Wherein I Am a Bag Slut

November 30, 2005

So Chups calls me up and asks if she can borrow my backpack. I agree, but a search of my room fails to turn it up and I have to postpone meeting her, as it was probably at my parents’ place. Went back to search, only to find that it wasn’t there (sidetrack: when I asked my mother if she’d seen my big, blue backpack she rummaged around the storage room, came out with a small baby-blue handbag and asked me if that was it). After considerable thought, I finally decided to message those of my friends who had been overseas recently to see if any of them had borrowed it.

I don’t even know who my bag’s been with. I’m such a bag-slut.

Turns out it was with Faizal since he went to Bali a couple of months back.

And it got me thinking that my bag’s been to a lot more places than I’ve been. In fact, I’ve only used it ever just that once I went to Nepal, not including the times when I’d first bought it and walked around town with newspaper stuffed inside to get that backpacker feel (in the comfort of home!). No one wants to take Alex along on holidays, but his backpack – now there’s a hot mama.

Why???!!! Why am I always the dowdy, bookish, rather boring older sister???!!! Even to my bag!!!

Before Sunset

November 29, 2005

I finally watched Before Sunset. I’d have watched it sooner if it hadn’t been positively mentioned by someone I didn’t particularly liked (though it turns out even petty stupid people can have good taste). It is possibly, following Wit, the most crappingly good movie I’ve watched ever.

It’s like… the best things about Wit and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind in a single reel, minus all the bad points, and with travel-in-Europe thrown in for good measure! (shudders in pleasure)

Do not watch Before Sunset if you haven’t watched Before Sunrise.

Do not watch either Befores if you are a (romantic) cynic and intend to talk to me about this movie.

Do not watch either movie if you are the kind of person who likes big explosions, fast cars and cannot stand movies with no special effects budget and just features two people talking all the time (ie. the kind of person who should be drowned). There are no ninjas, martial artists, people-in-strange-suits, superpowers or plastic-monsters here.

It’s not so often that movies move me like this. And partly I guess it’s because I want to like it – I want to believe that something like this can happen and that it’s not impossible for magic to happen (which is so intelligently pre-empted for you in the film). It’s a romance flick, but easily one of the most intelligent movies I’ve ever watched (discounting documentaries). I think screenplays like that are what should win prizes.

I got so excited about the movie I went and checked out the message boards and there it was – a cynic who’d posted something about the conversation being too unrealistic, and that people usually say something stupid in situations like this or are mostly silent and don’t know what to say. Whilst I’d agree that it is difficult to find someone whith whom you can click with just like that, I wouldn’t say it’s impossible. And then sometimes you don’t expect it, but then it happens. I have had conversations with people that lasted for hours and hours on end, and it just kept coming.

And it was great – because you really feel like you’re connecting with someone, and that you’re not quite so alone in this world anymore, even if it’s just for a little while.

It’s shows like this, really, that make me sad that I had to watch it alone. In a way because there’s no immediate way to gratify your desire to communicate your approval for the performance (explains this post) whereas if you liked it in the cinema you could at least clap (Or in the case of Singapore, not whip out your handphone immediately after to make a call). It’s like some primal part of me is missing from my life, that I can’t communicate that there-is-something-good-here to my fellow man.

Errrm. Fanboy alert.

Okay, I’m supposed to go study philosophy now. Just that it was so wonderful.

Yeah.

I go to the supermarket to get some low-fat snacks to munch on whilst studying, like perhaps some unsalted almonds.

I return with cheddar-flavoured potato crisps, honey-glazed almonds (DOUBLE glazed! for your artery-choking pleasure!), Captain Crunch star-shaped-cereals-of-doom and, as a healthy concession, some bananas.


Nick: Creole. Not just a language-type, but not a crepe neither.

Due to my (work-induced) early-morning habits, I find myself going down to the coffee shop below my flat for breakfast most mornings.

And every morning, without fail, as I enter the coffee shop, this person stares at me. He is that person who is supposed to take your order for coffee (in my case iced-milo), but of all the coffee shops I frequent this one’s is the freakiest. For one thing, he stands a head taller than me, and is big. Big like frankenstein. I can’t include a picture of him, unfortunately, as I don’t have the guts to take one. Suffice to say he is of the variety of person whom, when thought of with regards to being born, brings to mind square pegs and round holes.

uhhh… you want ice milo?

His dull (and soulless!) glare settles upon me as soon as I approach, and only after my egg pratas arrive at my table and I have wilted considerably from suffering under his gaze does he stomp his way over to take my beverage order. I think it takes a while for the gears in his brain to start working fast enough to process the information that I am a drink-desiring person, not some torch-wielding villager.

Asking him for my order directly doesn’t seem to work either. Going up to him and (bravely) proclaiming my order results in having to stand there for a minute as his brows furrow in confusion, before an “uhhh… Ok” lurches out of his lips hesitantly. These days I just sit back and writhe in my chair – I figure as long as I have to look at his furrowed brow I might as well pretend to watch the news (coffee shop has a TV) while I’m at it.

I wouldn’t usually make fun of mentally-disadvantaged people thus if he wasn’t quite so… hulking and the situation didn’t feel as if all it needed for a comedic touch was his banging my head to the accompaniment of “bong bong” sound effects. (Note that I’M the one being victimised in my imagination! Me! Not the poor intellectually-disabled!! Poor Me! Me!)

Today, I tabao-ed my breakfast, being in something of a rush. To my surprise, he approached me as I stood in front of the bee hoon stall and, in a great show of effort, asked me:

“uhhh… Iced Milo, right?”

I was almost floored by this initiative and proof of memory capacity. It was a first! And yet, I said:

“No, today no need.”

Looks like I was the stupid one.

I was almost sure I would be floored for not taking a drink this morning when his brow started furrowing, vaguely resembling window blinds (though his let in precious little light). A pained expression broke out after a while and his mouth half-opened, though no words came out. The auntie at the bee hoon stall continued to pack my bee hoon noodle-by-noodle as we stood there, the thing and I, locked in a deadly game of wits (being that he had none, and was considering playing ball with mine). When the bee hoon auntie finally finished her exquisite packaging of my order using gold-inlaid silk and damask, I grabbed it and fled, the thing still standing in the same position and staring at the blank spot where I had been.

As I ascended the elevator I almost wept from relief. As I ate my bee hoon I almost cried from the wonder of being alive. As I threw it away (preparation time is no indicator of food quality) I almost sobbed at the realization that I would have to go back again tomorrow.

Let’s hope memory capacity is limited.


Note to readers: Above story may be grossly exaggerated for dramatic effect – for a more neutral look…


Letter to The Straits Times Editor

THE government has raised the issue of the importance of good customer service to boost Singapore’s economy, setting up a committee and initiatives to push for excellent service quality. However, I feel that these are not sufficient for diffusing the benefits to the heartlands of Singapore.

I frequent a nearby coffee house for breakfast regularly, and am subjected to horrible customer service every time. The person who is supposed to take my order for beverages is silent and morose, and not only does not display the Greet-Smile-Thank formula, but also looks unhappy that I am ordering anything from him. As a result, I almost always feel unwelcome in what should be a relaxed heartland outlet.

Once, as I did not want to order a drink, the same server stood beside me in a threatening manner, as if to embarrass me into purchasing a beverage. This made me rather uncomfortable and did not make me want to return to the shop after.

If service excellence cannot penetrate to the heartlands, how can we expect our children and future generations to be saturated in service excellence? If even a formulaic performance of the GST cannot be achieved at common eating places, how can we expect our children to grow up to form a gracious society?

By Boh Dai Jih


(laugh all you like, but I think this rather reflects the quality of our forum letters)

So it’s Saturday afternoon, right, and I’m, like, chilling out in my room, right, listening to, like, my fav mp3s when the Banana messages me saying she’s, like, got this really cool lobang for me, yeah, like this easy hundred bucks for two days work, right, and all I gotta do is, like, help out for some show or something, right, and I say yeah, sure, cool, thanks, and she’s all, like, wow okay, yeah, so, like, come on down on monday, right, and look for, like this awesome Stephanie girl, right, who’s, like, in charge of the event, right, and she’ll, like, update you on the groove, man.

I only found out when I, like, got to the dump that the Banana had, like totally played me out, man.

The show was the launch of the SPEAK CHINESE CAMPAIGN (and the awesome Stephanie girl turned out to be this woman with the emotional range of a hamster, only whilst a hamster’s is turned to “cute” hers is stuck at “pissed”).

Stage for Speak Chinese Campaign

And their motto this year? Hua2 Yu3 (Chinese) – Cool!

… urrr no loh.

It was a pretty simple show, really. Couple of performers whose prop requirements consisted of tape markings of their starting positions on the stage. Guest of Honour was the Prime Minister himself, a sign of our Nation’s-Attitude-Regarding-the-Importance-of-the-Chinese-Language, which was something of a security bother, but since he was known to be a punctual guest with few requirements it was s simple show.

Except for the fact that it was the launch of the SPEAK CHINESE CAMPAIGN.

And that all the rperformers spoke Chinese.

And that I was the runner in charge of making sure the performers got on stage on time.

And my spoken Chinese has been described as sounding like I come from one of those regions of China where not only do they speak in some Mongolian dialect but because of the intense heat and lack of water people only utter sentences once a week so as to prevent loss of moisture from their lips.

BETRAYED!!! BY THE BANANA!!!

When confrontational SMSes were sent, her cavalier reply was:

What’s wrong with that? It’s supposed to be for people who are chinese yet refuse to speak chinese. Perfect for you!

I couldn’t respond for a while. And I realize I don’t know how to operate the Chinese SMS messaging system on my phone.

Anyway, the show went pretty smoothly. I was pretty busy throughout, so didn’t get a chance to snap any pictures. Here’s one of the SPH choir, which was evidently so bad that it was preferred that the MCs made idiotic chit-chat on stage than that they should perform another song to kill time before the Guest of Honour arrived.

SPH Choir

I didn’t think they were THAT bad. I guess if you’re going to have a bunch of people who probably practice one a week you should be prepared for somewhat lower standards. On the other hand, getting them to move anywhere or do anything was a nightmare. Use of language was restricted to Chinese, and they were mostly rather old people who ignored me when I told them to put their bags in the area prepared for you. My admiration for the stage manager, who was able to gently coax them to do anything, knows no bounds.

The other acts were mostly kids doing some Chinese skits (shi1 ge1 lang3 song4), though they’ve eveolved from the standing around and talking since I was a kid to include a little live action. Some of those kids had like 50 lines to remember, and performed them flawlessly (albeit not really with emotion). Some oft hem were 7 years old.

Keanu Reeves should be ashamed.

Of note was one particular group of students, who were suplpied with costumes for their performance – garish caricatures of rapper outfits, replete with large t-shirts, caps, chains and baggy pants (remember? Hua2 Yu3 cool?). The teachers and students were not pleased.

The teachers wanted the kids to tuck their shirts in and wear their caps the right way, in an effort to make them look more decent. The kids rebelled against the idea but (I think wisely) realized that they looked more like something out of Hey Arnold’s than Fifty Cent.

They wanted something more form fitting – possibly so that they could look more like Jay Chou, but the organizers were adamant! that they stay in their rapper-like fittings. In the end, everyone was unhappy when the kids went up without their caps or chains, with their shirts tucked into belts their teachers forced them to wear around their waists and with their hair neatly plastered to their heads. It was the worst possible outfit they could have gone up on stage in, considering their performance was a stirring piece about the grandness of Admiral Zheng He’s voyage in perfect Chinese prose.

Hossan Leong, one of the presenters and an Ambassador for the Speak Chinese Campaign, spoke of his humiliating experiences having poor spoken Chinese, and how Cool! and convenient it was to know how to converse in the language. I’d have found him a more convincing ambassador if I hadn’t sneaked a look at his lines to find hanyu pinyin instead of the original chinese characters. Sadly, whilst he stole the limelight, his co-host, Leelian (some small-time singer in Singapore) was largely ignored by the media, had to sit with us (the stage low-lifes) after the show. I felt rather bad for her, especially since she seemed such a nice girl, playing with the kids and all. Hossan didn’t seem to like the kids much.

Finally – my stage manager, whom I think I am in love with. As a runner, my main job do all the small things that no one else could do (on account of being too famous – though I forgive Leelian, she had too much makeup on to move much) and getting the performers to get on stage on time. This was a simple task made difficult only because all performers have a tendency to believe that they are the most important people in the world even when they’re ten years old and are surprised to find that the low-life stage-hands don’t have their hand cream for them so that they don’t appear on stage with wrinkled fingers.

I was pretty much an inefectual, hand-waving mess, but my stage manager managed to direct everyone here and there without much fuss, speaking in a tone of voice that I believe has to be practiced and raising it only when those horrible children refused to don their cool! outfits. He also managed to get the choir to put their bags in the proper place, which earned him my eternal gratitude and admiration. Most importantly, I think he was the only person who didn’t glare at me during the entire course of events in a hostile or demeaning manner (except Leelian, whose make-up wouldn’t have allowed glares even if she had been disposed to glare).

The Banana told me that I was welcome to sign up full-time at her company, having shown that I possessed the necessary requirements for working in events management (loves working OT, getting low pay and doing chores that no one else will).

I’ll think about it.

Wherein I Cannot Sleep

November 13, 2005

I can’t sleep. So I am blogging.

Had a couple of pears around midnight to stave off hunger before going to bed. Exposing my fresh farm produce to the magic of the witching hour must have done something to them, because it is now 3am and I am unable to get to sleep.

They must have transformed into Evil Caffeinated Pears of Doom.

Well, or at least the Somewhat Annoying Pears of Sleep-Deprivation.

Challenged

November 11, 2005

If you remember, a couple of weeks back I visited Thailand – spending a couple of nights in Bangkok and Pattaya in particular.

I’m not going to write about the disgusting exploitation of Thai girls (and guys) by farangs any more. What strikes me suddenly now, though, is that back when I just returned and happily recounted my experiences about the sleaze in Pattaya, I’d quite innocently asked if anyone wanted to visit there with me in future.

I’d thought it would be rather amusing to see the look on my friend’s faces as they walked past the beer bars and hookers.

But then today (don’t ask me why) I gave the matter some thought and suddenly came to the conclusion that my horror at the sex-for-sale might not be shared. After all, I have some pretty crappy friends – who am I to say that none of them would actually be one of those farangs eager for a night with easy sex?

I mean, I think my friends share my moral stands, but this is such a private issue it’s really untested, isn’t it? How do you know whether or not someone would hire a hooker? Except if you’ve actually been witness to a situation where you saw someone do it and can say for sure that he/she would, I can’t think of any other reason to think that my friends might be against paid sex (I don’t believe in religion, too many arthouse movies with pervert priests).

And then I thought about strolling down Walking Street (Pattaya’s main gogo bar strip) with my friends – and how amusing my reaction would be if they asked me to go back to the hotel by myself and get another room. And I should expect it, after all, since some of my friends are… more liberal about sexual issues than others, but then… even for the rather conservative friends… are they really conservative because they find paid-sex repugnant, or because it’s the social norm not to engage in it? What if they’re in a place where it’s more the norm than not to fuck a girl for S$40?

I think atheistic morality (errrm… social norms based on purely logical or utilitarian terms) breaks down a little here, in this rather complicated situation. When I was there, P asked me if it was so wrong for the girls to earn a little bit of money having sex with farangs than to starve in their hometowns. It took me a little while to respond that the whole industry was exploitation in that it diverted the nation’s resources to unscrupulous sex-mongers and encouraged the spread of sexually-transmitted-diseases. Doesn’t take much philosophizing that this was an unsuitable response, since it implies that the sex-trade would be morally acceptable in the absence of sexual diseases (or advanced medical means to treat them) and the acceptance that unscrupulous power-mongers appear even without exploitation of sex.

Compound that with a community that actually wants you to prepetuate the act, and already has hundreds more to fit the bill (and the condom) if you can’t, and this becomes a nightmare defence for any non-scripture moral code.

In any case, I feel that an atheist has to be a lot more informed to be able to make moral judgments of this nature than a strict-scripture commandmant not to pay for sex (not that many religions ban prostitution – check your bible). That said, I’m not so sure that most of the farangs lolling their heads in the beer bars would consider themselves atheists. And let’s not forget religion doesn’t have the best name at the moment for promoting healthy behaviour (In the name of God! Boom!).

Given that my friends are mostly moderate in their religous views, I would expect that their moral values are, like mine, more dependant on social views and utility than absolute scripture (though I’ve found it surprising the things for which people will turn to religion). So how many of them would do it?

I’m not so sure, and I’m not sure I want to know.

Me with short hair

(unable to write more as imagination goes into hyperactive and face spasms)


In other, completely unrelated news, I was out today when I saw some guys cordoning off an area for crow-culling. When the guy whipped the rifle out people ran for cover like rats off a sinking ship.

Handphone0005

Guess Singaporean curiousity has limits.

Also, the physics of bras (interesting) and the physics of bras (not quite so interesting).

French Essay Gaffe

November 10, 2005

French test today:

Et mon coeur est mort avec mon amour. Je n’ai pas eu quelque raison pour livre.
(And my heart died with my love. I didn’t have some raison for book.)
livre = book, vivre = life

This is for all the times I laughed at poor Engrish speakers.


In other, somewhat more gruesome news(thanks to Gary), meet Singapore’s sole executioner. I wonder how desperate for employment I would have to be before I took up this job. Also, I wonder what happens when this man dies and no one is left in Singapore who dares to do executions. Will we have to import ‘talent’ from other countries then? (shudder)

Actually, since most of the people we hang are foreigners who traffic drugs (I think) and are not native Singlish speakers, I wonder how many people died with a puzzled “Huh?” on their lips?

Matchmaking Services

November 6, 2005

Found this in my mailbox yesterday. (Click on image to see full size)

matchmaking

In case you can’t see it clearly, the ad says:

For All Single / Divorced Men: (Age 25-70)
Thousands of Men from Taiwan and Singapore have married Vietnamese girls. Vietnamese girls are well known to be good life partners & homemakers. Among their virtues are: loyalty, obedience, truthfulness and family values. You don’t need to be rich to marry your dream wife now, just one call and we will take care of everything. 100% success! (Photos and VCDs available for viewing).

I hope one of the unmentioned virtues of Vietnamese wives is that they can speak English (or Chinese or Malay).


Genes named after Sonic the Hedgehog and Pokemon.

Cool street artist Banksy with a sense of justice. I quote: “The time of getting fame for your name on its own is over. Artwork that is only about wanting to be famous will never make you famous. Any fame is a by-product of making something that means something. You don’t go to a restaurant and order a meal because you want to have a shit.” I beg to differ, but it’s a nice ideal.

Disturbing artist David Shrigley who proves that to be famous you don’t have to be able to draw well. For some reason despite (or perhaps because of) the quality of his drawings I find myself quite horrifically drawn to keep clicking. I think some of them might look quite nice in my room (at least for scaring off unwanted guests).