My Uncle’s Funeral

It’s been almost a month since my uncle died.

The failure of his liver dragged out over two years, and finally ended in a dramatic final week in hospital. The last couple of days were terrible, but I suspect we had it easy as a family–there was no hope for recovery, so it was a matter of hoping for the least amount of pain, and that was resolved with drugs (when the doctors eventually got the dosage right). Mommy and my sister had it the worst–everything happened on their watches (also they had the most watches).

The funeral was an eye-opener for me–a three day Buddhist event full of bowing, incense, praying and entertaining. We did it at with Casket Fairprice at their funeral parlour, which turned out to be a lot more quite comfortable than having it at a HDB void deck (there was air conditioning). A lot more people showed up than I would have expected for my uncle, who was, to most, a bachelor and a pauper.

I suppose funerals and wakes are more to appease the living and to announce the death to society at large, but I thought it was a little sad that none of his friends came. Not that any of us knew who his friends were, other than the other old folks whom he shared his time with at the local kopitiam, so there was really no way for us to let them know about the funeral. I wonder if he had any past lovers or friends who might have shed a tear for him.

I was never close to my uncle. I have photos of him holding me as a baby, but little recollection that we spent much time together afterwards. For one, my Cantonese is almost as bad as his English was, so communication never progressed beyond the typical “are you eating well” and “study hard” platitudes. Given their age gaps, Mommy was also not as close to him as siblings could be, so she displayed little affection towards him to rub off on us. Her general prickliness towards houseguests also made his visits short and succinct, which didn’t make for much interaction.

While I’m not particularly upset over his passing, it has left me wondering about the potential similarities in my life. Whether any of the friends I’ve made along the way would show up at my funeral (my sister suggested that notification was a simple matter of getting my phone and doing a mass-broadcast over facebook). I’d like to think that my death could warm some seats, though whether any lashes would be wet is uncertain. I always did love more broadly than deeply.

Uncle left behind a bunch of antique coins, which he claimed to be worth a pretty penny. I have no doubt that, in the hands of a collector, they might be, but for now they sit, orphaned, in my brother’s old room at Mommy’s. With a bit of luck perhaps she might get into it as a hobby–though I suspect the memory of her brother will haunt her every time she looks at them and spoil the experience.

Will I leave behind anything other than a gigantic stash of porn and some occasional scribblings on a blog?

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Caught the latest Spider-Man movie today, after seeing the very good reviews around it. It was excellent, as promised–so good in fact that I bothered to type up this rant about it.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

During the post-show discussion with my friends, I mentioned that this Spider Man could have been a textbook example of the recent push for diversity in representation. I got a couple of pained looks–I suspect because for the Marvel nerds the characters have already existed within the Spider-Verse for a long time, and served as Marvel’s litmus test for inclusion and diversity. Of course, Marvel’s X-Men kicked the ball off for representation, but I thought it was odd that the Spider-Man franchise, a stereotypically white male superhero, would get picked to be so radically rebooted (or perhaps not so strange, given Sony’s relationship with Marvel over character IP and canon).

You could probably write entire essays about the politics of this new Spider-Man: how the new Spider Man is black (at least, as black as Obama), how it’s about an ensemble cast of racially and gender diverse Spider-People working together to save the world rather than a lonely single Uber-Mensch, how Spider-Woman is the best fighter of all of them, the tension middle-class African Americans have with the stereotype of black gang and criminal activity… The movie is a morality play, and rather a heavy-handed one, but perfectly juxtaposed with wink-wink self-referential humour and high-adrenaline swinging-through-the-rooftop action sequences.

What I thought was interesting was how the show presented to a white male perspective, and the questions it posed about the role of straight white men in a gender-equal, post-racial world. In a movie about being a hero, this Spider-Man is about how to not be the hero.


We open with Peter Parker, the Spider-Man we all know and love, but yet slightly different from the slightly-bumbling Peter Parker we’re familiar from the first movie (I only acknowledge Toby Maguire). This Peter Parker is blond, confident, sassy, in love with his woman and his job and, most of all, successful at everything he does. He is at his prime, the symbol of white male privilege and power.

Unfortunately, this Peter Parker dies twenty minutes into the movie.

We are instead left with a new Spider-Man in the form of Miles Morales, who is young and unsure of himself. Miles stumbles around, trying his best in an ill-fitting Spider-Man costume, but he is young and unready–the new world order cannot survive without a little help and guidance.

Cue Alternate-Peter Parker, who is a little older than our blond, blue-eyed but dead Spider-Man. Alternate-Peter has been around a long time, is a little past-his prime, and has learned that being the Sole Saviour of the World is not very rewarding. His marriage has collapsed, he lounges around in sweatpants and he sports a dad-bod. He’s stuck in a rut–he’s afraid to move on, he’s afraid of children, he’s lost his way despite having all the power and privilege of being Spider-Man.

In what I thought was a very intelligent subversion of a very common trope of a white man being taught by a wise and quirky ethnic how to succeed in strange and new circumstances, the movie has Alternate-Peter mentoring Miles on how to get ahead. He does so with limited success, but like he says, there is no real training that can prepare you for the real thing, social systems are made up as they go along, and young Miles is not ready to do a real man’s job. This means the burden of the world’s problems are once again on Alternate-Peter’s shoulders, which he seemingly is happy to sacrifice himself to do, but which we all know is his way of extending the status quo as long as it will last, so that he does not need to face the future.

Miles eventually comes to terms with his newfound powers and starts kicking ass, but not before putting on a new outfit–one that he modifies himself. The new order, whilst keeping vestiges of the old, must govern on its own terms.

We finally see Alternate-Peter trying to get back with Alternate-Mary-Jane. Whether or not it works we don’t know, but at least he has found a way forward after recognizing the new Spider-Man and realizing that he does not have to be the only Hero. Also he discovers he might actually like children now.

The movie’s main antagonist, Kingpin, is in many ways similar to Alternate-Peter. He, too, has lost power and masculinity. His wife and child are dead, indirectly because of him. However, unlike Alternate Peter who languishes in confusion and apathy, he seeks to bring them back by whatever means necessary.

I thought it was interesting that despite seemingly having an equally inclusive and diverse (if less pretty) cast of villians, Kingpin never treats them as being any better than mere henchmen, and does not recognize them as being equal partners.

Refusing to acknowledge that he is, in fact, the root of his issues, he sees the world as the problem and constantly tries to “fix” it, to shape the world around him. But he is doomed to fail, his alternate-wives and alternate-childs alternate-rejecting him, and ultimately again run over by alternate-cars. Being an Ubermensch cannot solve the problem when being an Ubermensch is the issue.

(Also, one cannot help but wonder what his plan was for when his alternate selves built alternate dimension machines to steal back their alternate wives from him, but that is probably another essay to be written about the selfishness and short-sightedness of capitalism.)

I think the movie gives a nod to the loss of power and masculinity (whatever that term means) experienced by straight-white-men across the world, which has seen the rise of uber-male groups like the bad boys. It says simply–“A more equal world doesn’t exclude you, it won’t be that bad, and the faster you come to terms that the future is changing, the happier you’ll be the and the more allies you will have.” And that’s a refreshingly conciliatory message in an increasingly insular and polarized world.

Don’t bend for others, they say

I suppose it’s meant as a warning to the more “divisive” members of our society, but considering PM Lee was just in the US asking for more US involvement in the region whilst ESM Goh and other assorted Ministers were in China doing the same, it sounds a little hypocritical.

Of course, international relations for economic progress are, as usual in Singapore, measured in different terms from social norms and thoughts.

Too much coffee!

In a desperate bid to stay awake for my course in the evening, I consumed 2 cups of coffee, after nodding off whilst my lecturer rambled on about the importance of backup schedules and planning – an important part of being a systems administrator, a fact that we all concurred with (at least, the rest of the class – I was snoozing in the corner) which must have earnt me a ticket to System Administrator Hell in the future.

It worked, but now I am buzzed up and trembling as I type, albeit very quickly – a combinatino which leads to many errors and the backspace button being the most-used key. I hummed the whole way back on the MRT ride, causing rather many passengers to look around in puzzlement and finally gaze upon me in suspicion when they managed to ascertain the source of the sounds, and to which I tried to respond by smiling but I suspect my buzzed-up face does not look quite as friendly and approachable as I’d like.

I will admit to being somewhat easily influenced by substance. Anyyon’e who’s ever been drinking with me will know I become intoxicated extremely easily (which I see as a benefit, since it means I am much more efficient at becoming drunk – and isn’t that the point of drinking?) – a fact that has led to me to some rather embarrassing actions. My colleagues with whom I went to China now hold a short video of me spouting french rudenesses to Chinese (as in China Chinese) girls at the entrance to a bar, which I swear was out of good humour after one of aforementioned Chinese girls humourously (for us) fell drunk into the pool. Since my command of the french language is rather limited, it mostly features me slurring the word “derriere”.

They found it very amusing to show it to everyone in the office.

I am considering enabling disk quotas on the shared folders and making some of them very very very small.

It’s probably just as well I live in Singapore, where drugs aren’t that easy to obtain and most of the good chinese kids would rather eat their children (without condiments!) than shoot up with heroine. I imagine I am probably allegic, or quite possibly the kind to OD extremely easily.

I guess coffee will just have to do for now.

The Male Pill

Article from Wired about the “new” male contraceptive pill that will not only sieve out your little sperm buddies but actually get rid of ejaculatory fluid altogether.

The article in itself isn’t particularly noteworthy – what’s woth looking at are the comments. They’re such a laugh. You can practically imagine the roomful of men farting and puffing up their machismo as large as it will go.

Oh, and there’s also the neat idea – “men can now fake orgasms too”. Yeah right. That’ll happen.

Chinese sexuality

Because I’m on course and don’t have to talk to colleagues during lunchtime, I get to spend much more time on the net surfing. Within the same lunch hour (and with time to dash this out!) I managed to read with some amount of amusement Yawning Bread’s article about Singaporeans being mostly unable to discern or analyse information over the internet, in which he lampoons a survey which looks like it was “analysed” by a Honours-year Statistics major who took Math modules for fun.

Why amusement? Because I’d discovered Furong Jiejie, who puts our own Xiaxue to shame. Sister Lotus (really? Furon is lotus?) is a self-professed peasant woman (in Chinese it sounds better – lao2 bai3 xing4) from Shaanxi who posts shots of herself invarious … positions. I tripped over several adjectives in the last sentence – best if you take a look yourself. She’s gained fame all over China, and her narcissism and shamelessness has earnt her household recognition.

And she’s not the only Chinese blogger to gain renown for being (uh) sexy. Muzi Mei posts even more daring articles about her sexual exploits and has a readership that rivals Slashdot on some days. No prizes for guessing if there are more people interested in sex or IT around these days.

Strangely enough, Ms Lotus has a link to the Tammy video on a post, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Muzi has one too (not that she’s not shy to produce her own). The first time in China they’re selling a product Made in Singapore, wahahaha.

Poor Steven Lim.

Really, Alex, when the majority of users out there use the net for sites like these, can you really blame them for saying they can’t really discern or analyse information? What’s there to analyse?

More internet trolls

O how could I forget! I used to read these for amusement – never in my life did I think I would one day end up a PFY.

Bastard Operator From Hell – stories of a System Admin.

I highly recommend the original stories by Simon Travaglia.

The Register also has some more recent stories, which I don’t find quite as amusing. Wikipedia’s page on BOFH has information (as it should) and some links at the bottom where you can find more stuff.

Think Dilbert, except much more malicious, and where the Sys Admin is cast in the position of dark anti-hero (like Batman!) rather than sad abused technical employee.


Though I don’t think I’ll ever stoop as low as the desktop-testicle-slamming phase. Sys admins in the odl days were really mean.

It’s sad. The rest of my MCSE course is drooling over Sitex hardware brochures. Hardware heads.

Wherein I blog-on-the-job (almost)

I’m taking the MCSE now, at this company called Avantus. They cost rather more than some of the other IT trianing providers in Singapore, but I went for this one since my company is paying anyways. Not that I would waste corporate resources wantonly, but it is my belief that you get what you pay for, and that there has to be a reason this company charges up to twice as much as its competitors.

And there is. They give us free cake during breakfast and tea-time, and Milo is available all-day.

I’m actually sitting at the computer where I’m supposed to be practicing delegation of rights to Organizational Units or something, but I’ve finished ahead of my peers as I am the only one amongst them who can really call himself a Sys Admin and thus possess power beyond their ken. The rest of them are programmers who didn’t read the description for the course and are now stuck learning things they will never need to know in the course of their careers or IT vendors who only need the certification so that their companies can get Microsoft Gold Partner, which means they will get a neat black flag with “Microsoft” written on it in golden lettering which they will worship but which none of their clients will care about.

The course has been pretty easy so far, except that I keep falling asleep. Due to the small class sizes, this is embarrassing to say the least, and I do try my best to keep awake, from the tried-and-tested holding a pen method, which I kept dropping and drawing attention to myself, to keeping my mouth filled with water, which just resulted in my shirt getting wet when I eventually dozed off.

The worst part of the course is the free time, which I spend trolling for the potential jobs that I might otherwise be doing. It’s like watching a show on the culinary delights of happy-eats-land whilst having instant noodles – I am bound to the company at least until the course ends in April. And however tempting those work-and-travel schemes sound, I also have the bloody loan to pay off.

Corporate life is terrible, not because it’s stressful and bloodthirsty, but because it’s long stretches of lousy scenery coupled with really boring travellig companions.