Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Body Art

iTunes' party shuffle is playing: Being With You - Smokey Robinson - Billboard Top Hits: 1981
This week, the one true love said, 'when I get into the money, I'm gonna get a tattoo of a snake, maybe somewhere on my ankle'. I have a tattoo on my arm, a tribal-like thingie of a dragon, in black, but which is now so faded that people think I got it a long time ago. I got the tatt done three years ago now, back when Karen and I spent every waking moment together. We were browsing around Queensway Shopping Centre looking for a cheap pair of sandals, as one does when one is there, and we walked past the tattoo parlour on the third floor. This was no 'modern' tattoo parlour, like the ones you'd see on Orchard Road and thereabouts. This was a Hokkien-speaking, chain-smoking, Kuan-Yin-Goddess-of-Mercy-tattoo-special-discount, simi-si-Celtic-design tattoo parlour. Karen said, 'Hey, let's each get one', while I looked at the second hand mobile phones in the adjacent shop window. Next thing I know, she leads me into the tattoo parlour and pores through the clear folder of designs. Next thing I know, she picks a dragon and says 'let's get this one'. Next thing I know, I'm sitting on a chair in pain and there's blood flowing down my right arm. The tattoo 'artist' comments in Hokkien that I bleed unusually profusely and says he has to use extra ink. Or something. At the other end of the parlour, Karen is going 'Ow, fuck! Dammit! It didn't hurt so much the last time. Fuck!'. Half a box of kleenex later, we leave the parlour with bloodshot eyes and sport identical bandages which we lift and peek into every now and again on the way home, as if to check if the ink's run. Her bandage is just below and to the left of her belly button, while mine's on my right arm. So, Karen and I have the same dragon tattoo. Much like how some people close to each other have same rings, except it's a bit harder to take off a tattoo. I don't attribute any other special meaning to that. I am just too open to suggestion. Puff the Frivolous Dragon

Monday, August 30, 2004

Achtung baby!

iTunes' party shuffle is playing: Cigarettes Will Kill You - Ben Lee - Breathing Tornados
Liebschen, dein ist mein ganzes Herz, Wo du nicht bist, kann ich nicht sein! Why is it I keep thinking of trying to get my one true love out of her rut as if I didn't have enough on my plate already? Something's amiss. Amiss, amiss, amiss. But never mind, another round with Scrabble Girl please, and hold the anchovies. But before that, I had a weekend of work and sound drinking. Not to the point of drunkeness, but sufficient to be high on the happy side for a bit. Enough to make you want to grab the girl next to you and give her a, um... warm embrace. We wuz skint, the one true love and I, so it was a good thing LMD came along, took pity on us kids and bought us both a round of tequila shots while we propped ourselves up against the wheelie bin. I have a lot on my plate this week. But something's amiss. As Richie Benaud/12th Man would say, "Pretty piss-poor effort, that."

Saturday, August 28, 2004

I have been a-goin' out

iTunes' party shuffle is playing: It Feels Like Rain - Aaron Neville - Warm Your Heart
So I've been going out nightly even though I'm dog-tired. My brains are fried and I'm sounding like what I dislike. But there's work to do on the weekend too. And I'm dog-tired. But I have to go out. Go out. Go out. Go out. Drinking boat party, Sydney 1998. With Ron "My eyes and mouth are lines" Lee, Stevo the Yellow Samoan Fellow and Carlos the Dutch Jackal

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Paddling the Seven Seas

iTunes' party shuffle is playing: Sky and Sea - Cassandra Wilson - Traveling Miles
I tell people one of my favourite pastimes is kayaking, but I hardly ever get to kayak these days. Back when, then and all that time ago, I didn't kayak all that often either. So I suppose kayaking is a favourite in the sense that I remember liking it a lot when I did do it. I like kayaking for the quiet solitude it affords, though I don't mind having a companion kayaker who shares the same sentiment, and who might be able to help you out if you don't execute a kayak-capsize-drill properly. I dislike any motorised water sport, which I think to be the domain of clueless landlubbers who think they love the sea. And don't even get me started about wakeboarding. If you really love the sea, you'd love kayaking, and perhaps sailing. But... A kayak can go almost anywhere in practically any weather. In the right hands it is probably the most adaptable and seaworthy vessel afloat. Kayaks have been paddled across the Atlantic and through the Caribbean and up the Alaskan Coast and down the Nile and the Amazon.... ...There have been paddlers in kayaks at the (Cape) Horn for as long as there have been humans.... Four hundred years later the kayak is still unchanged in its basic design, because for its size it is as near as possible to being a perfect boat. ~Paul Theroux, Paddling to Plymouth, Fresh Air Fiend I haven't paddled even the shortest stretches of the Atlantic, the Caribbean or Alaska, but I have, with a friend, paddled from Singapore to Tioman in a double Klepper kayak, similar to the ones the British and Australian commandos used to blow up Japanese ships in Singapore Harbour. Made of maple and canvas, it is the most seaworthy craft I have ever paddled, even if I haven't paddled many. The trip took twelve days from Changi Beach to Pulau Tioman, and according to my kayak journal, which I fortuitously found while trying to tidy my room (and which prompted this post), we set off from Changi on Wednesday 7th of August 1991: 0700 Arrive at Changi Point. Ate breakfast. Bought water. Forgot bread. 0720 Changi Beach. Assemble Klepper. Load up. 0800 Leave Singapore. 0900 Paddle past Tekong. 1100 Arrive at Tanjung Pengerrang Immigration checkpoint. 1630 Arrive at Tanjung Datok, set up camp, dinner, rest. Total travel 30km, 8 hours paddling. Current and wind against us. The rest of the journal gets even more sketchy as tiredness and boredom set in: 9th August 1991: 1600 Land on unknown beach. Super seasick. And then there's one long journal entry about how Jason's Bay (Telok Makhota) is extremely depressing. The whole beach is littered with cowdung. And our greatest challenge is combating boredom. , followed two days later by: Most nervous moment of trip so far when storm blew up gale force 6 winds. Made it to Sibu after 8 hours non stop paddling. That is a classic understatement. I remember shitting bricks when the storm hit. I remember throwing up on both sides of the kayak. I remember the sizable shark circling us after probably overdosing on the scent of my vomit. The journal ends with these entries: Pulau Tinggi, Thursday 15th August 1991: ...Have decided to push for Tioman tomorrow. Will be toughest leg so far (>50km) and will take 12 hours or so. Friday 16th August 1991: Woke up late. Decided to postpone crossing till Saturday 3am or later, maybe 8am. Bored to tears. Word has gotten around the island that we're two Japanese commandos. Saturday 17th August 1991: Rained heavily in the morning. Have to postpone crossing again. Decided to slot midnight as departure time. Didn't get to sleep last night because of the wedding party on the island. Sunday 18th August 1991: Left Pulau Tinggi at midnight as planned. Couldn't see anything in the dark but our slipshod navigation skills managed to see us through till dawn, when a storm broke. Got terribly seasick. Barfed twice. Sighted the island at 0745hrs but paddled like mad to arrive at Tioman at 1300hrs. Total time in the saddle 13hrs. Sore bums, hunger pangs and physical exhaustion norm for the day. Booked into cheap resort (RM15 a night), relaxed. GAME OVER. This is the one trip I'd love to be able to do again, for whatever vainglorious reasons which I won't admit to. Why, me and my kayaking friend even wrote the leisure article for Straits Times Life [Saturday, November 16, 1991, Leisure, Page Ten] and got paid $200 for our effort - writing and the trip. Cheap adventure. But for some fucked up reason, the editor decided to omit my name from the story, so it would sound like it was an almost solo adventure but the adventurer decided to ask a friend along. But these days, I find that a good kayaking day consists of two hours or so of paddling through scenic waters, and the only place available with kayak rental and scenery is Pasir Ris Park, where you can rent a kayak for $15 an hour and paddle to Pulau Ubin and back. There are creeks on Ubin which are worth exploring for their flora and fauna and grumpy fishermen living in huts with big dogs that threaten to leap into the water and take a chunk out of your paddles. Forget the sharks, these marine dogs can be real mean too. Back in Sydney, I paddled Middle Harbour, where you have to fight traffic as if you were on the road. I once paddled in the middle of the channel without knowing there was this passenger ferry bearing down behind me. The ferry pilot must've thought it was funny to wait till the last moment to sound his damned loud horn, startling me to the point of my bum leaving my seat. Good amusement for the 100 plus passengers on the ferry. Later that same day, a deranged seagull attacked me while the same ferry was making its return journey through the channel, so the passengers had the benefit of watching me fight off the seagull with my paddle. I think there's something nagging me to return to the sea. (Duh. You think??) I want to do the Atlantic, the Pacific, the Alaskan fjords and maybe the Cape. I might start off easy again and go do the Pasir Ris to Ubin leg. But please don't leave any comments about it being a mid-life crisis thing, all youse landlubbers. Jason's Bay Laundry time, Pulau Tinggi Dinner time, Sungai Ringgit The Klepper Aerius double kayak The Seagull Slayer, Middle Harbour, Sydney

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Not quite Jamie's kitchen

iTunes' party shuffle is playing: We've Got Tonight - Ronan Keating - Destination
Just now I cooked a meal for the first time in almost two years. (Instant noodles not counted). Cooking for someone else is always a treat. You take a little more care in preparing the stuff. If I were to cook for myself... actually, I wouldn't. Unlike this chef and his one man three egg tuna omelette. My timing was off, and I overcooked the pasta. The last time I made this dish was in 2000, in Sydney. Then, I was quick off the mark, juggling the chopping and cutting, sauteeing and boiling, so everything came together in a flourish in under 25 minutes. Everything did come together in under 25 minutes this time round too, just that the sauce was a little underdone, not salty enough, bacon not crisp enough, and there wasn't any fresh herbs in the kitchen. Still, my Scrabble mate finished her portion, which was probably the biggest meal she's had all month. I am flattered. But I need to practice cooking more to get up to scratch. Upside down water. Holland Village Food Court

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Jesus stole my gal

iTunes' party shuffle is playing: Ain't That Lonely Yet - Dwight Yoakam - Last Chance For A Thousands Years - Dwight Yoakam's Greatest Hits From The 90's
I love you with the love of Christ. My friend Ryan has heard this declaration several times in his life. You know enough of the context in which this declaration is made to know that it is no declaration. Ryan is a very, very nice guy and a hopeless romantic. That is not to say he makes loud, grand gestures of affection. I'd call him the strong, silent type. Once, he and I happened to meet in London because he and I were hopelessly in love with two girls (one each) who threatened to have our hearts for breakfast daily. His girl was in love with someone else, and my girl was in love with herself and no one else. What he did in response to his girl's new man remains one of the better gestures of selflessness I've seen. His girl, who was hitherto his long-distance girlfriend (Ipoh-Sydney) until she went to Cambridge to read law and become a slut, fell in love with another man who, of course, reciprocated in ways her limited provincial experience hadn't shown her before. He bought her a bunch of flowers one day. How did Ryan respond? He went out and bought a vase for the flowers. She cried buckets of course. But that was about as contrite as she would get. She then loved him with the love of Christ. Over the years, Ryan has been showered with enough love of Christ to last several generations. Bit like having so much Christmas spirit you just wanna throw up. I feared the worst when earlier this year, he called to say he had met a girl, several years his junior, and who attended church very regularly, meaning not just every Sunday, but you know, those fun fair food fair raffle things too. This girl, Beth, threatened to love him with the love of Christ too, at first. But thankfully for Ryan, the allure of being the older, wiser man worked in his favour for the first time in his life, and over the last half year, after attending church every Sunday plus helping out with her church's food and fun fair, she's apparently finally relented, and was last heard referring to Ryan as her boyfriend. They went to Bali together last month, and I am certain not too much time was spent poring over Bible passages there. Ryan came down to Singapore without Beth last week, but judging from his contented cat demeanour, things between them look good. There was no furtive SMSing, no checking for missed calls, no phone calls which required going out to the balcony for privacy. It was all relaxed, all open, all sweet. Not bad for a guy who's so full of Jesus' love he could be beatified. I wish you both well, Ryan and Beth. Me and my Scrabble mate got bored tonight, so... SW view from Kent Ridge Park, Pasir Panjang Hill Battle Site.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Scrabble this!

iTunes' party shuffle is playing: If We Never Meet Again - KD Lang/Tony Bennett - A Wonderful World
If I weren't self-employed, I'd be blogging about how nasty work is, how I work with idiots, and how my bosses couldn't tell a marketing plan from a block of flats. But I don't have the privilege of being in that situation, so I can't blog about it. Instead, I'll yabber on about how I enjoyed an extremely hedonistic weekend that was so unrelenting I had to neglect writing entries here for two whole days. There is a tinge of guilt as I write this. The wife languished at home over the weekend while I went out and partied, spent an inordinate amount of time with one particular girl, got drunk, danced till my kneecaps swelled, and then spent Sunday arvo recovering on Orchard Road playing Scrabble with the same said girl. A friend asked why I was rubbing my knees, 'Heh, why pain ah? Carpet burn ah?'. 'Went clubbing lah'. 'Yeah, right'. I don't know if it's a good or bad thing if my friends would rather believe I was having sex more than they'd believe I went clubbing. Coffee Bean, Tea Leaf and Scrabble set

Friday, August 20, 2004

I have been many things and this is one of them

iTunes' party shuffle is playing: No Regrets - Tom Rush - Wonder Boys [Soundtrack]
I was just reading Cour Marly's post about her having had the experience of working for a non-profit organization, and how, despite it having been an 'eyeopener', she didn't stray from the tried and true corporate path. Not that I am on a tried and true corporate path lah. But lately, I've had to revisit those tracks I've beaten myself, thanks to some people who've for some misguided reason asked me for advice on work, career and life in general. I seldom know how to advise someone constructively, and only know how to tell a story and hope it makes some sense or holds some meaning for the person I'm telling it to. If nothing else, it's usually a funny story, and they'll laugh enough to forget what they were after in the first place. This is one of those stories. I once was a lowly clerk/student-at-law assisting a solicitor assisting a barrister at a community legal centre (i.e. pro-bono legal work for poor people). Because of my scatterbrained ways, I was always primed to do something dangerously stupid. On my second day at work, I messed up my schedule and only realised I was supposed to be in court that afternoon. Rushing from lunch at McDonald's to the Human Rights & Equal Opportunity Commission in the city, I only realised I wasn't dressed appropriately just as I pushed open the courtroom door. I was in t-shirt and jeans and I was late. Then came the shrinking realisation that while I knew I was assisting the plaintiffs, I had no idea what they and their counsel looked like, as I had never met them before. I made a quick decision to go to the right side of the court, sat down, smiled at the barrister, who glared at me and my clothes. I thought he was just pissed because of my dressing, and thought I was going to be fired at day's end because of that. Turned out worse than that. The team at the other side of the court tried to get my attention with a few frantic whispered psssssts from this guy (who turned out to be my solicitor-supervisor) who held up a sheet of paper with my name followed by a question mark. Late, inappropriate attire, and sitting on the wrong side of the court. Powers of invisibility would have come in handy. I dragged my sorry arse to the bride's side (as my solicitor-supervisor put it), thinking it was the most ignominious start to a legal career anyone could imagine. Though it felt like an eternity, only a minute had passed, and I composed myself enough to peer ahead at the bench. While the rest of the court were frowning and glaring, the judge (the Human Rights Commissioner) had not batted an eyelid throughout the episode. OK, I thought, he was not discriminating against me because of my attire and/or stupidity and/or carelessness because this is the Human Rights & Equal Opportunity Commission after all. Then I saw he was typing into this funky chunky keyboard thing, and mostly staring into space. Oh, what providence. I wasn't going to be fired. The judge was a blind man. Did not see me coming in late. Did not see my t-shirt and jeans. Did not see me do the cross court shuffle. How cool was that? I could even have put my feet on the table. But I didn't of course. My supervisor thought it was the funniest thing involving an intern, but the client wasn't as chuffed, and must have lost a lot of confidence in his chances of winning his case. The facts of the case, incidentally, turned out just as bizarre: The client had worked for more than a decade at a funeral home, carrying caskets and preparing bodies for funerals. He had been fired from his job when his boss discovered he was an amputee, citing incompetence as a reason for dismissal. A clear-cut, sure-win case for the bride's side. But it didn't mean the preparations for the case before the Commission were easy. My team of interns (yes, I was retained) had to do quite a bit, including the following: Borrow a coffin from another funeral home, fill it up with sandbags, weigh the whole thing so it approximated the weight of an average occupied coffin; Act as pallbearers and stretcher bearers carrying the coffin from various types of dwellings - bungalows, multi-storeyed flats etc.; Compare the plaintiff's execution of the above task with our own and with professional funeral home workers; Videotape and annotate all of the above. The videotapes were then presented at the following week's session before the Commission to show that the plaintiff had no problems with carrying out his duties at his job. Only thing was, the Commissioner was a blind man, remember? Our Keystone Cops legal team could not believe none of us thought of that. Such non-discriminating people we were. The problem was later solved at the next session with a Counsel Assisting the Commissioner narrating all the videotapes much like a sports commentator. And they're carrying the coffin down the stairs now... and there's no discernible wobble.... it is a clean pick up, carry and put down.... I give it a 9.5. I grew to love my work at the centre, so I extended it, and I still rate it as one of the most rewarding jobs I've had. I've had the honour and privilege to work on cases [exempli gratia: the Joy Williams case which we ultimately lost] which I later realised (clueless, lah) to be very high profile, and which, while working on them, you just know it was the right thing to do. I was also lucky to work with a bunch of the most selfless lawyers I've ever met. My supervisor, for one, was a tireless, unflappable character whose laconic manner belied his determination to always 'set things right'. Apart from courtroom attire, he'd always be in a crinkled short sleeved shirt with some floral pattern and jeans, and he'd walk around the office barefoot, which is why I suppose he excused my sloppiness. As for courtroom appearances and their requisite propriety, he was once so addled with the wrong flu medicine he forgot his own name, the client's name, and the number of children the client had during a Family Court hearing. He was composed enough to calmly turn to me to whisper the answers - ...say 'Registrar, my name is John Smith and I represent Janet Nguyen'.... I reckon we made a good team, and was sad to see him leave for the UK to take up another non-profit post. Then things changed for good forever (yes, I shall remain this cryptic). I returned to Singapore soon after and became a business development manager for a talent agency. But, as I always say, that's several other stories.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004


iTunes' party shuffle is playing: Sospan Fach - Various Artists - All the Best from Wales
Olympic Games. Two words. Svetlana Khorkina. "You mean you didn't know I was a Playboy centrefold?"

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Love your blog, it rawks!

iTunes' party shuffle is playing: The Stars That Play With Laughing Sam's Dice - Jimi Hendrix - The Singles Album Volume 1
Today I received an email from someone who was mentioned in a blog post, saying she never did say no such thing about her niece. I wrote her back, saying it's all storytelling, not meant to be completely true, and even if you get strung along, please don't take it seriously. She called me and said that other people, namely, members of her family, might take it seriously, and it might 'cause family problems' because of what I said she said. I offered to take off the post, saying I really didn't want to cause family problems. She then said it's ok, but maybe change the names? And so I did. Meet Karen and Muriel and their long suffering aunt. Once a while, the real world overlaps with the online. Like what happened today. Who'dve thunk it? Muriel and Karen's aunt actually reads blogs! For quite a few people, both worlds overlap because the joys of interacting online isn't quite enough, and quite often, they are so strung along by what they see and read (apart from having webcam conversations, eek), they want to actually physically meet up with the people they're interacting with. There are blog gatherings, which I hear happen very often in Malaysia and the quieter parts of Australia (Perth). And there are people who trawl blogs, leave lots of comments which evolve into a correspondence of sorts, which then migrates to instant messaging, which in turn hops onto SMSing, and then, one fateful day, grows legs and turns into a living, breathing, phone conversation. OK, I'm guilty of that on occasion. The male blogger way of getting to know an attractive sounding female one, that is. Not that I trawl thaaat many female blogs, but I have left comments in hope of reciprocation. I like reading comments other male bloggers leave in hope of reciprocation too. But before I dissect how male bloggers style their comments (and expose mine to similar scrutiny), let's take a look at some female blogs I read and why I'd like to at least correspond with them: LMD: If I didn't already know her In Real Life, I'd want to meet her in person, because she sounds like a stylish and enterprising young woman with a beguiling tinge of femme fatale about her. And she writes oh so beautifully. (And yeah, she writes beautifully in real life too). Lost-in-Transition: If I didn't already know her In Real Life, I'd want to meet her in person, make her laugh, dry her tears, kill her boyfriend, and fill her jellybean jar with everything but the red ones. Finicky Feline: If I didn't already know her In Real Life as one of my best friends' best friend, I'd want to meet her in person and smack her upside the head for being such a whinger, albeit a sexy sounding one. Gulaman Girl: I've not met her in person but I'd like to, 'cos maaan, that's a hella nice pic she's got of herself. Hee. Hee. Cour Marly: Who wouldn't want to meet a high-flying, french-speaking ex-MGS girl who takes great photos? Karen Cheng: An artistic, articulate and very cute mum from a quiet part of Australia. There are more, but you get the drift. Thing is, and it has been said very often, the impressions one gets from a blog about the blogger aren't necessarily reflective of the true picture. But at least, in Singapore and Malaysia, you'd be pretty safe, given that most people here take things pretty literally and would've undergone a sense of irony bypass operation together with the compulsory polio and TB immunization injections. So, more likely than not, if you do meet up with a blogger in real life here, it should turn out to be WYSIWYR (What You See Is What You've Read), NOT! I have a friend who thinks he's got a talent for sussing out the physical attributes of a blogger even if the blogger doesn't have a picture online or desribes her physical self anywhere on the blog. I've shown him a few blogs that I like, and he tells me things to the effect of, 'Dude, she sounds like a fat ugly chick'. And when pressed to elaborate, he'd say 'because of the way she keeps talking about relationships that don't last because either the guy she's seeing is attached, or the guy is a bastard. And there's too much talk about sex. Fat ugly chicks always talk about sex in an ugly sounding way. Don't have to be graphic description. Just ugly in the way she uses sex. So she must be a fat ugly chick'. Now, I really don't know where this post is taking me, and I don't care to find out. I've got comments to leave on some female bloggers' blogs. Get email address, then get IM ID, then mobile number...

Monday, August 16, 2004

Pay it backward

iTunes' party shuffle is playing: Shame - Randy Newman - Bad Love
She says my bedroom needs to be cleaned or renovated. It's been awhile since I cared what my bedroom looked like for people other than myself, so I suppose it shows. Yeah. Welcome to my room. This is what disarray looks like. There are several nooks in the room which contain several artefacts from a long time ago: Betamax tapes, cassette music tapes, and vinyl records. LPs! Culture Club! 7" single of Duran Duran's theme song from a James Bond movie! A veritable treasure trove, my bedroom. Good props for when conversation fails you. (Hey, I did say I've been tired lately). Speaking of conversation, the latest rant-o-matic topic from my female friends is how some men don't offer to pay for stuff on dates and how some men get visibly disturbed when women pay for them. This one friend has been shrieking about her exes, and in particular, how one of them just keeps bludging on her, and how she keeps him happy by giving him $500 a month. I dunno. Sounds as if one of them was smarter than the other in the relationship. Good thing it's over now. This friend also thinks it's a Singaporean male trait to bludge on a date, and that Malaysian men are much, much nicer. The Malaysian Man will always offer to pay. Apparently, the Malaysian Man feels totally emasculated when the woman pays on a date. Apparently, the Singaporean male doesn't mind being a lesser being than the female. For mine, the argument starts with 'har? whaddafuck?' and more or less ends there, as it should. But, this friend is pretty happy that she's been asked out on 'an old fashioned date', even though she prefers to go dutch 'cos when a guy pays for you he expects something in return'. I'm pretty happy for her too, that after so many misses, she may have finally found a spankingly good Malaysian Man who is able to wine, dine and pay for her. We had dinner at Sistina before I asked, hey, you wanna come see my CD collection? (For the record, I paid for dinner. But she paid the last time, and there was nothing wrong with that picture.)

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Saturday night at the movies

iTunes' party shuffle is playing: Goldberg Variation (aria) - Alexis Wesseinberg - A chance of sunshine
Hana and Alice (Hana to Arisu ~ 花とアリス) is one good movie. I like this style of storytelling. It was so good I didn't even mind jostling with the hundreds of youngpeoplenowsaday milling around the floors of Orchard Cineleisure. What I'd like to know is, where they get so much money to eat so much KFC, Yoshinoya, Rocky Master dunnowhat and dunnowhat else. Not cheap, you know? Was still glad I went out. Needed it badly. Wouldn't have gone out if not for E coming over and busying herself in my room while I napped the nap of the living dead. The week is really taking it's toll, and I'm not looking forward to work in the morning. Yes, Sunday morning. I wish I had relaxed a little more earlier in the week and maybe grabbed my friend MJ's offer to go schmooze with the glitterati. But you know, somehow, I think that'd be more tiring than relaxing. The crack of dawn Oh Lordy me, my feet are so tired

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Je suis fatigué

iTunes' party shuffle is playing: The Burning of the Midnight Lamp - Jimi Hendrix - The Singles Album Volume 1
Her name is Teeny. I got her business card today. She likes Subway sandwiches a lot. And she has a lot, a lot of female energy too. Unfortunately, no amount of female energy could rouse me from my tiredness tonight, and only the promise (I promise, he drink) of several beers with a Chinese American actor friend saw me stay out in town after work till past 9pm. I am not exactly swamped with work, because I know I've seen worse days, or worse weeks. But somehow I seem to be plodding along lately. Dunno why. Hope it gets better. For this blog's sake too. Else the entries here would be like a lot I skim through, about 'I had lunch today with so and so, I am so tired but still dragged myself out, he was an arse, but charming nonetheless'. Yeee. Dowan.

Friday, August 13, 2004

Fatigued? Try this

iTunes' party shuffle is playing: Perfume de Gardenias (The Scent of Gardenias) - Ibrahim Ferrer - Buenos Hermanos
This one female friend flies in bearing good news. She's pregnant. And I tell her, no wonder you're giving off this fabulous female energy. She asks what's that? Female energy is a term a (male) friend of mine coined. He says he likes talking to some women because he gets a kick out of this 'female energy'. I asked what's that? He couldn't explain it, only to say no matter how tired he felt, he'd always perk up when in the company of a female that exuded female energy. And pregnant women give off more female energy than non child bearing ones. Not every woman has this female energy, mind you, said he. Only some. And they don't necessarily have to be physically attractive in the conventional sense. Somehow, I'd rather subscribe to this half-baked fully-hippified theory rather than a detailed analysis of why I get along with some women better than others. It is incongruent with any form of linear logic, and if you apply it fuzzily to any male-female interaction, it sorta works. Kinda. See, normally I'd complain about having to listen to someone's whining (and invariably it's a female that does that. Guys don't whine. Guys moan), but with certain females, and lately there's been this one where I rather enjoy the company. I quite like feeling her pain. She gives off positive female energy. She doesn't sink me, she floats my boat. Yes, there are types who sink you. Negative female energy, my friend calls it. No matter how cheerful their disposition, you feel drained after sitting with them. And another thing. You don't have to interact by talking or otherwise to be able to experience this female energy. Just sitting next to them in the same room works. And no, it's not called 'aura'. It's something greater than that, and at the same time less obvious than that. Today I had a triple dose of female energy. One pregnant friend, and one troubled friend. Pregnant friend gives off double. My male friend once told me he had to leave the room because the energy from one pregnant woman friend was too much for him to bear. OD. The troubled friend doesn't quite know how she manages to exude this positive female energy. Mostly because I haven't told her about this Theory of the Positive Female Energy yet. But I'm sure when she reads this, she'll wanna know how and why. I don't think she'll understand what I'll explain, but I'm sure she'll be glad to know she's got ample reserves of the stuff.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Be girly, live longer

iTunes' party shuffle is playing: Teardrops Will Fall - Ry Cooder - Into the Purple Valley
I am very sleepy, but I happened upon this article in the Sydney Morning Herald that says that women live longer because they are emotional and talk about girly stuff. Excerpt: Researchers such as Klein and her colleague Shelley Taylor found that while men will react single-handedly to a stressful situation, women's priority seems to be to seek out other females. When they engage in this "tending or befriending" - a term coined by Klein and Taylor - a chemical called oxytocin is released, which counters stress and has a calming effect. But before we fellas think we're capable of emulating this life-prolonging feat, "This calming response does not occur in men because testosterone, which men produce in high levels when they're under stress, seems to reduce the effects of oxytocin," says Klein. "Oestrogen seems to enhance it. There was this joke in the lab that when the women who worked there were stressed, they came in, cleaned the lab, had coffee, and bonded. When the men were stressed, they holed up somewhere on their own. I commented one day to Shelley Taylor that nearly 90 per cent of the stress research is on males. I showed her the data from my lab, and the two of us knew instantly that we were on to something." Damned testosterones.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

File under 'X'

iTunes' party shuffle is playing: 南海姑娘 - 王菲 - 舊夢
Forget 'terrorist chatter' on the net. I think the Men In White are looking at these conspiracy theorists' exchanges these few days before the 'acension' of the new PM. Quite funny, some of them. Then, in true Singapore style, they (the theorists, not the MIW) sometimes start slagging each other for their absurd theories. Interestingly, the nation's premier politcal satire site is down. Lessee what happens in the next coupla weeks. Meantime, I'm about to get busier. Gotta rush to the airport to pick up someone tonight. Then gotta rush to the airport to pick up someone tomorrow arvo. Phwoar! Happening.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Ominous rumblings and it's not a tummy ache

iTunes' party shuffle is playing: Icy Blue Heart - John Hiatt - Slow Turning
Somewhere someone is making her way here tomorrow night. I look forward to seeing her. Though right now I am so tired I couldn't feel elated if I wanted to. And I really want to. Worse, I have a sick feeling in my gut something not so nice is about to happen. And no, it's not the swearing in of the new cabinet. I really don't know what it is, but it's beginning to eat at me. Nosso good.

Monday, August 09, 2004

We are actually talking about National Day

iTunes' party shuffle is playing: I Still Call Australia Home - Peter Allen - Singer-Songwriter: The Anthology
This National Day, LMD went to the gym. Mr Brown had a picnic with friends and family. Woof! the hopeless romantic got really bored, answered 50 questions and contributed another Army story. The wife is still on holiday in Bangkok, visiting relatives and friends. I sat around after a meeting with my business partners and thought about writing something 'meaningful' about National Day after I watched the parade on the telly at a pub while eating half a pork knuckle and a coupla beers. Then I read Metastasis' spiel on writing something about National Day, and I thought, better not.

Happy National Day

iTunes' party shuffle is playing: Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau (The Land of My Fathers) - Morriston & The Welsh Guards Orpheus - The Very Best of Welsh Choirs
flags at Holland Village

Sunday, August 08, 2004

'Short the distance': Hainan, Part One

There is Hainanese Chicken Rice on Hainan Island [海南岛]. Only it's mostly crappy and the recipe's most likely garnered from what Singaporean and Malaysian tourists tell the Hainan Islanders. The same goes for Hainanese coffee, Hainanese kaya and Hainanese mutton soup. (The original Hainanese Chicken Rice is actually a steamed/boiled chicken dish from the city of Wenchang [文昌]('Voon Sior' in Hainanese) on Hainan, known as Wenchang Chicken. The chicken flavoured rice bit is a Singaporean invention). I travelled to Hainan with my uncle and two cousins in 2002. My uncle was born on Hainan [海南] (as was my father), and this was his first visit in 70 years. He was very excited about returning to our family's ancestral village, and from the moment I met him at KLIA, he was decked out in a three piece suit the entire trip. Very much the dapper returned emigre, he was. This trip also happened to be my first proper China visit, a madcap daytrip to Shenzhen from Hong Kong notwithstanding. A group of around 90 odd ethnic Hainanese pilgrims organised this tour, which entailed chartering a Hainan Airlines Boeing 737 to and from KL, a guided bus throughout the entire island, and full meal and board for five days. Having taken bus tours of Taiwan and Hong Kong before, I expected the five day itinerary to be very hectic. And I was right. The flight from KL took off at two in the morning, and once on board, the flight attendants gamely tried to present themselves as an international carrier with international standards of service. Heck, there even was a short, plumpish, blonde attendant who sounded Russian. The pre-flight announcement was made in Mandarin, parts of which I understood; and attempted again in English, abruptly stopping when the attendant struggled with the pronounciation of 'Kuala Lumpur'. Not many people care about in-flight, pre-flight, post-flight and safety announcements anyway, and a plane load of mostly elderly Hainanese hobbits weren't going to be much different as they carried about chattering away in that gutteral tongue which sounds loosely like a bunch of angry turkeys. We weren't going to get much shut eye on this flight. Might as well enjoy the food. If only we could enjoy the food. The food came in styrofoam boxes and was exactly the same thing as what I might have ordered for lunch from Ah Tan's Economy Rice stall at Amoy Street Market for $3. Three bites from the three dish and rice meal, and I reached for the moist towelette, the cover of which featured the airline's logo with a most memorable tagline: 'Short the Distance, Together the People'. The four hour flight wasn't short enough for 'together the people', especially me, as I had to fly from Singapore to meet my uncle and cousins at KLIA earlier. We landed at Sanya [三 亚] on the island's south coast, much to our surprise, because the tour operator had told us we were flying to the provincial capital Haikou [海 口](which is nearer to our ancestral village) instead. Never mind. I had read that Sanya boasted the nicest beaches and resorts in the whole of China. 'China's Hawaii', so the official tourist boards trumpet. And so, at 6.30am, but sufficiently excited about the trip, we stumbled out of the airport terminal (more like a bus station), and into a waiting tour van, greeted by a pugnacious little Mandarin speaking tourguide, who happily announced we were only checking into our hotel at 7pm that evening because our tour of Sanya and its environs would commence immediately. I tried to sleep again on the van. But the tourguide spoke non-stop, and mostly about herself, how she was born there, grew up in Guangzhou, came back to Hainan and how she loved the island, its people and its culture. With lunch hour came a much welcomed respite. We stopped on one of Sanya's strips of beaches. With clear blue skies, pristine white sands, coconut palms and salty sea air, it was hard to imagine this being part of China, the only other strange thing being that there was practically nobody on the beach. No sunbathers, no windsurfers, no lifeguards, no ice cream vans, no nothing. Eerie, almost. A barely passable lunch was taken at a hotel, not the hotel we were to check in to, but which allowed me to grab as many tourist related brochures and maps as possible, just so I could get my bearings. From the brochures I discovered that Sanya used to be (and to a certain extent, still is) an official Communist Party retreat venue, with hefty discounts (but of course) for government officials and dignitaries from what's left of the Communist bloc. There were German, Russian and Korean versions of the brochures. Back on the van for the afternoon, and on which I stupidly sat on the sunny side of, the tourguide took it as a personal slight that her charges were dozing off, and recommenced her chatter while we travelled to a dozen tourist traps disguised as ethnic minority villages of the indigenous Li (Hlai), Miao, Hui, Ah Beng, Ah Lian, Sum Seng, et al. She even broke into song at one stage, a-capella. Thankfully, we didn't have one of those vans equipped with an infernal mobile karaoke machine. When we finally did check in at our hotel, a rather well-appointed four star set up, so it seemed from the outside, I was ready to collapse on my bed. And that is when I made the discovery that coconuts were a major Hainan Island commodity. I thought nothing of flopping onto the hotel bed and falling fast asleep. And so I flopped onto the bed, and hit the coconut husk mattress hard. Apparently, they make almost everything out of almost every part of the coconut plant. There was even a coconut husk ashtray next to the coconut husk covered hotel directory (one of the room service menu items included 'Fresh Hainan Coconut Drink Product') . It made sense for me to check where the fire exits were before sleep took hold and I finally rested for the night. [to be continued... next instalment: our plans to hijack the tour van]

Saturday, August 07, 2004

My father the eggbeater

iTunes' party shuffle is playing: South Side - Moby - Play
'A man sets out to draw the world. As the years go by, he peoples a space with images of provinces, kingdoms, mountains, bays, ships, islands, fishes, rooms, instruments, stars, horses, and individuals. A short time before he dies, he discovers that that patient labyrinth of lines traces the lineaments of his own face.' -Jorge Luis Borges, Afterword, El Hacedor Several years ago I took a road trip with Pa up north to Seremban, where we were to settle some family things. We had some time to spare, so he asked me to drive slowly, and said that I must 'turn up out the exit' when he tells me to. Pa's directions to drivers are often exasperatingly cryptic. Many times, my road rage is directed at him. What is 'turn up'? Left or right? Tell me left or right? Don't tell me 'up' or 'down' the road, can? This time, he asked me to 'turn up out the exit' somewhere south of Seremban, and take the rickety old trunk road we used to take when I was a kid. Pa required several toilet breaks as I did smoke breaks. At the various stops along the highway, I took out a notebook and started interviewing him, asking him about my family's history. We drove to the township of Mantin, Negri Sembilan, where, according to Pa, the coffee shop that stood in the middle of town still looked the same as it did sixty years ago. With the Plus expressway, Mantin has more or less lost its purpose. It remains a typically dusty Malaysian town, with people drifting around on little motorbikes, dirty Malay kids running barefoot, tired looking Chinese schoolchildren lugging their Mickey Mouse bags back from school. Pa said he used to work at the coffee shop as a coffee boy. His eyes welled up as he spoke of sellling coffee powder and yew char kuay at the market; of cycling the twenty odd kilometres to Seremban to school; of how Grandfather and Grandmother lived separately; of how Grandmother sailed from Hainan to Malaya to look for Grandfather, but didn't know where Malaya was, and how, as a result, her route was Village - Haikou - Canton - Hanoi - Saigon - Bangkok - Hatyai - Ipoh - Seremban; and of how, when he was six years old, Grandmother sent him on a boat to Singapore to look for Grandfather, not knowing Grandfather was in Port Dickson, and couldn't come to Singapore to meet him because he owed a substantial amount of money to some Hainanese gentleman there. My notebook was soon filled, noting these and many other stories, some involving Malaysian royalty. Some about thugs. And some about how our family came to run nightclubs and hotels that rented rooms out by the hour. Pa was laughing as he told me the odds and ends of his life. He was tearing as well. I asked Pa why he never told me or my siblings these things before. And he said, voice breaking as he did, 'I don't want you all to know about poverty'. On Tuesday night, Pa called me on my mobile (even though we live in the same house), and asked if I could see him in his room. I went, and he told me he went to the neurosurgeon's who confirmed he had Parkinson's Disease. He then said, Old already is like that one lah. I said, Good, Saturday morning you make breakfast. Scrambled eggs. No sunny side up in this house anymore! Pa laughed again for a good minute, again hiding his hands behind his back so I wouldn't see him with his shakes.

Friday, August 06, 2004

Days Were The Those: A Singapore National Service Story Depository

iTunes' party shuffle is playing: Canary in a Coalmine - Police - Zenyatta Mondatta
I've started an Army (or National Service) blog here. It is open to anyone who's got an anecdote or twenty to contribute. Simply drop us an email and we'll put you as one of the contributors. You'll need a Blogger account though. I've put up several pieces I've written previously, and Woof! has just posted his contribution of how he met Satan in the Army and lived to tell the tale. He's got a lot more in his bag, judging from the hilarious incidents he's highlighted in comments on this blog. One kosong with three egg... hahahahahahha! So, all you NSmen, start sharing! It's funnier if you write them down! Any size, any shape, any vocation, combat, cook, clerk or storeman.

What I'd do on the long weekend had I the means

iTunes' party shuffle is playing: Darling pretty - Mark Knopfler - Golden Heart
It's the long weekend. They charge an extra $30 on all outbound flights this weekend. The bloodsuckers. I am stuck in Sillypore for National Day. I'd like to have been able to go somewhere. Like Tioman. For some reason, I like this island, even if it's no longer the idyllic tropical island paradise it once was. Didja know they shot the movie 'South Pacific' on Tioman? I've been there several times in the past decade and more, and the following is what I wrote on one of these trips there three years ago: Somewhere on Pulau Tioman there is a bunch of kampong kids learning to speak rudimentary French. There is a resort chalet complex by the beach on Kampong Tekek on the western coast of the island which is run by a Frenchman, although to call it a resort chalet complex makes it sound as if it were part of an international hotel chain, which, it most definitely isn't. Tekek Inn is Spartan by any standard, and my friend and I happened upon it purely by chance and the sad fact that we couldn't afford to stay at the Berjaya Imperial just one mile south of Kampong Tekek. There isn't much else to be said of the six days I spent there. I switched off my brain and sat by the beach drinking oh say ten beers a day or so. Before I decompressed though, I had that heightened sense of awareness of everything and shit that one normally gets when the adrenalin starts pumping because one is super excited about being on holiday. OK, I admit that this trip wouldn't have materialised into anything more than the mere notion of a holiday in my mind if not for the fact that my female travelling companion who had recently separated from her partner, was also hankering for a holiday, and had badgered me out of my characteristic inertia to hastily dust off the cobwebs from my backpack, pack a few t-shirts and shorts, hop in a cab and head towards the causeway. It was only much later that I had the shrinking realisation that a female travelling companion who has recently separated from her partner has more baggage than she appears to carry. Still, I was happy tagging along with Miss Hell-knows-no-fury and soon we were bungling our way through Johor State, first on the SBS No. 170 to Larkin Terminus, where we discovered that we had missed the last bus to Mersing, and on a bone-breaker blue and white 1980s Nissan Cedric taxi which we shared with a Chinese gentleman with permed hair and a pencil moustache who happened to be waiting for other travellers to Mersing so he could save by sharing the RM120 fare. Miss Freshly Dumped and I spent the first few minutes of the trip through grimy Johor Baru giggling at the Chinese gentleman who had fallen fast asleep the moment the taxi pulled out of Larkin Terminus, the diesel engine's vibrations jiggling his permed crown such that it became a fuzzy blur. Then my friend fell asleep just as we headed out of the city, and I was left to try to doze off in that wakeful way, only I couldn't because of the way the death-wish taxi driver, for the next two hours, would frequently overtake other vehicles he deemed were going slower than we were, and I don't mean overtaking one vehicle at a time, but a whole convoy of lorries, cars, motorcycles, protons and kancils on a two lane highway, with another convoy of the same occasionally coming down the opposite direction at speed, and often suddenly from beyond a crest in the road. I made a mental note that on such future trips, to fall asleep as soon as the taxi left the terminus, or risk having my testicles reside permanently in my throat. After traversing through a thousand oil palm plantations, we arrived at Mersing on the northeast coast of Johor State, ready for the next leg of our journey. Hell, I was ready for a trip on the space shuttle, having spent two hours in astronaut training in the cab. Only problem was, we didn't have the foggiest idea where to take the ferry. But of course, we needn't have worried a smidgin. After rattling through the seemingly sleepy backwater town for five minutes, the taxi pulled into an area of the town where every other shop was a ferry/resort/diving agency. The place was teeming with be-backpacked, be-sandaled (except Americans, who wear trainers and socks even when wading through the surf) and bewildered tourists tumbling out of buses and taxis and into the lairs of the ferry/resort/diving agencies where the mercenary tour operators squeezed every freshly converted ringgit out of them. We forked out RM185 for a speedboat transfer and one night's stay at Salang Beach Resort. Exorbitant, yes, but before my friend could protest, I was sold by the tour operator telling us how nice the air-conditioned hut we were to stay in was. I think I was just in a very agreeable mood because my testicles were just starting to settle back in their rightful place of residence. We stepped out of the agency office with a few other tourists who were also counting how little money they had left, and were then fetched by our cab driver from J.B., Michael Schumacher, to the jetty, where we promptly boarded the wrong ferry. Good thing they inspected our tickets before the boat departed. We waited an hour longer on the jetty for the right boat (a helpful local gentleman in a tank-top with an outrageous mullet hairstyle ala Billy Ray 'Achy Breaky' Cyrus told us what time our boat would dock), where I bought some tidbits and listened to the first of my friend's many tales of woe regarding her former partner, whom she had dated for the past seven months, and whom she had planned (to herself) to marry, and with whom she had wanted to raise a clutch of children, all bearing monosyllabic New Age unpronounceable names that would only have sounded normal in Wales or if your last name was Phoenix. I was thus happy to discover that our ride to Tioman was to be in an open-decked speedboat. Not only would that afford us an unimpeded view of the open sea, the roar of the outboard would also postpone any further discussion on my friend's failed relationship. Or so I thought. We were actually kept sans conversation only because this was phase two of astronaut training, and I was truly fearful of being flung overboard, and I couldn't help wondering what 'Man Overboard!' was in Malay. Thankfully, within the hour, we had skimmed, skidded and bounced the fifty odd kilometres and had begun making stops on Tioman Island, of which ours was the last. The other passengers, including Billy Ray Cyrus, disembarked at the various kampongs as I gradually loosened my death grip on one of the boat's rails and rubbed the bruises on my achy breaky backside. Only then did I begin to process what I had seen, calmed by the cobalt blue waters and the emerald hills of the islands along the way. Tioman is part of Pahang State, and is the largest of a group of islands which dot the South China Sea just off the eastern coast of peninsular Malaysia. All the islands which lie in the 200km radius are remarkably beautiful, with rugged features like extinct volcanoes and cliffs of granite. Most of the larger islands are populated, in the past by small fishing communities, and of late by staff of the island resorts and their families, and of course by souvenir peddlers who sell mostly cockle shells glued together to look like other marine animals, since Tioman and its environs have recently been declared a marine heritage area, and the poaching and sale of marine wildlife have since been banned. Marine tourism is big in these islands, and there is, quite literally, one diving centre for every kilometre stretch of beach. But if the authorities were serious about preserving the sanctity of the marine environment, it must have been evident only below the surface, because the waters around Tioman were chock-full of speeding watercraft, ferrying newly-fleeced tourists to and from resorts by the dozen. I had travelled to Tioman twice before, once, ten years ago on a risky kayaking expedition (no lifejackets, no radio, no flares, no brains) from Singapore, and another in 1995 with my then girlfriend, in the relative comfort of the direct ferry from Tanah Merah in Singapore. Then, there weren't as many resorts on the island, nor boats plying the waters around it. It used to be that an old wooden ferry with a converted lorry engine would make a twice daily trip round the island stopping at the wooden jetties of the larger kampongs. Now, most of the kampongs have grotesque concrete eyesores fingering the sea, and there are all manner of boats arriving or departing every other hour. Except at Kampong Salang, where we finally docked at the last wooden jetty on Tioman. We had touched the Happy Isle. Only the sky was turning a leaden grey, the tide was low, and we were hungry, or at least I was. My friend had a stomach complaint, of which flatulence and loss of appetite were major symptoms. To her credit, she announced each time she was about to pass gas, so that her 'audience' had ample time to pinch their noses. Pretty considerate especially in confined spaces like those in buses, taxis and ferries.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

235 35 35

iTunes' party shuffle is playing: Jealous Guy - John Lennon - Imagine
For the benefit of Woof! who was so stoked by the sentimental Army post that he left a comment that had to be truncated, and then pressed the publish button three times some more; and for Malaysian boys who wish they had the benefit of National Service, here is an Army anecdote. Look away now, girls. It probably is not funny to you, but I swear it'll bring a tear to Woof!'s eyes from laughing too much. Guaranteed. Wonsaponatime, Attila Combat Team ('A' Coy, 46SAR) had a new NCO (now known as Specialist) who was incredibly inept at everything he did. The entire company viewed him as a danger to everyone else. Once I even had to ride my bike into a ditch to avoid being run over by the Armoured Fighting Vehicle he was commanding. We felt a little sorry for Cpl Tan Ting Tong (I can't remember his real name), for he wasn't cut out for Armour, much less as a commander in Armour. But because he was the one most likely to get us killed, there was a concerted effort from both the officers and men to get him out of the company. Bit hard, given that you don't get dismissed from a unit because of stupidity. And so, we hatched a diabolical scheme to make Cpl Tan Ting Tong do something so inept, but without danger to his company mates, that would see him get transferred out. During one field training exercise, we parked our vehicles in formation and rested for the night. Cpl Tan was still on alert in his commander's cupola, in his vehicle, One-Two-Bravo. Me and the company sergeant major asked him if he was hungry. He said yes. We then said 'Did you know that you can order pizza through the radio comms'? 'Izzit?' 'Yes, you dunno meh? Switch to this frequency, order what you want, give your location MGR (map grid reference) and they will deliver, no matter where in the jungle you are.... and if more than one hour, you get one free garlic bread and pepsi'. The trap was set. We went back to company HQ's vehicle, One-Niner, tuned our radio to 'Pizza Hut' frequency and waited. Faster than expected. And in proper military radio protocol: *crackle* * buzz* Hallo Pizza Hut, Hallo Pizza Hut, This is One Two Bravo, message, over. Stifling laughter, our company 2IC (2nd in command), took the radio handset and replied, 'Pizza Hut, send, over'. 'One Two Bravo, err... um... want to order one Super Supreme, over'. 'Pizza Hut, say again, over'. 'One Two Bravo, one Super Supreme, over'. 'Pizza Hut, roger that, would you like a drink with that, over?' 'One Two Bravo, errrrrr.... that's a negative, over'. 'Pizza Hut, that's a roger, what is your mike golf romeo (MGR), over?' 'One Two Bravo, umm.... wait... ummm two... six... three... four... seven.. two, over'. 'Pizza Hut, confirm mike golf romeo two six three four seven two, over'. 'One Two Bravo, umm... that's a roger, over'. 'Pizza Hut to One Two Bravo, roger that, rendevous at your location in figure zero five mike, please prepare exact change, over'. 'One Two Bravo, ummm, ok, roger'. 'Pizza Hut, out'. For dereliction of duty, unauthorised use of military communications and generally flouting Article 25 of the Singapore Armed Forces Code of Conduct, Cpl Tan Ting Tong was given a field demotion to spare MG gunner. Later on, he was transferred out of Attila, and even later, out of the Battalion. His replacement, Cpl Koh Lian Thye, was almost just as inept, but that's several other stories altogether.

Beautiful Day

iTunes' party shuffle is playing: Beautiful Day - U2 - The Best & The B-Sides Of 1990-2000 (Disc 1: The Best Of)
Today I used up a bit of one of my birthday presents, a 'six-pack' of beers 'from around the world', lovingly selected from Cold Storage. It was a mind-sapping day, so I thought, what better than to crack open a bottle with the biggest kick. Hoegaarden De Verboden Vrucht. So fruity, macam like fruit punch, but oh what a punch. Then in the middle of the night, I took a drive to nowhere but ended up at a McDonald's drive through I'd never driven through before, and called the wife to see if she wanted some nuggets. She said I was evil, but OK, one six piece McNugget and an iced Milo please. I said McDonald's where got ice Milo one? Are you trying to make me make a fool of myself like the time I drove through without stopping at the ordering booth and went straight to pick up and stared at the staff and they stared right back at me? A while later, we sat at the kitchen table and ate our non-supersized meals with one iced Milo and a medium Coke. Rough day or not, it's not all that bad if I can sit down and share a meal with the wife at the kitchen table. Later, I watched her pack for her trip. Go ahead, knock yerselves out. 8.5%!

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

All stations one niner, this is one niner, rodeo now, over

iTunes' party shuffle is playing: (What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding - Joe Louis Walker - Labour Of Love - The Music of Nick Lowe
As anyone who knows me can attest, I have enough Army stories to last several lifetimes. Cowboy Caleb's post is the perfect excuse to inflict another bout of sentimentality. It is now 15 years since they gave me five sets of number four (the tops I still wear, the pants I had to buy new ones). I am still at it, and proud of it, some say, for perverse reasons. But seriously folks, I wouldn't have traded this for anything in the world. My Army gave me some of the mental and physical shape I'm currently in. My Army showed me life, death, despair, hope, perseverance, friendship, loyalty, strength and compassion. I remember turning 20 while I was cleaning an Armoured Fighting Vehicle with my section mates, and our sergeant (Sgt S Nathan) stopped work for my mates to sing happy birthday to me, and Sgt S Nathan (Sarge, what does the S stand for? S stands for Sergeant, you mother cheebye fucker, don't ask me again) lit me a cigarette and told me to faster wake up my idea because I wasn't a teenager anymore. (I last saw Sgt S Nathan at the airport a few years ago as I was leaving on a business trip. He had quit the Army and was working as an airport policeman, one of those who stand outside the immigration counters checking passengers' passports and tickets. The other passengers were a little shocked to hear our exchange of greetings that went something to the effect of 'Cheebye, Sar'n Nathan, it's you! Cheebye what cheebye, kepala boootoh Buddha (my nickname), where you going, mother cheebye fucker?' And he still wouldn't tell me what the S stood for.) I remember doing guard duty at the Padang on my 21st birthday even if it was a Saturday because I signed three extra duties for fucking up on a mission - my buddies snuck out and bought me a cake and satay from the satay club across the road. I remember doodling the names of my girlfriends while we listened to long lectures on weapons and tactics. I remember falling asleep during lectures and being made to run and hug a tree because the lecturer said I looked like a sleeping koala. (Not as bad as the other trooper who was made to writhe like an upturned cockroach poisoned by Mortein). I don't pretend to be anywhere near a proficient professional soldier, and I could never be one. I'm still nervous around live ammunition and flinch at a gunshot or tank round explosion. I remember shitting bricks when my unit was mobilized as a stand-by perimeter security force for Changi Airport when SQ117 was hijacked, loading into my weapons and vehicles what I remembered was damned a lot of live ammo, enough to blow up several aircraft. We never left our camp compound thanks to the swift resolution of the crisis, but it was enough to let us know the stuff they trained us for, they expected us to be able to carry out. I lost a battalion mate to a training accident that I was involved in, and lost two more to suicide. And these things stay with you the rest of your life. I nearly copped it too, but was saved on several occasions by my buddies, and I, in turn, was given a chance to save their skins also. When I went abroad, I made it a point to try to put these things behind me, and purposefully avoided keeping in touch with the Army and my buddies. But my subconscious did not let me. When I returned to Singapore and was recalled into another unit (because my original unit had almost completed its 13 year cycle), I was mortified. I called up my buddies again. When we met up, we embarrassed ourselves crying at a Delifrance outlet. My buddies shared with me how they coped with the trauma, and how different reservist training is these days to when we were full time soldiers. They told me not to worry a bit because even after a 10 year hiatus, I'd remember everything I was trained to do. They also told me not to worry too much about anything else, because 'if you survived what we survived, you can do anything'. One-Niner & One-Eight crew and personnel, 'Attila' Combat Team, 46th Reconnaissance Battalion, Singapore Armoured Regiment, Kanchanaburi province, Thailand, 1989: top row L-R: OC's runner/MG gunner Pte S.C. Foong, APC commander Cpl Mak, reconnaissance motorcyclist Pte B.S.Y. Lee, Signaller Pte K.H. Tan, APC driver Pte H.Y. Teo; front: APC driver Pte Selvam, 2IC's runner/MG gunner Pte L. Sng. My buddy and me, Singapore, 1990: Reconnaissance motorcyclists Cpl T.K. Hoe (One Eight Charlie) & Cpl B.S.Y. Lee (One Niner Charlie). Till today, we call each other by our radio callsigns.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004


iTunes' party shuffle is playing: Buckets of Rain - Bob Dylan - Wonder Boys [Soundtrack]
This evening, the wife and I take dinner at the Village. Our lives have been really hectic lately, bordering on manic. So we decided to eat, chill, and make really detailed lists of what we're supposed to get done with work and otherwise. My list is five pages long. I have many things to do. I feel better after making the list. I see my wife's list and discover that she's about to take off on a holiday. Sans husband! Basket! She says, 'Sorry hubz, maybe next time I take you with me. I really can't let you sponge off me now. You have to earn your keep, ok?' With that, she pays for dinner, coffee, and a slice of NYDC's Goldmine cheesecake. 1. Buy husband a new motorcycle... It's a hard life being a food critic...

Monday, August 02, 2004

Hail the Republic

iTunes' party shuffle is playing: Where You Lead - Faith Hill - Tapestry Revisited: A Tribute to Carole King
There seems to be more activities this National Day than previous years'. My conspiracy theorist friends suggest it's to distract people from the shrinking realisation that things are about to go pear-shaped with the investiture of the new PM in two weeks. These are the same conspiracy theorists who suggest last month's power failure was engineered to make Singaporeans make more babies on that one particular night. I have some paranoid friends. I tell them there is nothing wrong in the new PM's wife being at the helm of the most powerful conglomerate in the land, and she got there on her own accord, and there is nothing that could suggest otherwise. I also tell them that the latest rumour of new stringent media laws being passed at the first sitting of the new parliament is completely unfounded and vicious, and designed to destabilise the new PM's mandate. I tell them I am proud of being in the most stable democracy in the region. Our Constitution protects us. If we don't like what's happening, we can always exercise our vote by moving to a constituency which will be contested in the next elections. We have access to alternative political views simply by walking to Holland Village or outside Centrepoint to buy a copy of The Hammer from our friendly Indian newsvendor, Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam or visiting Singapore's most popular website at Sammyboy.com. Our leaders, who we elected in 1959 and in whom we've had so much faith that we've elected them again in every election since, are shining examples of how well our meritocratic society works. Every citizen can aim high and earn $100K a month if he or she worked hard, public sector or not. Just look at the incoming PM's wife. Private sector. Our laws are fair and just, and often designed to protect us from our own foolhardiness. We cop heavy fines for not wearing a seat belt in cars, but for people who are poor enough not to be able to ride in a car, there is no need to fear prosecution for riding in the back of a lorry with no seats to and from their workplaces. We also have a highly experienced Chief Justice who takes on the extra burden of being the judicial watchdog, stepping in where he sees justice needs to be expedited. And how about our wisdom in dispensing totally with a jury system because it inconveniences our work force? We also have a highly efficient prison system that deters and rehabilitates some of the most hardened of criminals by despatching the capital cases at the unmatched rate of 30 a year. We have a united trade union movement that protects our workforce. Besides it's own insurance arm, car rental services and supermarket chain, it even has it's own office block in the CBD that offers leases at rates much lower than the surrounding private office blocks. Public housing is also so successful that we have the only public housing scheme in the world that makes a profit. Security is unquestionably high. Four bandits with one rusty pistol land on one outlying island, not even the mainland, and our armed forces dispatch 700 highly armed highly trained and dedicated National Servicemen to that island to impound their sampan and catch the buggers in the swamp. And remember in '91 when dangerous Islamic hijackers commandeered an SQ plane? Our commandos took just 30 seconds to kill them all, not even waiting to negotiate with them to put down their butter knives. I ask my friends, which other country can boast of these? There is much to be said for Singapore, and most of it can be heard on the region's premium news station, Channel Newsasia, between 6am and 1am daily. My conspiracy theorist friends can just quit for the long weekend. I'm gonna stay and celebrate our achievements.

Not to be

iTunes' party shuffle is playing: She's Not For You - Willie Nelson - Across The Borderline
The wife arranged for tickets for Private Parts to be picked up at 7.45pm. We left for the Esplanade with time to spare. But. But tonight was the first big event in the month long National Day celebrations. The roads were chockers with people who like to watch fireworks because they think fireworks are roolly cool to watch. All carparks in the vicinity and beyond were full. Illegal parking wasn't even to be had. There was no chance I could park the tank anywhere within a half hour's walk. Thinking quickly, I aimed for hotels with valet parking services or expensive carparks with fewer cars. Then I realised I'd left my wallet at home and there was only like $2.40 in my on-board cashcard. I missed the play. Big deal. Only $65 and some petrol wasted.

Sunday, August 01, 2004


iTunes' party shuffle is playing: Secret Love - Manuel Galbán/Ry Cooder - Mambo Sinuendo
It's a good thing I had to spend half the day with Mum. Else I'd never have known Agnes B. had co-branded with Everlast and retail some nifty looking sports gear. Mum was pretty upset at having to wait two hours for me to wake up, so when I finally did wake up and fetch her out, she indulged in a spot of retail therapy, spending enough money to get a free Agnes B. umbrella. Sated and pacified, she bought me lunch at Prego. Then we spent half an hour browsing MPH. Then I brought her home. Normally, my spirits fare proportionately with the fortunes of the sporting teams I barrack for. The teams I barrack for are the Wallabies, the ACT Brumbies, the NSW Waratahs and the Australian test and one day cricket teams. This weekend, the mercurial Stephen Larkham shook off the wobbles and weaved his way to inspire the Wallabies to a bonus point victory over the Springboks in a Test match where the lead changed hands eight times. My heart rate was still in the red zone when the one true love decided to telephone me and tell me of her terrible, terrible predicament in life and love. She was afraid. Afraid of being weak, she said. This I took to mean she had decided to still be with that so-called boyfriend of hers. Again. But of course, there's always a lot more to it than that that causes her fortunes to vacillate this much this many times. Isn't there? Isn't there? Where have you gone, Stephen 'Bernie' Larkham? My nation turns its lonely eyes to you. Woo, woo, woo. Bernie with the Brumbies