Wherein Chinese New Year comes with parents

My Dear Readers,

I must apologise for the lack of posts in this blog recently – believe me when I say it was not for want of effort, for I tried numerous times to put something up about how my life has been usurped by work and thus left me with little time or interesting activities to blog about. However, it kept turning out that writing about not having much to write about was more difficult than I had thought it would be, and so I continually erased entries in the hopes that something would eventually come up in the course of my first week at work (other than a Victoria’s Secrets lingerie show) that I could bring online to entertain you.

But the week rolled on, and over (rather too slowly, I might add) and before I knew it Chinese New Year was around and I’d still not encountered anything blog-worthy. I’d rather not blog about work – being dooced seems like an awfully close reality in Singapore, given my propensity to inappropriately spout Words-of-Evil about people I know and also that horrible idea that one of my colleagues or even my boss might be a Pokemon-Hentai-addict and foolishly stumble here in search of gratification, only to find nothing but wholesome-non-pornographic-entertainment and end up very upset about being cheated.

And then I’d be forced to draw actual Pokemon Hentai at work to satisfy them.

For those of you who are interested, though, I now work as a graphic designer in a small company in Sentosa, the Island of Fun! But no, I am not one of the Sentosa staff, which means I don’t get to wear those cool flowery shirts to work. My office is only located on Sentosa. Understand? It’s just there, but it’s not affiliated in any way to Sentosa. Yes, it’s legal. You can do that. No, not all companies on Sentosa belong to Sentosa. Yes, it’s amazing. No, it’s not that fun. No, I don’t get to go to the beach every day. Any more questions? Better save them for Small-Talk-With-Alex the next time we meet (when you graduate from understanding-basic-english-sentences school, if I have anything to do with it).

Sorry. It’s just small-talk the past couple of days has tended to fall in that category.

So – the CNY came along, and along with it the traditional reuninon dinner. We did what we do every year, heading off to my uncle’s place where we made the usual small talk about whose children got into which schools and what courses could dear sixth auntie recommend because she’s a teacher and teachers always know best (although sixth auntie teaches primary schoolers and can probably only be reliably trusted for advice on how to teach children to round up to a hundred).

What went differently this year was, strangely, me.

In past years, my siblings and I adopted a guerilla-style strategy for the reuninon dinner – hitting it hard and fast and then getting out as soon as possible, with as few relatives knowing we were there as possible. This was, on my part, so as to minimize the embarrassment of being asked when I was going to get married, whereas my sister simply wanted to avoid comparison with other girls her age, of whom there were many (and who always seemed to score better than her). Brother was just generally anti-social.

However, this year I stayed behind to wait for my parents – the first time since I was twelve, a little boy with a large amount of greed and even larger bermuda pockets. Darling sister mocked me for being a good-little-sucker-up-to-parents-boy, which hurt me intensely because I knew I was accompanying my parents more because no one else was free to be with me than out of any altruistic fillial piety.

We walked the usual route along Chinatown and Marina Bay, a route filled with half-remembered memories. It broke my heart to realize that my parents still remembered clearly my youth, which I’d callously half forgotten.

A chicken zodiac statue along the river helped alleviate some guilt – at least I wasn’t the only one being horribly inconsiderate.

Chicken Statue

Somehow I agreed to go along with my parents next year to Fujian to look for my (metaphorical) roots.

I’d felt out-of-place and lost about my cultural roots back when I was in Paris, but as Daddy recounted how I still had cousins in China, and a family grave, ancestral hall and a plaque of family names with his name on it, it hit home that I was living as a third-generation immigrant in a country with a (significant) history less than a century old. It turns out that as recently as the previous generation, my relatives were buying male babies as a form of fertility practice, and that Daddy and his siblings’ names had special significance (except for the bought-babies, I suppose) in the ancestral poem.

My name has no significance in any poem, ancestral, symbolic or even dirty.

Daddy tells me there is also an age-old family feud about money, though he refuses to reveal details except that I shouldn’t expect any kind of inheritance.

Mother, on the other hand, tells me that her side of the family lived simple lives without much fanfare and excitement and didn’t have much of a history, though she’s always hinted at some kind of shady family history on Grandmother’s side, who turns out to have been a Dutch citizen from the Riau islands somewhere (how she got there I have no idea).

I’d always associated my grandparents as those dead people (most of them passed away before I was born) who’d contributed little to the universe than to produce my parents and who lived in dull and dirty houses, but all of a sudden I begin to wonder about their histories. How they’d come from their homes in China and Indonesia to start a new life on this tiny little island, how they’d found love (or at least breeding partners), how they’d made their fortunes and survived.

And great-grandparents. How mysterious are they?

If ever my siblings or I ever have children, I wonder what we’ll tell them when they ask us where they’re from. Singapore? Such a simple story.

Wherein I watch TV

I haven’t finished watching a single show on television in over a year now, largely due to the availability online of my favourite sitcoms. There’s really very little the local television networks can do to make me tune in.

Or so I thought.

They screened the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show today featuring Tyra Banks’ last runway walk with them.

At my stop, I almost stayed on the bus to keep watching it on TV Mobile rather than get off. A quick calculation told me that even if I stayed on the remaining distance the bus had to go wasn’t enough to finish the show, so I got off, hurried back the 100m to my apartment, tapped my feet impatiently in the elevator, fumbled with my keys, kicked off my shoes and turned the telly on (which took a while because I don’t really know how to work it, having never used the one in the living room before). My roommate was watching the chinese news (announced by a woman in decent clothing that was not lingerie) in his room, but I unabashedly turned up the volume to the booty-shaking music accompanying Heidi Klum down the runway.

Less than five minutes later, I could no longer hear the chinese-news-decently-dressed-woman. Hey, when Giselle Bundchen wears a costume containing more surface area in feathers than actual cloth and tells you to WATCH HER AND NOT TO CHANGE THE CHANNEL you listen (I think the image of Giselle I displayed below is from last year’s collection, but it’s nice too).

It’s bloody visual poetry, that’s what it is.

Oh, and today was my first day at work.

Wherein I See a Capering White Man

Saw an article by Mr Wang about a deaf-white-man selling pins. Of course, asking for charity is not uncommon in Singapore – I’d be hard pressed to remember a single trip down Orchard Road without seeing at least one flag seller, basker or tissue-auntie – but that a white man was doing it was probably stranger.

Just a couple of days back at Lido I was walking around with Nick when we spotted a man, standing at the entrance from the mrt capering about to a nursery tune (I forget if it was three-blind-mice or twinkle-twinkle little star). He was dressed in rather faded clothes that looked vaguely like pieces of torn clothing sewn to a slightly-less torn piece of clothing, and had a sign saying something about eating his family or feeding it (I’m hoping it was the latter). We gave him a wide berth, as his antics (and poor grammar!) suggested he was not entirely of sound mind (which is also why I took no pictures, in case he lunged forward and ate my phone). His act was sadly even less entertaining than the off-key Celine Dion impersonator at Bishan MRT to whom I sometimes give money to, and I had my doubts as to whether he would get any that day, considering that there was another basker at the other end of the tunnel with the much more impressive display of playing two different musical instruments at the same time.

(Note: in Singapore, basking is generally considered an act of charity – begging is illegal so our destitute and homeless are forced to learn to play musical instruments or sell tissue paper – anything to make them even vaguely productive)

Like Mr Wang, I generally expect white men in Singapore to be expats, students or tourists, not charity-cases. How a poor white man arrives in Singapore is a mystery to me. After all, we’re not exactly the streets-paved-with-gold city that would draw someone looking for a job. Plane tickets to Singapore are generally rather expensive from any white-man country, compared to the other choices available. Coming from land… well, you’d have to come from the North and there are a lot of nicer places you’d probably stop at if you were a poor white man. Even the descendants of white men in Singapore do seem to be rather more affluent than the capering-to-nursery-rhymes sort.

Of course, it could be that he was really an artistic rebel protesting the commercialism and infantilism of Singapore’s performance art scene, and the begger-like, governmental-dependant demeanour of Singaporean artists by staging a satirical piece in which he spasmed along to a nursery rhyme whilst onlookers (didn’t) threw coins at him. But then a piece like that would never be approved by the MDA, and he looked rather too old to be a rebellious arts student/activist.

I do wonder about his story.

Wherein the fun embargo lifts

I was determined to impose a fun embargo until I managed to find a job.

So those friends with whom I’ve been with – it was more of a duty! and a calling! than fun in any way.

But in any case, the fun embargo is lifted, for I got my first (full-time) job offer today!

I’m still reeling a little from the shock, and thus breathing heavily and rapidly (causing much anxiety to my roommate – he keeps looking at me like I might be in heat). I’m also confused and upset, because I’m not entirely sure I want the job but have already agreed to it – and there’s another potential offer. It doesn’t help that I’m the kind of person who ridicules others for being too picky about jobs in a saturated job market.

Job one involves an established outdoor events company featuring an office in a unique location (so unique, in fact, that Uniquely Singapore is found all over it) – Sentosa. My professional circle will probably be filled with the sporty (and smelly) outdoorsy types who don’t mind the squat-style toilets and the many mosquitoes. Highlights of office life will include outdoor sports, probably a lot of shouting and trips to Bintan or Batam. Which isn’t so great, because although my dream job involves lots of travel overseas I never thought travel would mean two-hour rides in a ferry.

Job two involves an expanding wireless products company featuring a beautifully decorated but dimly-lit and almost-empty tomb-office in a desolate industrial park. The woman who interviewed me told me that should I take up the job, it would be best if I could be an independant worker and not make too much noise – the other workers don’t like noise, so I figure my professional circle will include vampires, zombies and other types of ruckus-disliking undead. Highlights of office life will likely include the Daily Joke, the Daily Laugh and the Monthly Inter-Employee Conversation. But they have proper toilets and air-con. And mosquitoes will probably be the last blood-sucking concern on my mind.

Both jobs offer me the same compensation and are for the posts of Graphic Designer.

Job one made me the offer. I expect job two to make me one within the next two days (interview with the quiet woman went well). And did I mention the toilet facilities?

Oh generic-deity-who-probably-doesn’t-exist-anyway.

My dilemma is between whether I prefer being able to take a shit or have someone with whom to talk shit to.

(Friends-be-warned: above para took me a couple of minutes to come up with and I’m very proud of it, so you can expect to hear it from me the next time we meet, and probably for the rest of my life – unless I take up job two and end up never speaking)

Wherein I Help a Friend

I can’t believe nobody commented on the (non)cute kidney in my last post. The comments all turned towards internet marketing and advertising, which was a spillover effect from Seet’s blog (which, if you’re reading, links to the wrong site for the million-dollar homepage – should be www.milliondollarhomepage.com – on which he should spend some of that million upgrading bandwidth).

Now, I never really believed in making money this way – Mother always told me the way to make money was through blood, sweat and tears (depending on profession, gender and virginity) and that getting it any other way would amount to some-form-of-reckoning later in life, though she never complained when she won at 4D (local sweepstakes) so I guess the reckoning comes in the form of being happier and cheerful. However, my formative years were spent with the belief that credit cards were the invention of the devil (which is why I don’t really want to work in a bank), loans had to be repaid as soon as possible (easy advice to keep to when you don’t borrow money) and that heng cai (striking it rich suddenly) was something that happened to other people who did good things in their previous lives ( I was ME – must have been really bad in previous lives).

Despite my nonchalance towards making a quick buck, I can’t help but keep hearing news of that million dollar webpage which has become something of a legend in the circles I frequent, although for so many different reasons. I am still undecided if it is a stroke of genius, a symbol of originality and creativity, a display of the faith in internet advertising, a new record for the power of virals or just another way to prove that humans are stupid.

Of course, there’ll always be some johnny-come-latelys, like Take, who has set up a blog containing some pithy articles about handling stress which he hopes I will link to in mine, so that my 30-odd pokemon-hentai-seeking readers will follow it (I expect you guys get stressed whenever you come here only to find there’s no pokemon, and no hentai) and can earn him some passive income.

In case you missed it up there, it’s here at http://getincharge.blogspot.com/.

Story’s not over just yet, kids – it turns out that people such as Take have anticipated the low traffic their sites generate, and have come up with a brilliant counter-measure: creating dozens of these sites.

It’s the internet equivalent of a fake Gucci from China.

Of course, instead of filling the internet with more spam, there are those who take a little time and effort to learn some HTML (or hire a designer to do it for $10) and create porn blogs (WORK UNSAFE). The phenomenon seems to be largely limited to gay porn at the moment, though the one I linked to is dedicated to heterosexual woman-degradation (my guess is hetero-porn is so easily available it’s stupid to restrict it). Pornographic (or at least extremely raunchy) images are easily available these days and legislative action is less likely (I’m guessing here) than if you hawk mp3s. In fact, from observation of several of these, it would appear there is money to be made advertising porn sites on a popular porn blog, in some kind of sick symbiotic existence.

POKEMON HENTAI gets me 45% of my traffic. Can you imagine if I actually DID have pokemon hentai here?

Considering that Xiaxue is Singapore’s top blogger and that Singapore’s prettiest blogger and MissIzzy of SarongPartyGirl fame managed to garner entire-page photo features on local newspapers, I’d say we have a pretty good consumer base. You think Xiaxue’s 20,000 visitors are there for her writing?

Of course, it might be argued that there is a large moral gulf between earning a bit of money by innocently (ie. I don’t care how I inconvenience others as long as I’m not there to see it happen) creating spam sites compared to offering porn, but personally I think it’s larger crime – you act against taste and fashion, waste internet-space, and reduce search-engine-efficiency. Isn’t that worse?

I have hopes that, following my little tirade, my friends will go down the porn-path instead of ads in one-post blogs. If it comes down to spammer vs porn baron, I know which one my lesser evil is.

Xiaxue compares herself to Kottke. I laughed so hard. I wonder if he knows.

Too cute

These days it seems almost anything can be made cute just by slapping it with some anthropomorphic features and eyes, as Marian Bantjes points out. I do agree with her that our concept of cute is slowly changing from being a purely biological function (to protect babies and such, I think I saw that somewhere) to an artificial consumer-driven culture.

Our ancestors would probably have run away from Bambi.

And sometimes, I’m not sure that this tendency for us to think anything can be made cute with fancy illustration is a good thing. Some things should not be made cute-able.

Case in point: Cute internal organs from http://www.iheartguts.com/.

The page this monster came in was titled: Urine Good Hands

Puns aren’t cute neither.

Anyone living in LA can help me get a heart-tee?

Wherein the soiled sock still sits sullenly in a corner

Somewhat tired of sitting around and clicking the “Get Msgs” button on my Mozilla Mail, I decided to be somewhat less picky in my choice of job offerings and send resumes for jobs I don’t even really want. Like to companies that you know aren’t doing too well or have terrible employee management because it keeps sending out requests for web designers every two weeks.

Now when I check for mail the suspense is doubled when I think of the interviews I might be scheduled for that I don’t really want to go to.

Have managed to last an entire week without dropping “Specializing in Physics” out of the resume. My professors would be so proud.

Saga of the Soiled Sock

In case you missed the previous posts (or ignored them because they contained no images of pokemon hentai) and are wondering why why why Alex seems bored and is posting a remarkable amount these days, it is because he is graduated and unemployed. He can now safely put “BSc. Computational Science (Specializing in Physics)” under his name and feel proud that he is the one of a tiny elite who have graduated from his university with this accolade – so elite, in fact, that the major is now no longer being offered. Ostensibly this is because graduates of this sort have traditionally been unemployable (as Alex is right now) and tend to be end up employed in the insurance line or as Campus Administration Executives handling… other graduates of this sort.

Alex received his notice of graduation a couple of days back:

Instead of feeling complete and happy now that he has followed his government’s injunctions and attained his higher-education qualifications, Alex is instead engulfed by feelings of incompleteness at his inability to find employment and unhappiness at his his diminishing finances.

(Warning: This is no doubt a theme that will carry on into the following weeks until said employment is found.)

Because of aforementioned stresses and the unanswered resumes he has sent out, Alex has become remarkably moody. The discovery of a single sock that had fungus growing on it from being left wet in the laundry basket too long and thus had attained the appearance of a sock with leprosy inspired him to spend an afternoon trying to scrub the stains out, screaming things like “Out! Out, damned spot!” (Alex also has a lot of time these days for reading) and blubbering because he can’t even get the washing right.

The soiled sock now sits in a corner of the room drowned in bleach, because Alex cannot bear to throw it out. He hopes that with sufficient bleach, washing detergent and scrubbing, he can get rid of the green stuff on it that smells like the insides of a pair of shoes that have been used by sweaty soccer players after shooting a porn flick in a sauna. He also hopes he will get a call from the HR departments of several companies soon, though if he were pressed to make a bet on the odds of either event happening he’d place his money on the sock.

Even a soiled sock deserves a chance to be employed.

Wherein I receive a commendation and am top of the (Google) world

I signed up for Technorati today only to find that a lot more blogs have been linking to mine than I’d thought. It’s a bit pleasing, like finding chocolates in your school locker (which never happened for me, except when I left it there myself), only that some of the chocolates in this case were rather sour and put there because I haven’t always been nice in my posts. There were some nice mentions, such as:

Touching, isn’t it? Courtesy of Frank Lee (parents had sense of humour?), who is an exceptionally brave blogger who reveals so much personal information on his blog and website such as his handphone number, School of Computing user ID and even chinese name in chinese characters(!) that I feel like I’ve known him for years. Hell, I don’t even know the chinese names (much less in chinese characters) of some friends I’ve known for years, although this might be because their names have dozens of strokes and could pass for arcane runes for evil-things-that-cannot-be-mentioned-in-decent-languages (I admit some of them are rather nasty, but not quite that evil).

Don’t worry about calling me cute, Frank. No one will think you’re gay because of it. Everyone thinks I’m cute.

It’s one of the reasons those little puppies always bite me – they’re jealous of my cuteness.

Also, I realize with some alarm that one of my narrative posts on a South-East CDC concert was featured on Tomorrow.sg which I hrd frm my fr ah, is like sm kind of metablog loh. And den it is run by Singaporean journalists to see what we bloggers r writng abt u knw. Which is why I am now going through my posts to make sure I have written nothing politically incorrect – by which I mean not liable to get me in caned, fined or put into prison (though some may get me The Silent Treatment and Hmph!DunFrenUAlredi’s).

Checking my webstats, I realized with joy that the number of people who visit my blog for pictures of Pokemon Sex has gone up (this post will probably help even more)! Wondering if it were possible that I had achieved my goal to be the Number 1 provider of high-quality perverse-images-of-cute-anime-animals-performing-pleaseing-acts, I searched-on-Google (please Google don’t blame me for using the term as a verb in the past) for “pokemon sex” and found that I wasn’t even in the top 100. Happily, though, Google Image Search proved to have one of my illustrations as its first result for “pokesex”.

It brought a tear to my eye, it did. It’s the first time in my life I’ve ever topped any list, much less a world-wide list. My mother would be so proud to know that her son is now top-shots for pokemon hentai.

Sarcasm aside, it does make me a little sad to realize that this is my only claim to fame as an artist and designer.

Wherein I see a strange bus ad

Spotted a strange bus ad as I was crossing the road but it didn’t strike me to take a picture – anyway it was too dark and my phone cam doesn’t have much of a flash. It featured a gigantic picture of a woman, with two checkboxes and options beside her face. The first read “Single eyelids?” and the second read “Twice as nice with surgery?” or something to that effect, with a web address to the side to http://www.campaignforrealbeauty.com.sg.

Visited it to find it was some kind of viral for Dove, that shampoo/body lotion company. Dove has gone the way of The Body Shop in it’s advertising campaigns, couching its marketing strategies within lofty female-oriented goals. The website is a smear campaign against surgery to enhance your looks, with demonising quotes like “When surgery adds an extra eyelid, does it remove your identity?” in a questionnaire about whether single or double eyelids are more attractive

The website contains healthy advice to (as far as I can make out the target group) not-so-good-looking-conventionally women about exploring their natural beauty, reveling in unconventional looks and the “truth about beauty” (which is an ambiguous question in the fields of neuroscience and philosophy, but naturally Dove has an answer). It is rather sloppily designed in Flash and I voted twenty times for the superiority of the double eyelid without any form of IP tracking or even cookies to prevent multiple voting. The Asian study looks like it was done using the poll results of a couple of women taken off the street and as far as I am concerned fails utterly in its goal “to assess whether it was possible to talk and think about female beauty in ways that were more authentic, satisfying and empowering” and in fact doesn’t seem to include any analysis of the data – some sentences about the statistics are thrown into the lot but they don’t seem to draw any conclusions.

A report of a US Study conducted in Downing Street that seemed somewhat more reliable unfortunately wasn’t available when I visited.

In any case, if you’re the kind of person who’s interested in looking at a campaign that claims to represent the fight to reduce contemporary culture’s fixation with superficial beauty, be sure to visit. Just look out for the part that says every woman can be more beautiful with firmer skin (Dove sells body lotion).

I don’t really like it when profit-driven companies hijack lofty ideals and project it as their own. Nor do I like the idea that Dove is pushing for, that women should all consider themselves “beautiful” – remember The Incredibles? If everyone is beautiful, the term has no meaning. Surely there must be a better way to raise self-esteem than to sacrifice the entire concept of beauty.

By the way, whilst it’s considered mean to laugh a a girl for having small breasts, I’ll bet few girls (or guys) will hesitate to make fun of a guy with a three-inch penis. Campaign for small dicks?