Just Another Statistic (Just Another Long Entry To Be Ignored)

Just went to celebrate Tzen Wah’s birthday at the Marina Bay steamboat place (HAppy Birthday!). It’s still as sweaty and icky as I remember it. I think I eat less the more often I go. Perhaps the memory of good food does stay with you.

We decided to go for drinks at Boat Quay after, and ended up sitting beside the river (I can almost hear the foreigners jeering) at a dingy little bar that served us watered-down beer, the lighting and music provided only by the restaurants beside it. Evidently sitting in the bar proper (where the epilepsy-inducing lighting and radio-tunes were at) would have cost us up to 50% more per drink. It was a bad choice (mine) and I was rather sorry about it, though I’m not sure why I didn’t nip the bud before it bloomed.

Somehow we got to talking about female disadvantages and such things as the girls’ inability to trust men.

I am not the best proponent for male rights and equal gender-rights, being easily confused by What Is and What Should Be. On the other hand, I was rather struck by Chu and Karen telling me about all their friends who had been cheated, violated or generically mistreated by males and their distrust of my gender. As Chu asked “How many good men are there out there?”

And on the way back, I kept thinking about the girl whose condolence book I was doing (because I was editting the condolences for errors) and a phrase that many of the condolers used – “Don’t let it be just a statistic”. I remember being vaguely amused about the phrase, because it was an idealistic one that sounded nice but made no sense – everyone was a statistic, you can’t hide from being part of a large number crunching somewhere.

Then I got a little confused, because if applied to the rules of mate-seeking, since you can’t trust most men it would suggest that statisticall it wouldn’t be worth your while to date anyone at all, since the chances were tilted against your favour that you would lose. You may argue that a discerning eye for suitable qualities may even the playing field and eliminate the lousy men, but it is common consensus that those involved in matters of the heart are poor judges of character. So it goes to show that we fly against the face the statistical truth when mate-seeking.

Then why do we keep doing it? What makes us believe that, given the enormous numbers of relationships that end prematurely (prematurely I take to mean before the people involved die, because that seems to be the romantic ideal these days), makes us think that we are able to find one? The odds (empirical statistical, not observable) are highly against us.

I think that’s what it means not to take something as another statistic, not some phrase thrown form the mouths of well-meaning people.

So let’s apply it to the poor girl’s example – I guess then it would mean that despite the relatively low rate of motorcycle incidents (I’m not sure about this) we should place the fear of flying into our dooms in as high a regard as our seeking a romantic partner – which then leads to the logical conclusion that we shouldn’t ride a bike at all.

And, given this conclusion I guess no one who doesn’t ride a bike yet should attempt to do so and no one who already does should continue. That’s obviously not the case. So I guess a lot of people then will take her as just a statistic. And that is logical, believing in statistical evidence.

Is romance so wonderful, that we keep ignoring statistical truth to pursue it?

Wherein I try to Capture Events of the Last Week

Generic lethargy has prevented me from blogging much the past week – the rainy monsoon season is on it’s way! Poor lighting combined with late nights have resulted in an Alex who mopes about all day feeling guilty about not being productive but yet unable to wrench himself out of mire of sloth encasing him like a fly trapped in turd.

Plus I actually study now. Wow.

Anyways, the last week’s updates on my life:

Saturday, 20 Aug – Went for Splashdown, this fun-swim event organized by NUS’s Lifeguard Corps in which you swim as many laps as possible in the campus pool until you pass out or win all the possible rewards. These rewards, which I managed to nab most of, included: an isotonic drink, an ice cream bar, a swimming cap, a t-shirt, some notepads, magazines (why any swimmer might want Cleo magazine is beyond me) and a cap. Having arrived late, I missed out on the “drum bags” that were being given out for finishing 70 laps – those were snapped up within 2 hours of the competition starting. In any case, I did it more for fun than for the prizes, though I suppose the prizes did make for a more competitive feel and I did kick a lot more people than I would have if I’d gone swimming for mere leisure.

Then I headed off to Nick’s place so that we could all go for the Science Bash. When I arrived I found Nick and Seet practicing their capoiera steps. The pictures below will serve to illustrate why I am not an enthusiastic fan of this allegedly graceful and beautiful form of martial arts.

Seet isn’t the best proponent for advertising the activity, is he? Nick’s slightly better, but unfortunately both of them are still in the cartwheel-stages and look nothing like they wield fists of lethal destruction, though I must say it’ll a real ice-breaker at parties if they perform.

Science Bash, as expected, turned out to be as expected. Science students just aren’t the types who heat up the dance floor. Makes me want to go for engineering bash, just to see what it’s like. Drank a little more than I should, which meant I was rashy on Sunday. Nick describes the event well enough, see his account for details.

The rest of the week turned out rather normally, with lessons and everything (though the fact that I’m going for lessons might be said to be abnormal). My modules now are French I, Philosophy of Language, Logic and the Government and Politics of Singapore. If I’d taken Founders of Modern Philosophy as well you could slap me up with the label Philosphy major – I already have the unkempt hair and the poor dress-sense to go with it.

Watched The Maid with Nick and Seok on Monday, which was most untactful of me. Horror movies should be left to couples without the accompaniment of their sarcastic friends so that they can hug each other during the scary scenes. Thankfully, The Maid wasn’t so much scary as cheesy. It was a good effort by Raintree Productions, I guess, but it still looks rather b-flick. Although it was rather good value for money, with ghosts appearing every five minutes, and in full makeup and regalia too, not just crappy foreshadowing spookiness. Unfortunately once the movie dragged on and you realized that the powers possessed by these supernatural beings consisted largely of looking at you sadly and irritating giggling, you sort of lost any sense of horror you might have possessed and just felt kinda sad for these ghosts who, even after a bout in hell, couldn’t speak proper english.

Wednesday was TW’s birthday, which makes him the same age as me, at least for another few weeks. Went out for dinner, a quiet little affair that was surreal for it’s soberness. Checked out his place later, a cozy little apartment that he shares with WC and CS, all with seperate rooms. The comparative advantages of living with friends instead of roommates you talk to once a week struck me, though it’s a little too late for me now, being stuck with my mysterious (because I still know next-to-nothing about him) landlord for at least another half year till I graduate.

Okay, that’s all for now. Hopefully the followign weeks are less crowded with events and I can post something a little mroe philosophical – taking philosophy modules has sparked off many thoughts.

I can speak a little french now! To tell the truth I can speak more than a little bit, though it’s still pas bien. My lecturer and tutor think I must have had lessons before, such is the accuracy and fluidity with which I spout my faltering half-phrases! All that french music I’ve been listening to does help, I suppose.

I’ve actually been considering going off to China to teach english. It’ll be difficult, I know it will be difficult with my pitiful level of Chinese (which is about high-schooler standard of a chinese-educated person, maybe lower), but considering there are ang mohs who do it without any ability to speak mandarin at all I do possess a considerable advantage. And nothing improves your command of a language than constant practice, so if I want to improve upon my mother-toungue I suppose there’s no better place to do it than my roots. And if Lee Kuan Yew can learn Chinese (for non-academic-purposes) at the age of 30 I can do it now, it’s not too late!

Wherein I Try Weird Jobs and Tests

Got a strange job – designing a condolence book for a recently deceased student from my faculty. Turns out a student passing away is a big thing. I’m surprised – with a population over 5,000 staff and students you’d think more of us would die. I mean, the CIA factbook lists our Mean Death Rate as 4.16 deaths per 1,000 inhabitants, so you’d expect something like 20 deaths every year from my faculty (okay, let’s say 10, if you discount the elderly), but this is the first one I’ve heard of. Do we fire or expel the people who are likely to die so that it happens off campus? Where do all the dying people go?

Anyway I’m kind of lost with the condolence book. Think I’ll do something that looks classic and old-like. Would have helped if I’d known the girl or at least had some pictures of her. Since the book will be for her parents I guess I’ll just leave a couple pages empty with some photo slots in case they want to stick some in.

Interestingly, I’ve been asked to make three copies. Far be it for a mere desinger like me to question what the other two are for, but even with one copy for archiving, it leaves another… who could possibly be interested?

Went for a writing test yesterday, a pre-requisite for a job as a “Media Associate”. The job involves tracking news and making summaries for a PR company, which will then distribute them to clients based on requirements. Unfortunately I’m supposed to track both English and Chinese papers, and god knows my chinese is barely sufficient to read Seet’s dirty comics. Hell, to be honest sometimes I can’t even read the words used to make moaning noises by the women in those comics.

So I’ll be contacted in two weeks if I get the job – they want to try out a few others first to get the bestest translator they can get for 5 dollars an hour.

If I do get it I’ll have to wake up at 6am every morning to read the newspapers, even on weekends, and write summaries like crazy for two hours before submission to an editor who has to wake up at eight in the morning and thus is probably not in a particularly good mood.

Not quite so sure I want this job.

Wherein I Eat Lousy and Watch Good Food

A little sick today from a flu, so am staying home and taking it easy as per doctor’s (well, my) orders. And due to having jogged for a bit two days ago, my body is now a mass of aches and pains that leave me wincing when I go down the stairs. All this means I am too lazy to go buy food and am eating the lfetovers I can find in the fridge.

I’ve always had a soft spot for culinary shows. I don’t cook myself, but it’s somewhat heartwarming to see people put in effort to make food, partly because my family’s idea of a hard time preparing food involves throwing pork ribs in a pot and leaving it to boil for five hours before telling the kids to go get it if they’re hungry. I especially like to watch nice food on TV when I have to eat crap – I think association (or distraction) makes whatever’s on my plate seem a little more palatable.

And one of my favourite shows is, of course, Iron Chef. Oh, how that show does crack me up as well as show me some good food. I love the campy silliness of the presenters, the overbearing seriousness of the commentators, the pretty and stupid weekly female gues judges and the ridiculous costumes of the host.

Okay, for those of you not in the know, Iron Chef is a culinary show with a twist – it’s a cooking competition. The action takes place in “Kitchen Stadium”, a gigantic set filled with cooking implements, and features a challenger chef (usually already of quite some fame in Japan) who challenges one of the Iron Chefs (yes capitalized initials), famous chefs specializing in particular cuisine types, such as my favourite, Chen Kenichi (chinese cuisine). You have to watch the show at least once to get an idea of how campy it is. The chefs come out in raised platforms holding props, like chen’s cleaver and the french chef’s pear. Then the host reveals the ingredient of the day that the chefs have to adhere to and both challenger and Iron Chef have to come up with a full-course meal involving the ingredient. They have one hour.

I love watching the close-ups of the challengers’ faces when the ingredient is revealed. Sometimes they’re elated, sometimes there’s this look of oh-my-god-what-can-I-possibly-do-with-liver (yes, liver has been an ingredient) kind of look. Then the timer starts and the chefs scramble to finish their dishes, whilst the commentators talk about what they’re doing, which is sometimes rather uninformed – “He’s pouring the green sauce over the chopped things!” or “Is it papaya? No! It’s pepper! He’s putting something pink in the pepper!” The show isn’t so much about learning how to cook as standing in awe of professionals who can make fried rice in five minutes (Chen Kenichi!) or make a pizza with ten minutes on the clock.

And you just can’t beat the expressions on the chefs’ faces when the judges finally taste the food and make their comments. The weekly bimbo judge usually doesn’t go further than saying something like “Mmmmm! It’s very nice!” whereas the food critic judge tends to be rather harsh, sometimes pushing the chefs close to tears. There’s usually another judge of high birth to complement the bimbo and the food critic, some politician or even astrologer (very popular in Japan amongst those who can afford them) who will make subjective remarks like “It’s good, but there’s too much soy sauce for my taste” or “I think it’s wonderful, but the crispiness is not good for my teeth”, whereupon the chefs turn green in worry about how they didn’t consider the judges’ age or red in irritation with the annoying old man.

Unfortunately Iron Chef is no longer in production, having run something like three years or so in Japan. The chefs’ cuisines are still available, though, as they all have famous restaurants in Japan (and some in US). It’s something of a sinful dream to go on an Iron Chef tour, making trips to all the restaurants of the chefs of my favourite episodes (liver!), but considering Japan is an expensive place to eat well I guess that’ll have to wait a bit.

For now I’ll have to be content watching. Allez Cuisine!

Wherein I Witness Love Peace and Complacency

Went to support Xiao Pang’s song at some North-East CDC National song-writing competition. Note the capitalized “National”, which signifies that the subject of the song was imperative. Xiao Pang got third place, despite her song being nothing at all about Singapore – it was titled “Yu3 Ji4”, rainy season – which only by a far stretch of the imagination could be applied to the monsoon we were experiencing. Unfortunately it wasn’t raining during the competition.

We sat on a big patch of empty land that ersembled a gigantic kitty-litter box on red National Day picnic-spreads, some 50m away from the raised stage. I am uncertain as to why we had to be so far away – perhaps they were afraid terrorists would throw trash cans at our budding talents. Some horrible old man kept giving us dirty looks because he claimed we were taking too much space and that the fifty supporters for his son (whom had written a song for the competition) would be arriving soon and that we had better make room for them then. They never showed, though, and we ended up sitting beside his son’s two lonely supporters, a morose couple who didn’t even bother to clap much for him.


On the other hand there were the girls from Methodist Girls’ School, who were very enthusiastic indeed about their teacher being in the performance. I believe young girls are the most fun to sit beside during pop concerts – only they have the lungs and vocal chords to still produce those primal hunting cries that stir your most basic instincts.

Inside our goodie bags were these MacDonalds toys. We took them out and played a little with them, but then quickly tired of the mindless plastic Aladdin figurines. I offered them to a seemingly-innocent little boy, who took much advantage of them and was soon arranging them all over the mats, much to the annoyance of the couple sitting beside me. Unfortunately, the little boy was also the rudest child I have seen, ordering me to open plastic wrapping for him, hitting his brother who also showed up after the introduction of toys and throwing tantrums whenever anyone touched any of the plastic things.

It got to the point I almost gave him the plastic bags to play with, in the hopes he would suffocate himself.

Somehow Xiao Pang’s song had been categorized in the “students” range, which was rather embarrassing considering she’s been professionally trained and her competition consisted of people almost half her age. Also, she’s not exactly a student anymore. I suppose it was divine irony that she lost to a Dave-Matthews-soundalike JC band from Innova JC and a fourteen year old (the one with the annoying father) whose wrote some cheesy song about loving his home. In fact, most of the songs were rather boring and insipid, sounding suspiciously like stuff you would expect a National Day song to be like.

One band, though, stuck out like a sore thumb. Their song, “Love, Peace and Complacency”, contained some rather derogatory lyrics concerning the state of Singaporeans nowadays. We are allegedly living in a fairyland of happiness, protected by our government and ignorance from the knowledge of impending doom. There was little applause after their performance, though I personally thought it was pretty good, and they had break dancers and everything. Perhaps most of the audience was paying more attention to Mr Mah Bow Tan’s expression, our minister for Naitonal Developement and guest-of-honour for the night being our yardstick for political tolerance. His slight frown meant, I suppose, that the band was more or less screwed.


Then Taufik came along, and the crowd went wild!!! I had no idea the Singapore Idol was so popular. Unfortunately his fan base seems to be rather skewed racially, which says a lot about the integration of the races here in Singapore. Thankfully some of the Methodist Girls also joined the fray of screaming fans, contributing to a more politically-correct groupie group.

Thank heavens for mindless little screaming girls! What would we do without?

Thailand Part 2 and the Chocolate Factory

Other than Bangkok, we also visited Ko Samet, Chiang Mai and Pattaya.

Ko Samet was a idyllic little island off the eastern coast of Thailand with white sandy beaches supposedly so white the locals named it the beach of especially white sand (or something to that effect). To be scientifically accurate, the sands were more a dirty ivory than white, but I suppose in bright sunlight with a stretch of the imagination and a touch of romance I could concede the point. Despite the lack of proper roads, vendors of trinkets and scarves ran up and down the beach hawking pretty things to women, who evidently are able to shop even in sunblock. Yet, I believe the 2 days I spent on Ko Samet to be the best of my entire trip, relaxed, indolent and mostly stress-free (except for a close brush with some snakes).

Contrast with Pattaya, where the beaches are filled with deck chairs squeezed together like seats at a theatre and enough hawkers to do your every bidding (for a price) in the day and prostitutes to satisfy your every craven need (for a price) in the night. The city is the ugliest tourist city I’ve ever seen, with prostitutes everywhere and the endless supply of caucasian men exploiting them. I’ve seen uglier cities, such as Kolkata, but the ugliness of Kolkata stems from the poorness of the populace, not from general lack of taste and seediness of industry.

I wouldn’t recommend Pattaya as a holiday destination until you’re at least sixty, all alone, desperately need sex with someone a third your age and have money to burn. Then you’d be right at home there.

(I don’t fit that category – I’m just uninformed)

And that’s all I’m gonna say about Thailand. Go yourself – it’s pretty safe and easy to access for Singaporeans and it’s also cheap. Exploit your S$.

Went to watch Charlie and the Chocolate Factory today with Q & A (such humourous initials, they have). And it was so Tim Burton I would have recognized it even if you’d turned the sound off and made me watch with only 1 eye open. If you’re a fan of Burton (or Depp, who is also brilliant as Willy Wonka) go watch it. If you like arthouse flicks watch it. If you prefer action or horror movies and can’t appreciate intelligence in movie then don’t, because you’re gonna yawn through it. Not to say it’s a highly intelligent flick, but it’s self-conscious enough to make you think, has a few surprises to the classic Dahl story and an amazing example of how one artist can adapt the work of another artist to his own ends.

I’m gonna have to think of it next time as Roald Dahl’s CatCF and Time Burton’s CatCF, because they’re so different despite being largely similar in story. Not just in plot, neither. Hats off to costumes, the first time I’ve been impressed by costume design in a movie (other than maybe Godzilla).

Might watch it again if persuaded enough, and you need someone to accompany you (because CatCF is such a scary movie).

Wherein I Return From Thailand

I am a poor friend, I know. I returned from a short trip to Thailand, having visited the City of Angels (Bangkok) in particular but regretfully report that I have returned with nothing to show for my efforts. No, not even the cheap chocolates from the airport when you realize you’ve forgotten to buy something for your friends back at home.

I don’t even have pictures from my trip to show you (though I’m sure some friends will be happier about that).

In any case, blah blah Bangkok was nice blah blah busy city blah blah many cheap goods from designer labels to imitations of designer labels to electronic goods to plastic models of electronic goods blah blah prostitutes blah blah ping pong show blah blah cheap and spicy food blah blah. You can tell it wasn’t too exciting for me – Bangkok is mostly everything everyone says it is, which is a developing city blessed with the trade routes of a thousand commercial pirates. No surprises there, until my last night when we went to watch – the Ping Pong Show.

We’d seen the go-go girls dancing on bars at the night market and been accosted by pimps telling us the goodness of the Ping Pong Show but missed it the first night we were there, but Phillipe insisted it was a “cultural experience” (the culture of prostitution being a historically old one, no doubt) and we went at last. To tell the truth I was more than a little terrified – the zombie-like girls swaying in the open-door bars I’d seen were anything but attractive and the last thing I wanted to see was a show where they did anything with ping pongs. I don’t even particularly like ping pong.

So we walked along the streets of Pat Phong looking at the advertisements proffered by the many different pimps there and at last entered a seedy-looking establishment that boasted the “Best Girls in Bangkok” (see example of a bar below), arriving just in time to see a ping pong ball arc across the room over the heads of some members of the audience. I would like to describe what exactly it was that the woman on stage did, but I lack the vocabulary to describe all the different parts of her anatomy with which she handled that ping pong ball. Mostly because I do not possess said pieces of anatomy and I did not pay too much attention during sexual education, instead choosing to laugh with my friends about how we’d never need to know what the thing was called as long as we knew what to do with it. Innocent as we were, I guess we never expected that quite so many things could be done with it, such as with cigarettes and beer bottles and ribbons.

Strangely, in a bar full of prostitutes (they out-numbered the customers), we didn’t manage to attract any. Perhaps we looked a bit too squeeky-clean and young, still possessed of full heads of hair and teeth and not needing accompanying ladies-in-waiting to wipe up our drool after us. Not really potential all-nighter customers (whom I presumed paid a lot more than the hundred baht we spent on cokes). While I sat in my catatonic state, though, a woman who looked old enough to be my mother came over and started massaging me. I would have recoiled in terror and ran, but my legs were weak and I wasn’t quite sure that I could make it to the door in time before I was pinned down by enraged females (in knee length boots) for trying to skip out of paying for my coke. So I tipped her when my bill came, which for some reason provoked her to try to make me kiss her, which I complied with, trembling as I did it as the names of all the STDs I’d learnt about in school ran across my mind in big red marqueeing text. We fled after that.

Educational indeed.

Okay, sleep now. More about Thailand later.