Don’t You Just Love Them Womenfolk?

4 05 2009

Exciting weekend, wasn’t it?

With bated breath I waited for the AWARE EGM to happen, what with all the controversies and venue-changes and my dollhouse-punting feminist eldest sister circulating emails about what injustices had transpired. Then Saturday came and went. I sent Liza to Suntec in the evening for a drinking session with one of her old friends, conveniently forgetting THAT was where a couple thousand angry women were gathered (though I suspect some were there to try out some new red t-shirts they were given at church the weekend before, or they were aunties that saw a long queue and thought, “eh, got free gift?”).

The day after that, I woke up to the voice of a newscaster on the radio saying the new guard had been ousted and a new exco consisting of old guard members had been instated. While buying lunch, I decided to purchase a couple of newspapers detailing the events that unfolded. Can you imagine, The Sunday Times was already almost all sold out in the Jalan Kayu area? I only managed to get a copy because its headline page was torn and the provision shop owner, in a valiant yet half-hearted attempt to salvage the remains of that copy’s dignity, slapped on a large crumpled clear tape on the tear hoping no one would notice (and he still charged me full price for it, the bastard).

I won’t go further into it, since the entire island has talked the event to shreds over the last 48 hours. What I do wonder is, where will the news punters go from here? I am definitely curious about the fates and futures of certain individuals and organisations that were behind/involved in/indiscriminately pulled into the fracas.

Josie Lau: What’s gonna happen to her? The new now-ex President of AWARE should have known that first step into the AWARE ex-co was going to be fraught with problems when her full-time employers started publicly complaining about her unannounced extra-curricular activities. For those of you still wondering why DBS was being so harsh on this woman when other DBS board members were happily frolicking around with their side projects outside of the Bank, I beseech you to please wake up, put on your glasses and read between the lines behind DBS’s statement. Very likely DBS, knowing the full extent of Ms Lau’s character, took the first step in denouncing her actions so appropriate action could be taken should she fail in her endeavour at AWARE. We shall see (cue snide evil laughter here).

Dr Thio Su Mien: Boy, is she going to lose business. Here we have a legal practitioner unable to talk her way out of a situation she created herself (and she did admit to creating this whole thing herself, didn’t she?). “I am a … very charmed… feminist mentor… on page 73.” Aiyoh, auntie (sorry, should be Lokler Auntie). People give you accolade, you dun rub in people’s face mah. Very chao kuan you know. That aside, it would be very interesting to know what becomes of her, seeing as this little debacle may permanently discredit her standing as a high-standing member of society. “Lokler ah? So?”

The Thio family: To a large extent, the local blogdom, and the media both contributed in bringing in an entire family into the fray of this saga. It was weird enough that Josie Lau got to where she was in the AWARE ex-co, then bad enough that her auntie-in-law came forward admitting to having orchestrated the new ex-co’s coming together. Then happy happy the husband also kena as an “I’m so angry, I’m going to write a letter” homo-basher, then Dr Thio’s daughter NMP Thio Li-Ann also got involved, and there are not-so-discrete whispers in the background of how the family’s now-blown-wide-open agenda is linked to the that previous rainbow-love saga involving Section 377A of the Penal Code. This whole thing has just made their entire family look like fish bait for queer sharks (and I use the term “sharks” in the nicest possible way).

Section 377A: Might the family’s involvement in the AWARE saga bring about a relook at the treatment of our rather dormant section of that age-old Penal Code? Many parallels can be drawn from AWARE’s EGM no-confidence voting, compared and contrasted to the much larger, yet somewhat quieter fight for and against the keeping of the Section in our law books back in 2007. I’m not trying to stir up AWARE’s involvement in the gay rights issue again, but the Dr Thio’s introducing her anti-homosexuality into the agenda of the new ex-exco does bring back some fond memories, doesn’t it?

The Church of Our Saviour: Oooh, this one’s a very unfortunate victim, and another fine example of what getting religion tied up in secular activities, whether on purpose or by accident, will get you. I won’t go so far as to say they might get dissolved, though. I believe the faith of the Church’s members will very likely keep that from happening. But in the eyes of the public, the unforeseen errors of its members’ actions have reflected the underlying agendas that build the foundations of its pulpit. As much as this is a case of its people doing injustice to its cause, we ALL know the line between church-goers and the church itself is a very very fine blurry line indeed.

DBS: Oh yes, the people’s bank. A few weeks ago, a column on Today sought to question the motives of DBS as it openly rebuked Ms Lau for her seeking office as President of AWARE. While initially both my wife and I didn’t particularly appreciate the tone in which the article was written, editor-at-large Conrad Raj seems to have hit the nail right on the head when he ended his piece with the question, “Unless there are other factors at play here?” I have also mentioned earlier how they might have had the foresight to voice their opinion about this whole Josie Lau debacle before the whole debacle even began. The recent turn of events against Ms Lau’s favour may have created a ripple effect involving the fate of her career, but as of right now, even I haven’t a clue how her company is going to handle this. Ooh, a cliffhanger! Who’da thunk it?

The war against alternative lifestyles on an inadequate platform has now turned into a fight of survival in maintaining reputations after a flurry of mistakes by seemingly respectable individuals. I have to admit, though I understand the nobility of this fight of making AWARE aware, now that the old guard is back home, I am a lot more interested in the high entertainment value of what’s about to happen to the ones that have been caught and kicked outside with their skirts down and are now walking around outside, forgetting their skirts are still inside.


Fine for Speeding (no really, it’s okay).

29 09 2008

So F1 has come and gone with more twists and turns than Mount Pleasant Road. The news coverage was all singing praises about the whole event, from the parties to the event organisation to the success of our hospitality industry during the period…

And now for the bad news.

My wife and I were driving on the ECP during the practice runs on Friday. Here’s what the news failed to cover. Multiple car accidents all along the particular section of the expressway route where the F1 cars happened to be zipping under. Apparently some of our local drivers were so curious about those foreign drivers and their very fast cars that they have been winding down their windows to listen to the engine sounds and trying to  catch a glimpse of the F1 action, resulting in inadvertent veering to the left and either hitting the side walls of the expressway or ramming into other people’s backsides. Accident, or expensive ploy to catch the race by positioning yourself on the expressway flyover by causing an accident? My wife and I kept laughing when we passed by car owner after car owner, either trying to sort out the mess they caused for themselves by being too kay-poh, or taking the opportunity from their accidents to continue watching the practice session.

I am soooo surprised that wasn’t covered in the evening news. Maybe The Noose will cover it.

Where opportunity allowed, I also watched the television coverage of the F1 event with much amusement, particularly when the on-screen dialogue was switched from the commentators to the driver’s comms radio. In the most beautifully seamless show of propaganda reporting, you can see the transition from commentators saying how great the event is going, how well-designed the track is and how unique the night race is for the drivers, to the drivers themselves saying how the track wasn’t tested before the race came to be, the crappy state of the street circuit (I think Hamilton said it was worse than Monaco, though I’m sure Felipe Massa will have a lot more to say about that) and how the lights that are supposed to light the track up like it was day was too blinding for proper driving.

So the drivers gave their verdict; did anyone care? I don’t know about you, but my nationalistic pride can only go so far; glazing over what the people who are most involved in the event have to say for the portraying only the best impression of what we have done is just asking me to lie.

But I will give this whole thing some slack; after all, it’s our first time, and we have at least 4 more tries to get things right (we have a 5-year run with this Grand Prix thing, after which the contract to hold more races will be re-negotiated), so for the sake of our country’s reputation as a successful social democracy, we better bloody well listen. And we did make the world sit up and watch, too. It would have been successful if all the cars came out of the race in one piece and nobody died, yes. But it was even more successful because 2 cars were totalled and someone from 15th position won the race (and more importantly, nobody died). Regardless of whether our inaugural Formula One night race was a success or otherwise, if it wasn’t eventful in the first place, who’d take notice?

19 September 2008, 11pm, Somewhere in Hougang

21 09 2008

The double-decker bus  on its way to Sengkang stops at the Hougang NEL entrance. But instead of moving off when the passengers who were getting off here had cleared out, the bus captain climbs out of his cockpit and makes his way to the rear of the bus, where a rather unkempt-looking middle-aged passenger is quietly sitting.

The passenger, wearing a brown floral short-sleeved shirt, 70’s fashion bermudas and cheap slippers, looked up tiredly at the bus captain that was now in front of him.

The bus captain’s first words upon eye contact with the man were, “Get off the bus.”

Hearing the sudden and rather direct command, the rest of the passengers had their attention immediately turned to the bus captain and the middle-aged man in the floral shirt.

Speaking in Mandarin, the bus captain then said again.”Get off the bus. Don’t think I don’t know, you bloody fare cheat. You tapped your card already at Aljunied. I’ve been giving you face this whole time, letting you ride more than 10 stops up to here.”

The man continued looking at the bus captain, tiredly, yet unflinching.

“You are always like that,” continued the bus captain, his voice getting angrier and louder by the second. “Two times before already you’ve come up on this bus and cleared your ez-link card after just one stop hoping to get off cheating me all the way to Sengkang. You think I don’t know, har? I’ve been watching you all this time! Always like that. No more chances! You either get off the bus now or you tap your card again.”

The man broke eye contact to look around the bus. By this time the commotion had everyone’s attention, including the majority of the people standing outside the bus waiting for their rides to come in. The bus captain’s voice was by now loud enough that everyone in a 10 metre radius of the bus knew what was going on. One Indian man even knocked on the window where the man was sitting and motioned aggressively for him to get off and stop wasting everyone’s time.

The bus captain’s tirade continued for about 5 more minutes. Through it all, the man barely showed any expression except the consistently slight hint of sad tiredness. After the bus captain snapped at him a 7th time to get off or tap in again, he picked up his shoulder bag, got off his seat, and got off the bus, walking away into nowhere, a hundred eyes burning a hole into the back of his head.


No doubt there’s always drama happening somewhere, but the best place to experience to soul of Singapore life is in public transportation. Through my years of resisting the urge to get a driving license, I have seen road accidents, bus fights, horny teenage couples having a go in the back seat of the upper levels, aunties having shouting match, young women breaking up with boyfriends over the phone, crazy people doing strange things… all in the comfort of a bus seat with not enough leg room for someone my size.

What happened above there though, was a cut above the rest. True that the bus captain was doing his job, but to get so annoyed and create such a ruckus to embarrass a passenger the way he did without even so much as a wonder why the passenger was so hard up to cheat on bus fare

He may or may not have deserved anyone’s sympathy. I’m not sure he deserves mine. But somehow, I caught a glimpse of what may well be a story behind the sad look in his eyes as he was confronted by the bus captain those few long minutes. And there is a lesson to learn here about cause and effect; to always consider what is the cause for the effect before jumping to accusations, no matter how right or how justified you are.

Chasing Memories

25 08 2008

This is the last blog to expect successful promotion of any product, but I felt the need to do this, if only for the things that it has done to me, for me.

It’s called The Resident Tourist ( Created by one Troy Chin (I-S calls him the Underground Maverick, which cannot be more true), it’s a comic strip drawn and written by someone who isn’t into the comic book genre in the first place.

He was born in the same year I was, and pretty much the same period many of you are. He’s lived the same era we did, and pretty much thinks the same way a lot of us do. I do, anyway. If his comic books are anywhere close to accurate, he’s not currently in any paying job, so I’m heading out to buy his graphic novels, not so much to feed him, but to firstly let him know I share his vision for making this happen, and secondly to keep a part of the memories I’ve had as a child growing up in Singapore in print, for myself, and hopefully the generation ahead of me (that happens to be popping out in another 4 months).

It’s uncanny, to say the least, when I clicked on page after page of Troy’s site, immediately recognising the images he accurately rendered of the places I’ve been, past and present. What’s even more uncanny is the fact that he lives in my area, and seeing the images of the surroundings I see every day depicted with such accuracy in a graphic novel gives me goosebumps.

More importantly, though, is how his stories, whether they form the crux of the novels themselves or stray from it as an aside, are so closely reminiscent of my own childhood and current disposition. To say he is a voice for the fat lot of us 80s’ children in Singapore may be stretching it a bit, but at the very least he has seen the things I have seen, and felt the things I felt. (Crikey, I even look like him right now, but then only because I’ve been too broke to get myself a haircut.)

I’ve since been asking my secondary school friends about our past, particularly about some of the things we experienced in our childhood that Troy has detailed in his books. Not to reminisce, though; to remember, because I had flat out forgot everything until Troy came along.

Perhaps I always wanted to forget. The one thing I do remember is wanting to forget. I didn’t think my childhood was that much of a stunningly good time to begin with. I had my fair share of suffering, school bullies (who travelled in packs), government-employed schoolteachers who put you down like you were nothing, and parents who expected too much of their children, and thought too little of their children’s friends.

I just about succeeded too. I did too good a job of it though. It wasn’t until I hooked up with Terence and Eddie again a year or so back that I started remembering again. And even then when we met up for beer every now and again, I would get lost in their memories of our childhood, because I had already largely forgotten everything, the pretty girls and their names and cup sizes, the good teachers and their lessons that no textbook covered, the friends that taught you everything else, the good times.

Troy Chin gave me a reason to remember. I remember Nintendo and Delta Force, arcades and shooters like G Darius and 1942, bo-tak-cheh gangs, and secret shops that rent Nintendo playing time at $1.50 an hour. I remember the one schoolteacher that made a difference that 100 other schoolteachers combined could never hope to impact on a child’s mind, and primary school boys who stuck together and called each other “friend” because no one else would bother with them. Most importantly, I remember being a Singaporean child fighting for (or against) conformity to the society this country has built around him, fighting against the loneliness of being different, fighting with adulthood, and fighting with the idea that despite everything that this country has represented in the past or in the present, I don’t hate the place.

Thanks to you, I remember everything now. And I never want to forget it again.

Winning 4D – The Parental Edition

22 08 2008

Those of you patriotic enough to have followed our Prime Minister’s National Day Rally Speech would have noted with interest the announcement of enhanced maternity package that were to take effect 1st January 2009.

Xander’s supposed to be check out of his hotel 26th December 2008.

Those of you well-adjusted enough to follow the news last night may have also heard a report going along the lines of “maternity package backdated to August 17th 2008“.

It’s kind of like buying 4D, then realising the numbers you bought were the winning numbers for last week, and THEN after 2 days, realising your ticket was actually dated last week.

It must be an interesting time for 2nd-trimester parents-to-be around the island, as it was for us. As my wife and I were sitting in front of the TV in her parent’s home watching the first news report, her brother-in-law kept saying, “Oi, you must tell your baby, lun (忍) one week ok? You keep your legs crossed for one week, then you can get more money.”

To explain that the process of going into labour is a little more complicated than spreading your legs and popping the hood would just have diminished the humour of the moment, even though he’s already got a son of his own crawling all over my in-law’s maisonette like a smiling, drooling cichak. But I digress.

For the next couple of days after that, we were working on accepting our fates as not-as-rich-as-parents-who-are-going-to-have-slightly-younger-kids-than-us parents, because we both kind of agreed that Xander should be introduced to the world in the most natural way possible. If this meant he was going to miss the mark and pop his head out on Christmas day while our gynae’s skiing in Switzerland and our car is out of petrol and I have to be the midwife in a home birth of my own son, so be it. (Fortunately our gynae has confirmed she will be around to deliver the baby, and petrol prices have dropped).

Frankly the situation isn’t that hard to accept. The current maternity package already ensured a small amount of security for starting out Xander’s life (at least for the first few months). That plus the fact that our intention for having a kid in the first place was to have a kid; anyway, it never really crossed our minds that there was a maternity package to collect while Xander was being conceived.

And then last night, while I was tidying the study and my wife was in the living room half-listening to the TV and half-reading her Facebook, I heard the words “package” and “backdated” in a news trailer (the concept of a news trailer suddenly seems strange as I type it out; it’s like predicting what will be in the news). I came out of the study and asked her if she heard anything about a package being backdated. “No, not really,” was her reply.

I went back to my work in the study, but then about 30 minutes later, I heard it again. And then the news finally came on, and the full report had answered my question: “The Tays Win 4D with a Backdated Ticket”.

I came out to the living room again, and my wife was looking up at me from the sofa, wide-eyed and hands on her currently occupied serviced mini-apartment of a belly. “So what does that mean?” she asked, not fully aware of what had happened, and even less aware that her baby was slowly taking her brain cells for his own, rendering her slightly more blonde than usual.

I said, “That means we’re getting the enhanced package after all.” She looked at me with the same beautiful wide eyes, and smiled a little. “Oh,” she quipped, and continued smiling as she started patting her belly.


And you think we’re lucky. One of our colleagues just gave birth to a baby girl on August 18th. It’s almost like the government was backdating the new maternity package because of her.

Possible Final Theory Question No. 23

8 08 2008
His student left 2 hours ago.
His student left 2 hours ago.

Question 23: When your driving instructor falls asleep while you’re on the wheel during your 4th practical driving lesson, it means:

a) he’s not a good instructor.

b) you’re quite a good driver.

c) all the motorists on Singapore roads are good drivers.

d) no motorists on Singapore roads that are good drivers.

It is, of course a trick question, meant to analyse a student driver’s state of mind more than his ability to recognise road regulations.

If you pick answer A, you’re a typical Singaporean who likes to complain and no doubt will call up the driving school to tell on the poor guy.

If you pick answer B, you’re too damn full of yourself.

If you pick answer C, you’re dangerously optimistic about life and should never be granted a driving license.

If you pick answer D, you may have deduced that given the quality of instruction as has prompted the creation of this question, one can safely assume there can be no such thing as a good driver.

FYI, this happened to me just this morning. I reserve my right to withhold the details of the lesson, only because it turned out to be quite a peaceful drive which I wouldn’t mind having more often.

The Little Drummer Boy

6 08 2008

I met up with a friend last night who’s leaving Singapore in 11 days to pursue a long-time dream: to perfect the art of rhythmically banging a set of nicely lacquered wooden cylinders bound with tightly wound skins using a pair of sticks in the most complex manner possible. Once in a while he also involves metal plates in the process. And yes, there are educational certifications for this kind of thing.

I would never have thought he’d be able to transcend into jazz drumming. When I first met him, he was an overzealous punk drummer who couldn’t keep time (though to his benefit, he was usually only off a split second). That being said, we had a lot of fun in our day, and still do. We were close enough friends for my mother to think at one point we were bisexual lovers, and I still sometimes wonder if I should have cleared that up properly with my mother.

Today, he’s grown into a fine, dread-locked young man who unfortunately will not be filling the void of talented local drummers here, and only because he’s flying to New York.

The reason why it’s important for me to mention him today is because, as with most friends that go overseas either to study, work or find a girlfriend, I don’t really know if I’ll ever see him again. The thing I find increasingly fascinating about Singapore is that it somewhat reflects that old Hotel California cliche: when you start thinking for yourself, you realise you’ve checked in, but you’ll always want to leave (cue guitar solo).

I had the same feeling when my wife (before she was my wife) left for Canada. It helped that I had gotten over my fear of computers and ICQ was in its prime during that period, but when someone in your life, whether it be someone close or just a mere acquaintance, decides to partake in a semi-permanent life in a land far, far away (herein defined as anything that takes more than 4 hours to get to by plane), there’s always a niggling feeling in you that they might actually not think of coming home at all, ever.

It’s almost like someone is dying, except you’ll probably still get to talk on MSN Messenger once in a while after the person goes.

My wife also mentioned last night that going overseas for an extended period of time can really change a person. She says when one makes that step into the big world and starts to discover what it is really like, one of two things can happen; you either get into the swing of things and assimilate into a new lifestyle that is required of your environment, or you get culture shock and lock yourself up in your room. Either way, you become cynical, jaded, and lose that childlike innocence that everybody likes about you. I’m not sure if that’s gonna happen to this guy, but these days, I’m not sure about a lot of things. I’m cynical that way.

That being said, he is already making changes to his persona in preparation for the Big Apple. He’s got dental work done, and contact lenses; after all, jazz drummers from New York don’t wear braces, and all that flaying around with sticks and metal plates means spectacles are also out of the question. He’s never thought of using, much less buying, a laptop, and last night he asked for advice on buying a Mac, which he somewhat regretted after remembering what I wrote about the topic of advice. And in the days of the little drummer boy and me in school, I’d almost always pay for his lunch because he was mostly broke. Last night he paid for dinner.

I never like admitting I fear change, but I do feel another chapter of my life being relegated into the already-read pages of a book I won’t get a chance to read again.

There is probably a chance we’ll meet again. He still owes me a copy of the Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy Omnibus I lent him in school, not to mention a bunch of CDs I’ve long since forgotten about.

And I want to believe we’ll meet again.