experience enough for me to blow $800 on a home theatre system (incl. their 5-year warranty), AND convince my wife that we were spending good money. And he even made us pay for the damn thing without bringing it home!

To be fair to the guy and not label him the new hyper-charismatic cult leader of the Almighty Besty Denki Ukili sect, I have been eyeing this particular piece of audio machinery for a while now, having first heard of its launch through various audiophile websites and reading through reviews of the people who have seen or owned it. So I was immediately drawn to the Onkyo section of the store when I saw the model number displayed with a large $749 staring back at me. Then this skinny guy came in and turned all geek on us as we enquired on the set. (I mean this as a compliment; there has never been a Best Denki, Courts or Harvey Norman salesman I have ever encountered who even knows what they were selling, much less talk in-depth about the specifications of the products they were in charge of.)

My wife was suitably impressed by his sales talk, but I was ever skeptical of all who employ any kind of sales talk and asked to try it out. Of course, it being an Onkyo, the performance was nothing short of superb. The following monologue (roughly put) is what really impressed me about this person’s salesmanship:

“This is the kind of quality you would expect from Onkyo. They’ve been making high-quality audio systems for the  better part of 60 years, and this is their first foray into budget systems, but even then it’s still about 100-200 dollars more than what you would pay for any other model outside this (Onkyo) section. To put it nicely, this would be Onkyo’s entry-level home theatre system. To put it not-so-nicely, this is Onkyo’s worst offering, but that goes to show, even at Onkyo’s worst, the quality still far supersedes its competition. That’s how high a standard they set for themselves.”

It actually isn’t so much what he said that got me into buying this set. It was more the fact that he said it after I was ready to buy it. That just says a lot about his passion for what he was selling.

Why don’t we have it at home then?

My wife: “Okay, we’ll take the black one.”
Saleperson: “All right.” – Pause – “Uh, you really want to take the black one? The piano black finish on the speaker bodies are quite hard to take care of. Plus you might have to wait -”
My wife: “Oh, is it sold out?”
Salesperson: “No. It’s just that… put it this way, it is just islandwide out of stock.”
Me: “…”


But far from being offended, we all started laughing. That’s the magic of good customer service; if you establish good relations with the person you’re trying to sell to, you can bloody well get away with almost anything, including making lame wisecracks, selling air, and making a seriously broke couple even more seriously broke.

At any rate, do check out the Onkyo HT-S3100; it’s a real bang for your buck, and worth throwing out that plasticky 5.1 system you got free with your $2000 TV. Stocks should come in early next month, but black is always in limited supply. If ever you see any store bring the HT-S4100 (comes with iPod dock) or the HT-S5100 (comes with 7.1 surround instead of 5.1) to Singapore, do let me know in the comments section.

Christmas in Chinatown

24 06 2008

The other day, my wife and I went to Chinatown for dinner and a little walk. She had wanted to get some more inspiration for our wedding and I just wanted to get some dinner. So we went down to the good old hawker centre just off Pagoda Street, and we realised a little trend in Chinese small business trading.

We chose a table right in front of a dessert stall, presumably run by a rotund little middle-aged lady dressed like a silverfish with a weight problem. She had thinning, light brown hair tied into a ponytail, silver spectacles encrusted on the sides with glimmering plastic diamonds, silver tights (oh my god), a similarly glimmering plastic diamond bracelet, and yet another glimmering plastic diamond encrusted clam-shell phone hanging around her neck.

As we sat down, Tinkerbell Upsized came up to us and asked if we wanted to have any dessert. Looking at her stall signboard, and getting vaguely interested in the peanut paste they had, I told her we would order later, to which she replied, “All right, but order from us, here OK?”, all territorial-like.

Later, when I came back from buying my food, my wife, who had ordered a Coke form this woman’s stall through a stall worker, told me Big Fat Silver Bullet came up to her and questioned her over her drink, saying, “We have Coke here too!” When my wife annoyingly clarified this Coke was actually from this woman’s stall, the woman then tried to make amends by making small talk with her, something I have learned (and am still learning) over the years never to do with my wife.

Come on, gimme a break, Madam Swarovski with the big silver thighs. I actually wanted that peanut paste until I heard your story. You’re wearing so much glittering plastic diamonds, one would wonder how anyone could see the signboard with all that light in their eyes. For that matter, you really shouldn’t dress like your Silver Jubilee White Christmas in June; one would think you earn more than enough to warrant anyone’s patronage.

But such is life in Chinatown. I reflected to my wife this may well be the business culture here, because Blingbutt isn’t the only person we came across that was so greedy for customers to the point of making ridiculous requirements such as “you sit here, you must buy from me”. All along Pagoda Street, tailors, Chinese fan-sellers, tourist shop salespeople, and dare I say even the customers in many instances, are all less-than-subtle when it comes to attracting customers, offering deals, forcing sales and showing their displeasure when things do not go their way. It’s a small business, for crying out loud! Passer-by traffic is so high in Chinatown on a Sunday afternoon, just get over it and head on to the next sale already!

In any aspect of life, even when distracted with the smaller details, one should never forget the bigger picture. And whilst keeping sight of the bigger picture, don’t ever forget to manage the details well either. Oh yeah, and don’t lay crap on the people you serve too.

Don’ch Touch Me!

23 06 2008

Anyone catch that episode of Incredible Tales last night that ripped off the Exorcist script, Singaporean style? My wife and I particularly liked the part where the possessed woman look sat this man accusingly and snaps at him in her most tryingly menacing tone, “Don’ch touch me!” Never fails to make my wife roll her eyes, and never fails to make me wonder how come this woman (whom I have noticed on many bit-part TV appearances) still cannot shake off her Lian-ness after all this time?

Well, even after that spine-tingling, goosebump-inducing, oh-my-god-get-some-decent-acting-advice 3-second performance, I still managed to catch a bit of last night’s episode… enough to realise what it’s all about, and really wonder what the scriptwriter was thinking. The exorcism scene is a perfectly flawed rendition of the actual Exorcist scene. How does anyone of sound mind and body take the phrase “I am Legion, we are many” and translate it to “We are legion, there are many of us, too many to count”? I imagine the pained expression of the actress’s face to be the pain of actually having to say that out loud whilst trying to look convincing.

Oh, what I would do to put my hand in the pool of scripts in Mediacorp and change the way these stories are written…

Lolcatz Anonymous

19 06 2008

more cat pictures

Iz addiktud to LOLcatz.

Slavery of Choice

17 06 2008

After all, it\'s only your face.

Every day, we are faced with choices. What to have for breakfast, what to wear to work, where to go for dinner, whether to just kill the lizard that’s been bugging you and your hamsters in your apartment for the last 5 days, and has just escaped from sitting comfortably in your sofa. Freedom of choice. Every day.

The funny thing about choices is that they become mistakes so easily. And then you start to think to yourself, why did I go and do that instead of this?

The even funnier thing is, sometimes, you get blindsided too. There are choices you make that can slap you in the back of the head without you even realising it can do that. Eating crabs, for example. Innocently thinking that your pregnant wife does not need help reading her father-in-law’s handwriting while compiling the wedding list and going off to eat cold flower crabs can earn you a cold shoulder for the rest of the night and the bulk of the next day.

I am convinced this is a very annoying genetic trait passed down from man to man, ever since Adam left Eve in the cold and went frolicking with the deer, leaving her to eat apples with snakes. We can be damn clueless when it comes right down to making choices that consider the sensitivities of those around us. Though most of the time we do all right, as careful we are at the best of times, we still manage to get in trouble in the not-so-best of times.

In this instance, my downfall is food. Every time I get even the slightest bit hungry, my brain starts this chemical reaction that will lock me in to the nearest available edible item, like a moth to a flame, only less fatal (well, depending on the situation). I am half-bulimic; I love to eat, but forget to retch.

Damn flower crab.

When choices become mistakes often enough, Pepsi is the last thing on your mind. You become enslaved by your choice, and then in standard once-bitten-twice-shy fashion, you are afraid of making any other choices that come your way. And the kicker is, life is all about choice. Every single turn you make, there is a choice to be made; slavery of choice.

Even writing about this might have been a wrong choice.

Damn flower crab.

Apologies may not be very effective at this point, but I would like to say sorry on behalf of the damn flower crab – and myself – for making the choices I made that led to my writing a totally incoherent, meaningless post.