The Public Life of a Private Person

23 06 2009

I always thought the word “blog” sounded like the name of a word game popular with teenagers, childish adults who happen to be proficient in the English vocabulary and groups of people who didn’t have to work but rent chalets in the weekends for barbeques, walking around aimlessly in thong slippers and group make-out sessions.

Oh wait. I may be thinking of Boggle.

My dad asked today, “This is one thing I don’t understand; why do people blog? What is so useful about writing a diary about your personal life that you don’t necessarily want people to know on a website for all the world to see? Why are you so stupid?” (Quotation marks make exercising your creative license so much more realistic, but even then, that really was the gist of what I got from him.)

He was speaking in reference to the accident I wrote about in my last entry that, at the time of writing it, I felt I needed to get out of my system, hoping the topic would never resurface in conversations again. So my dad’s last question does have it’s relevance.

You may also like to note the one and only comment from my most ardent one and only biggest fan surfacing a day later at the bottom of that post. She just so happened to be at my family table tonight, raving about my humour in writing and how everyone should go take a read. “The Father’s Day one was so farnee! Pity about the accident.”

3 sets of eyes suddenly turned to me wide-eyed. “What accident? What happened?”

I rolled my eyes and proceeded to perform a badly edited re-run of the chain collision that gave me a week-long bout of misery, shame and embarrassment.

I was subsequently subjected to a whole new round of misery, shame and embarrassment.

“Do you know you’re in debt?”

“Why you waste money on car rental? Where is your sense of priority?”

“Wah lau. Last car some more.”

“You know you could have just borrowed my car.”

“Next time take MRT lah.”

“Why you go and blog about this if you didn’t want us to know?”

“Why you so stupid?”

And so, walking home from the MRT station with my iPhone in my hands and a cigarette in my mouth, I continue with my highly successful habit of being stupid by blogging about things I probably don’t want people to know about.

Why do I blog? I don’t gain anything out of it. I’m providing light entertainment to a grand total of 4 people, all of them in my immediate family. And of my ginormous fanbase, only 1 bothers to comment regularly.And that one faithful reader just happens to be the one that got me into trouble in the first place, conveniently and quietly leaving the table while the free-for-all stares in disbelief and questions about my intelligence level started to fly in my general direction.

I blog because I need an outlet. I write because it’s really the only way I know how to communicate in a true comprehension. I publish because I hope that one day my words will be able to inspire imperfect people with imperfect lives to laugh at themselves, and I wait for the perfect people to like what I say and offer me a job. I speak my mind of my own life because I want my son to read this one day, to know who daddy is, to know what he did, when he did it and how ridiculous life can be even for a 30-year-old man (give or take a few years), and most importantly, that it is perfectly fine to be living an imperfect life.

I have a blog called My Ivory Throne because it’s rhe one place I can really offload shit, and there’s really a lot of shit in here, my shit, my words, my memories, that will remind me of how I survived, teach me how to survive and survive beyond my years (as long as I keep backups).

My dad still thinks it’s stupid though.





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.





I Should Get Poisoned More Often.

4 11 2008

Food poisoning is a very effective, albeit uncomfortable, diet plan.

In the last 48 hours since I’ve been afflicted, I’ve lost over 3kg. If this goes on, I’ll be back to my old army physique in a month (oops, I think I just gave out how much weight I’m supposed to lose).

The doctor also told me yesterday, I am suffering from food poisoning not amounting to diarrhoea. I thought he was reading me a criminal charge, like “negligent act not amounting to culpable homicide”, or “culpable homicide not amounting to murder”, or something; I felt just as guilty when I called the office to report my medical leave.

I’m not the only one who got poisoned though; my wife’s got the runs as well. She’s been running to the toilet about 5 or 6 times each day for the last two days as well. While this would be quite worrying for any parent-to-be, through our dear friend Google and our trusted gynaecologist whom we paid a visit to yesterday, we were told as long as there’s no fever and no bleeding, my wife is free to run as many times as she wants without harming the baby, as long as she doesn’t mind the pain and inconvenience that comes with it, which she does, so we’re gonna try not doing it too often.

But we’re not the only ones either! Apparently there are 2 people in our office that have also been food-poisoned. While one (who was celebrating Deepavali last week, thus will probably have a lot of curry wreaking havoc in her system) is understandable, the other would make 4 people in the office who have eaten something wrong at some point over the weekend. This might seem too much of a coincidence to anyone who’s watched enough TV (i.e., too much CSI/X-Files and the Final Destination Trilogy).

Is it something we all ate at some point in the office? Or did we all go to the same hawker centre next to the Esplanade over the weekend and ordered the same fried oyster for dinner? Or were we all poisoned by Chinese food manufacturers?

Regardless the conspiracy, good things have come out of this little debacle. For one, I lost over 3kg. I’ve also got to spend a little more personal time with my wife and our about-to-be-born son (even though I was delirious with fever half the time) and we even got to watch the Coffin (against both our parents’ advice for horror content, and our friends’ advice for its low rating), which isn’t really scary… unless you know for a fact how these Thai coffin rituals are really performed (again, another story for another post).

Update:

Looks like my China conspiracy theory isn’t too far off. I was drinking a pack of Vitasoy honeydew-flavoured milk when I realised my wife was drinking a pack the night she got her diarrhoea ( I realise diarrhoea may not be an immediate symptom of melamine poisoning, but then who knows anything for sure?). After doing a search on Vitasoy and melamine, checking out the AVA melamine-tainted product list and subsequently looking through our pantry, we realised this China food crisis has hit closer to home than we so wrongly assumed. We’ve had to throw out some biscuits and other (already expired anyway) items, as well as the rest of our Vitasoy stock, though the warnings against the Vitasoy Honeydew-flavoured Soy Milk seems suspiciously hoax-ish. Oh well.





Bangkok Taxis – A Love Hate Relationship

22 10 2008

My hatred of taxis in general began in Bangkok years ago when I was just a noob expat in an exotic Asian country looking to experience localised culture in its many forms.

The first thing you are almost always greeted with (and most of the time by choice) the moment you step out are the Bangkok taxis. From the Don Muang Airport days, these taxis have hounded tourists like brazen hooligans hoping to make a quick buck by selling fake Rolexes, only to jib you of double what you normally pay once you get on their less-than-hygienic smelling metal boxes on wheels by refusing to turn on their meters. Even today, with the Thai airport authority introducing restrictions to the standsards of taxis allowed to pick up tourist fares, you’ll still hear not-too-distant cries from the offending taxi drivers trying to pick up naive tourists that will think nothing of a 400 baht cab fare when their journey should costs just 250 baht. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg; don’t get me started on how they rig their meters to jump faster or territorial mafia cab gangs that pay protection money to Thai police for sovereignty over certain areas.

But there is another side to this story, as there are always other sides of truth to seemingly ridiculous, unfair or even criminal practices.

My wife and I just recently found out through a BK article about the plight of taxi drivers in Thailand. Their daily expenditure for renting a cab and buying gas comes up up to over 1700 baht, and they have to contend with 60,000 other cab drivers in the streets for fares (which, if you’ve ever been to Bangkok, may seem like a supply-far-exceeds-demand market from our point of view, but from theirs is akin to striking a small lottery each time they pick up a fare), not to mention their fare structure hasn’t changed up until recently for the past 15 years, and even then most cabbies are too poor to get their meter readers upgraded (the cost of upgrading their meter machines is 1500 baht).

I personally have had numerous bad experiences with Bangkok cabbies wanting to take me for a ride (I even nearly got into a fistfight with one for taking almost 2 hours to get to the airport and insisting on keeping the change one time). It was not until this trip that what a friend once said to me truly made sense in the world of public transport touting.

In an outing to Chatuchak market, he said once after seeing some Singaporeans haggling with a shopkeeper, “People shouldn’t insist in bargaining down to the last baht with the sellers?  the 10 baht you’re trying to save is just 40 cents (or about a quarter in US dollars) to the 2 meals that they can get?”

We’ve also been conditioned by our more educated Thai friends that taxi drivers who charge flat rates are in fact dealing illegally and should not be supported by any means. Although I largely agree, reading about their plight, as well as considering the plights of all those people trying to earn a living by selling their wares at ridiculously cheap prices by our standards, has got me thinking otherwise.

I had a slightly deeper understanding of the Thai political situation and the whole reason why the Thai civilians were protesting in the first place. The issue is somewhat reflective of the general Bangkokian middle class vs. taxi drivers story. Effectively the university students and middle-class working population are for developing Thailand into something other than its third-world standing today, while the poorer rest of the nation is just trying to survive in a country that essentially is doing well enough already as an  agricultural exporter – One wants to oust the say of the other in the hopes of a better future while the other just wants to survive. No one’s wrong, but then in a so-called democratic society where the majority should speak louder but the minority thinks it knows better, who’s right?





Xander’s First Photos/Videos (in IMAX 4D)

14 10 2008
Xander's First Photos

Not even born yet, but already he knows how to do kawaii poses complete with V-signs plugged in his ear.

Ah, technology. So advanced that 3 dimensions are no longer enough. It used to be 2 dimensions are all you’ve got when it comes to looking at your child before it makes its debut into the world from its mother’s womb. Add another dimension and a 3D ultrasound scan will yield the images you see above, and then you add yet another dimension and call it a 4D scan just to make it sound like paying S$250 for it is justified (actually the 4th dimension is movement; I’ve got videos that show him fluffing his pillow and digging his nose in his sleep too).

Yes, ladies and gentlemen. Say hello to Xander. See the way he’s waving back at you like a superstar, eyes closed and nose turned up like he’s just nonchalantly acknowledging your presence with a flick of his pudgy little fingers? That’s my boy…

As I mentioned, I got videos too, but after describing it the way I did, putting the video on will just seem a little contradictory (he’s just sleeping, and his hand isn’t even facing palm out, which just goes to show a little imagination can go a long way).

And as usual, the doctors and technician never cease to be fascinated by my boy’s fast-growing genitalia. Our ultrasound technician showed us this wonderfully indecipherable prepubescent porn picture confirming Xander’s status as a miniature manly male man complete with man-thing (which I have explained graphically in red and green circles).

Balls to you! (Proudly brought to you by Thomson Medical Centre)

Balls to you! (Proudly brought to you by Thomson Medical Centre)

Personally, it doesn’t really matter whether it’s a boy, girl or other, particularly after the world around us found out. In fact, reactions around us upon hearing that it is a boy made my wife and I wonder why everyone thought it would be more of a good thing.

We’ve gotten responses like, “Great! Now the carrying on the family name is out of the way…” and “Wah, so lucky! First time is boy already…” and “Boy ah? Your parents must be pleased.” My wife has always responded to these comments with, “Actually, it doesn’t really matter to us if it’s a boy or girl,” which will lead to one of two outcomes: awkward silence, or change of subject.

The truth is, it should no longer matter. Having a kid of any sex will be fun in its own way. With boys, you probably get to play a little rougher, get a little more exercise (with all the running around chasing him), and potentially less problems with the opposite sex (a misnomer by all counts, but worth looking into as a valid theory for another time, possibly the next blog post). With girls, you get to play dress-up more (80% of the retail market is built to cater for girls), life tends to be more peaceful, and they tend to be more loving too.

So as far as we’re conderned, gender bias shouldn’t ever be an issue; we’re dealt with the cards that we’re dealt with, we’re gonna play those cards as best as we bloody well can. My only real concern here is not how my child will fulfill my expectations, but how I’m going to do as a father, and it’s going to be a concern for me from when Xander’s born until the day I die.

That being said, I know we’re lucky. People can try for years and years and still get nada, and here we are, a boy on the way after just thinking about trying for a kid. There’s a lot of “what ifs” that can be raised if Xander turned out to be Xandra, but at the end of the day, they’re just “what ifs”. The questions that present themselves through reality are what’s really gonna screw with us now.





Is It Hard To Run a Comics Shop?

2 10 2008

Someone asked me that on MSN today after I posted up a status message sayign I was thinking of starting one,and it got me thinking.

I had a 4- or 5-year run collecting American comic books back in my secondary school days. Eddie, Terence, Raffles (whom I just recently got re-acquainted with just before my big wedding bash) and I would hop down to any one of the few comics shops strewn around the island on any given school day (particularly Thursdays when new shipments would arrive) and spend hours ogling at the pristine comic artwork, very adult storylines and general colourfulness of the X-Men, Batmen, Supermen, Spider-Men, or Whatever-Else-You-Got-Men that covered the shelves of the comic shop. Some of us even had membership cards to almost all the comics shops that were running at the time, and always we felt like we were trading in stock rather than just comics whenever we were holding a fragile copy of our favourite hero’s stories in our hands.

We learnt about polybags, acid free boards, holding the comic book by its spine so it doesn’t crease or roll when you read it; we admired Jim Lee, Frank Miller, Mike Mignola, and Todd McFarlane, who were comic book art gods to us, in a time when they were just breaking out. It was a golden age for us, even though the golden age was gone a long time ago for the industry.

Recently the old gang gathered for another beer session, and we talked about getting our collections together to sell on eBay. I offered to do inventory if they were willing to cart their comics over to my place. Though our hearts were in it initially, it was decided that our collections meant more to us than just commodity stock, and the idea was shelved for a better time, but I decided to evaluate my own collection and collected all 250 books from my sister’s old house to bring back to my own home.

It had been 13 years since I last saw these books, and I admit guilt for not taking better care of my stuff. After cataloging everything with a comic book inventory software I found on the web, I found out most of my books had doubled in cover price over the last 15 years. (Okay, hold yor horses there. Most of these books have a cover price of US$1 to US$3, so really, it’s not very much to speak of.) A few of them would even have hit over US$100 in valuation if I had taken care of them properly (though in my teenage years, I would probably have found it hard to afford renting a vacuum chamber with de-humidifiers and other preservation devices for my collection).

It got me thinking though; if I went out and started a comics shop of my own, would I do better than I am doing now? Would I be happier? Would there be a market for one more, where the market is over-saturated with Japanese manga translated in Chinese or English, but only the very streetsmart would know where true-blue DC, Marvel, Dark Horse and Image comics are sold? Would it be worth it, since this isn’t America, and there isn’t any place where you could get CGC grading of your comics done?

One day, I might just try and find out. Until then, there is an extremely high likelihood of me picking up where I left off 13 years ago; there goes my son’s child development account fund.





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.