Friday, December 30, 2005

The final days

I don't think there's any real pressure, but I think most year-end posts tend to end up all introspective and meaningful cos we feel the need to make it so. Cos if we didn't, our year would be crap wouldn't it?
Though I've been prone to obsessive bouts of self-examination (Am I a crap writer? Is my cock too small? Do kids under-12 read my blog and should I be toning down my shit?), I'm not by any stretch a 'meaningful' person. To prove it, the next paragraph will have no connection to this one.

And the cow jumped over the moon. Well, not jumped exactly. It farted and the farmer was smoking and ignited the largely methane-composed gas and Fwoom!

My thoughts on the past year, over the space of about 15 minutes, in no particular order:
  • I have never seen a bus refuel. All these years pulling up to gas stations at various times of the day and not once have I seen such a thing. Hail, I've seen Fuel Tankers refuel but never buses.
  • The (biological) children of a good friend read my blog. Girls, if you're reading this, I invite you to contribute a cartoon to illustrate each post. I think people would love it.
  • It's better to show than to tell. But that don't mean telling isn't important. And I will keep telling.
  • I have two new friends whom I would not have become closer to had they actually been able to keep their Boxing Day appointment in Penang. Thank God.
  • There is The One. And sometimes, it ain't the one you're with. It is simultaneously the most beautiful and terrible thing to realise. It don't matter how you met – only that you did.
  • I have true friends. The proof of it is I do absolutely nothing for them. I can't advance their careers, give them decent advice, lend them money, provide no-obligation sex, none of these things. And yet they do so much for me. Funny, this.
  • I read a lot of Science Fiction this year.
  • I spent a lot of time being right rather than making it right. I'ma try and do that less.
  • You can't change the outcome for some stuff. You can only change your experience of it. I coulda made my experiences better and I didn't half the time. I'ma try and do that less too.
  • For the first time since 1988, I am a fan again. I know more about Battlestar Galactica than anyone I've met. I get strange looks, rolled eyes, and screams with the words 'Shut' and 'Up.' And Debbie Gibson, if you put out another album, I'd definitely download it. I still believe!
  • You guys remember my neighbour's son? The one who got in trouble with those loan sharks? I haven't seen him in more than a month. Where is he?
  • What I do is the second most important thing in the world. What I'm paid for, most likely the second least important. How's that for irony?
  • India is now on my list.
  • I don’t want to die average. I can die unknown, but I don’t want to die average.
  • Do I have Alzheimer's?
  • What are the symptoms for prostate cancer?
  • When listening to my iPod, I’ve fallen into the habit of skipping my favourite songs cos I didn't want to 'waste' them. I'm going to stop that. What the fuck am I 'saving' them for?

A few months ago, my mom photocopied an article for me and left it on the dining table for me. It was a speech Steve Jobs gave at Stanford University in June this year. I can recite certain bits by heart, so deep was its impression on me. One of them is the following:

You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust the dots will somehow connect in your future.You have to trust something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.

Happy New Year everyone.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Movie review: King Kong

Question: Can Peter Jackson make movie that isn't three hours long?

Answer: No.

To know if it's worth it (in nowhere nearly as much time) read my review.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

3 pets: the dog

My brother brought him home and announced flatly, sternly even, that he would live with us now. “He’s better off with us.” He never told us where the dog came from, or what caused the deep scar on its rump.

He had a brown coat, smooth and shiny.
His eyes were bright and alert but his brow always carried a concerned frown, like he was worried for you. And maybe he was.
He was a wonderful guard dog. He could tell someone was approaching a hundred feet before they reached the door.
His ears were like a bat’s, large and triangular.

We called him Radar.

The year before last, his liver, then his kidneys began to fail.
But he would always get up to greet you, no matter what.
He struggled to his feet often in those last months, falling occasionally.
And then one day, my dad noticed he was bumping into things. Then we saw his eyes.
The vet told us he’d had an aneurism of sorts and it filled his eyes with blood, striking him blind.

But when you came home, he’d get to his feet without fail.
And he’d find you with those amazing ears.

One morning, we found him lying in the sun, asleep for the last time.
I called my ex and I spent 10 minutes on the phone with her, just listening to her cry.

We put him in a blue blanket so he wouldn’t be cold.

My dad still leaves a big gap between the door and the front fender when he parks the car.

I wish you coulda seen him.
He was so beautiful.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

3 pets: The bug

My brother learned the word ‘arachnid’ before I did (something that stings to this day).

When he was 15, he brought home a scorpion.
Words he used to describe the creature were:
Arachnid (“Insects have six legs stoopid”)

Words I used to describe my brother:
Psycho (“You know any words that don’t end with an ‘O’?” “SHUT UP!”)

It was a tense time for our family.
We just moved into a house I hated, my mom just started her own business and we missed her terribly, my dad wouldn’t stop playing Anne Murray…
Last thing we needed was a scorpion in the household as a fucking pet.

My parents, after failing to get through my brother a.k.a. Wacko’s skull, decided to let my brother keep the creature. Their logic being as far as acts of teen rebellion went, scorpions weren’t as bad as say, drugs or being a Jehovah’s Witness.

I presented several plausible, well-argued scenarios, mostly ending in our death.
But nooooooo, they wouldn’t listen.

One day my mom noticed what she thought were clumps of coconut shavings on the kitchen counter. She picked them up with her fingers. The shavings separated, then began to crawl up her hand in a swarm.

Turns out mom wasn’t the only female with kids in the house.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

3 pets: the fish

I think fish are pets that least fit the description.
And I think I know why: it’s their eyes.

Fish can’t blink, and it makes them look fake. You look at all those fish in finding Nemo and whaddya see?
The little fuckers have eyelids.
When you’re small - as most fish tend to be - you need eyelids to tell people shit. This is why mini versions of things (babies, puppies, hobbits) all have eyelids so they can tell you stuff without talking. Fish can’t show emotion, much less return it.
A happy fish and a depressed fish look the same.
Without eyelids, fish aren’t much of anything unless they’re colourful (clown fish, neon tetra) or big enough to hurt you (sharks, certain species of garoupa).

Or diseased.

Now a fish with a medical condition is endlessly fascinating.
Raggedy tails, growths on the stomach, immediately make fish more interesting.
Our fish had something called dropsy.
What happens is the fish begins to bloat and swell unnaturally. So much in fact, that its scales begin to lift off its body making the fish looked spiked, the way a cat’s fur bristles when it’s on edge. If your goldfish suddenly looks like a swimming orange pine cone, it’s got dropsy.

My brother and I watched with morbid fascination as one of my dad’s goldfish morphed into this terrible creature, a fish other fish wouldn’t play with or invite to bump against the aquarium glass on Wednesday mornings.

Only the turtle, possibly feeling some kind of common quality (they were both grotesque motherfuckers) was unfazed.

My dad tried putting medication into the water but to no avail. The goldfish continued to expand and my brother and I began to worry.
What if it died?
What if it ruptured and we weren’t there to see it vent its little goldfish guts into those crystal, chlorinated waters?

Then one morning, it was gone.

We checked methodically.
The water wasn’t cloudy, so the fat orange fuck couldn’t have popped (there’d be bits of him everywhere wouldn’t there?)
He didn’t jump out.
He didn’t just croak or he’d be belly up on the surface, bobbing like some silly sequined golf ball.

Then we noticed the turtle on the bottom.
It looked at us and opened its mouth, like it was yawning.
In its tiny jaws, staring straight at us, was a single unblinking eye.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Something like normal

As some of you might remember, my neighbour's son got into some trouble with loan sharks a while back. And when they didn't pay up, things just got worse.

It's been almost six months since the last incident.
Looking back, I now realise not only did my neighbours adapt, so did we.

Not looking each other in the eye became easier, and like dancing partners learning each other's timing, we knew just when to leave the house so we'd never run into each other and be faced with the awesome pressure of making conversation.

Two weeks ago, my dad – always the friendly one – started a conversation with my neighbour's daughter's new boyfriend. It was actually so he could tell the young man to please stop throwing your cigarette butts on our front porch thank you very much. Before long my dad knew his name, that he was from Canada, and taught English somewhere in the city.

That one conversation broke the dam, and our families started greeting each other over the fence again, conversations progressed beyond two words ("Hi, Hey") and the wife cooked meals for us.

You need your neighbours at certain points I think. And there are few things harder than not being able to connect with your neighbours, given that neither of you can easily move to cut the tension. So if you ever find yourself in a tough family situation, it might do you good to open up.

But not too wide.
Because maybe your neighbour's son is one of those that wakes up at 6am to run.
Maybe when he comes in to put away his running shoes he sees something through your front door.
Like you sitting nervously watching a replay of last night's security tape, fed from the night-vision camera mounted on your roof.
Scrutinising every face that passes in the lenses view.
Including the 6:23am version of himself, stretching in front of your house.

And maybe he now realises that the seige hasn't ended. It just moved inside the house.
And maybe normal isn't always what you think.
Just what you can see.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

How to break

Love something. This is a crucial first step. Ideally, your selection should be something that brought you great joy or made you feel good about yourself. Dreams (careers, achievements, ambitions) are usually a good choice, particularly one that has just been made real or very close to success. People or relationships are equally suitable. As long as it’s close to your heart, where it has the ability to do the most damage.

Avoid the light. Night is the best time to cry. The physical darkness will match the spiritual one that now faces you. It’s not all for you of course. If you live with others for instance, the darkness will allow them to hide, giving them an excuse not to reach out to you with words of comfort (if they do, this will help your descent, but more on this later). And night reinforces that myth that says it’ll all be ok tomorrow – as if bad things never happen during the day.

Focus on details. Little things you should have done, advice you’ve ignored, things you missed, anything that may have contributed to your downfall. They don’t have to be real, but they should contain some truth. This will provide a fertile breeding ground for self-doubt and loathing. Let hindsight gnaw at you from the inside out with its thousand little teeth.

Refuse help. Put on a brave face and muster all that practiced (but fading) bravado. If done in the early stages, it sets up a wonderful pattern of pride that makes it virtually impossible to humble yourself enough to ask for help when you’re finally in some serious strife. Then, when you’ve drained your reserves of resourcefulness and composure, your pride will be the flimsy shell holding it all together. And because you’ve hollowed yourself out, when you fall, you’ll crack wide open. Then you can beg.

Be an island. When it becomes apparent that things are getting out of hand, you will have two kinds of people. Those who want to see the carnage and those who genuinely want to help. To the former, you will have to bite your tongue as you detect their condescension, continuing your charade. The latter, comprised of true friends and loved ones, you will alienate with your bitter dismissal ala I-don’t-need-your-fucking help-I’m fine. Either way, you will sever the last support lines you have. And you will be truly alone.

Have a sense of self-entitlement. It is the capstone lesson in your crash course in Falling From Grace. Fail enough times in a row, and it will be tough not to take it personally. It will be hard not to think fate doesn’t have it in for you. When it gets shitty, you will revert to your 10-year old self and say to the Universe that you deserve a break. That for once, just once, can’t things go your way? This is the final masterstroke. You will find that the Universe / fate / God is deaf. It owes you nothing.

The result is always the same. If you have all of the above ingredients, you will come spectacularly apart. For best results, wait for your heart to catch, and your throat to tighten and resist with all your spirit. And you will feel your self-esteem, your stability, everything you felt made you a worthwhile person leak out through your mouth as you scream. Before long, your scream goes silent (sound cannot carry in a vacuum) as you jettison the last particles of your dignity through the airlock of your soul.

How to mend (not be confused with How To Heal)

Get up.
Make a list.
Write down, every day, as item number one, “I am still standing.”

It is the one thing that is fact.
Free from bullshit, from exaggeration, and it says nothing about how well you are doing.
But it is a simple, repeatable truth.
And when you’ve been brought low, low, low, you will treasure it.

But first, get up.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Movie reviews: Paradise Now and Wolf Creek


In Melbourne, I watched The Flight That Fought Back. a TV movie about United Airlines Flight 93, the hijacked 9/11 plane where passengers stormed the cockpit, and possibly preventing it from reaching the White House.

By coincidence, a movie called Paradise Now was being screened in independent cinemas which arguably was the exact opposite of that: a story told from the viewpoint of two suicide bombers. I'm lucky I caught this one as it would never have been screened in Malaysia. If think the film board would have been hard pressed to decide if it celebrated suicide bombings (though it doesn't) or it showed middle-easterners and Muslims in a bad light (it doesn't). The film board I'm sure would've decided to avoid the choice altogether by not allowing it.

I also saw an Australian film, Wolf Creek which was Oz's answer to Se7en. Not for the weak of stomach I can tell you. Again, unlikely to hit Malaysian theatres.

But the rest of y'all can save a bit of money or have your say at my POOR UNFAIRLY IGNORED LITTLE MOVIE BLOG.


Monday, November 07, 2005

I’m home

I’m writing this while it’s still fresh, though fresh may not be the word considering I’m suffering from sleep deprivation.

I can’t condense the two weeks, and I can’t tell you all of it.
But if you’re interested, I’ll bring out some of the shiny bits.

Trams are so much better than trains. I think it’s the whole slow turns and weaving in and out of streets. More variety. Trains just rocket through. Imagine dating someone like that: would you prefer someone who just wants to get to the end, or someone who can show you the sights?

Hot stinging showers in cramped shower cubicles are the best. With mirrors.

The city council kept its promise. One day in 1997, some old lady told me she was collecting donations so the city council could build a better library for my old neighbourhood. I was in a foul mood and told her “Suuuuuure, here’s 20 bucks I’d otherwise flush down the toilet!” I basically threw money at her just to spite her. She just smiled politely and said “Thank you, young man.” The original library was smaller than a grocery store. It now has its own 2-storey building, and you couldn’t see all of the books just looking into the window.

I run better in cold weather. I usually do about 8kms twice a week in KL. I ran three times a week for two weeks, clocking more than 13kms each run. Mind you, this was only a personal best. On Saturday, I ran alongside members of the Victorian Road Runners doing their 8km time trials. Good thing I wasn’t a member cos even the under-15s kicked my ass.

I think I’ll go back to school at some point. And I want to teach a class.

My body can take a lotta bacon grease.

Melbourne is the new Hollywood. Eva Longoria (exotic slutty one from Desperate Housewives), Reiko Aylesworth (constipated, tight-skirted one from 24), Carson Kressley (fahionista Queer Eye) were in town. Eva appeared in a big budget ad campaign for Myer, an Aussie department store, so the appearance mighta been part of the contract. All of them turned up for the Melbourne Cup, a horse-racing carnival and public holiday. Imagine: your government declares a holiday so you can gamble! How cool is that?

I took lotsa photographs. A lot of them are crap and they’re mostly landscapes but I paid more attention to stuff. Not just knowing they’re there, but appreciating them. Lotsa times my mind colours the pictures, altering their detail. But capturing the way things happened and the way you remember them can be very different things, and I want to spend more time on the latter.

I discovered chicks with short hair so do it for me. Specifically short, carrot-topped chicks wearing white sleeveless singlets with green clover prints and khakis with the edges of the pockets slightly frayed. Not that I actually, specifically, have a fixation on anyone. Nevermind.

My hair grows faster in Melbourne. I shave and after breakfast, I’ve got stubble. Why the hell can’t that happen here? Maybe it’s the bacon grease.

I went to a ‘real’ Melbourne rave. I’ve seen people on drugs, but I’ve never actually seen people take them. I’m not into techno or crowds but still, it was educational. I know now why they walk around with lollipops and baby pacifiers (their teeth grind when they’re high). Raving has just exploded in KL, but they’ve just copied the style and not the spirit. Everyone has the same clothes and moves. Nobody looks the same at a Melbourne rave. Not the way they dress, not the way they dance. Nobody judges you there. Which is why a bald Chinese guy with the dance moves of a block of wood won’t draw funny looks.

It wasn’t really a holiday. It was more like going home. I felt immediately comfortable. And when I left, I didn’t feel sad. After all I’m coming back.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Dear all

First off, I’m sorry if I haven’t dropped by recently.
I’ve been trynna finish stuff at work before I go.

I’m taking a break at the end of next week. Just a short trip out of the country. It’s been a long time coming and considering the week I’ve just had, not a moment too soon.

I’m not one for navel-gazing mumbo jumbo, but recently I’ve felt very grateful.
Recently, stuff has happened that made me feel my life was going to worth living. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t suicidal or anything. I love my life.

But for the first time in a long while I felt it’s going to be worth sticking around for.

Some days, my medium-sized dreams get big.
Some days, my tiny projects make me so happy.
Some days, I have a genuine, un-smug smile on my face.

I know there will be days I won’t feel this way.
I’m pretty sure my cynical side will get its shots in every now and then.

But I’ve noticed a pattern:
The good days are staying longer.

I’m gonna be careful about what I put out in the Universe.
The ride I’m on has been really good so far (fingers crossed).
I’m betting the next one is gonna be perfect.

See you when I get back.

Saturday, October 08, 2005


I promised Mahi I’d do this, so here it is.
That said, I’m bad at these things. For one thing, there aren’t too many bits about me that are terribly interesting (no, really). I didn’t want to think about the answers too much cos that’d be:
a) kinda artificial
b) too much work trying to sound interesting which is kinda like point a)

That said, it took a while to do some of them cos I struggled to find enough to fill 7 items. Even mundane ones. Sad, I know.

Please don’t let that stop you from visiting in the future.

Seven Things That Scare Me
  1. Losing a loved one.
  2. Crows.
  3. Being mediocre.
  4. Clowns.
  5. Mosquitoes. I became a bit paranoid cos we've had some dengue fever scares in the neighbourhood. Every time I see one sucking on me I slap frantically, not killing the cursed insect and bruising myself instead.
  6. Blood tests.
  7. Ads for colleges. I do ads for a college and when we were going through the research, I saw it takes very little solid fact to convince parents to part with their life's savings. This worries me.
Seven Things I Like
  1. Reading. I have to read something before I sleep. I've read brochures for mutual funds in desperate times.
  2. Writing.
  3. Running.
  4. My iPod.
  5. Hips. A recent development. I've always been a breast man, but lately, I've begun to appreciate a woman's hips: the small patches of it that rise above jeans, the dimples at the base of the spine.
  6. My life.
  7. Kissing.
Seven Important Things In My Room
  1. My bookshelf.
  2. My bed.
  3. My clock.
  4. Hangers. The only time clothes should be on the floor is post-coital.
  5. My stand lamp.
  6. My envelopes. To sort my receipts.
  7. My air-cond.
Seven Random Facts About Me
  1. I have a shaved head.
  2. Once a month, I target someone in my building for an elevator prank.
  3. I have a dimple on one cheek.
  4. I hate wet toilet floors. With hair. Ew.
  5. If you play Boggles, we will get along.
  6. I’m militant about safety belts. An absolute Nazi.
  7. I will stay really late, but I don’t take my work home. When I’m out the door, I’m done.
Seven Things I Plan on Doing Before I Die
  1. Have at least 5 decent books to my name.
  2. Live in Toronto for a year.
  3. Make love to a beautiful, angry female welder (oh, you think I’m kidding).
  4. This one I can’t tell you.
  5. Start my own movie magazine.
  6. Be on set of whatever movie David Fincher is filming, start to finish. I’ll run around and bring him coffee. I don’t care.
  7. Make my folks proud.
Seven Things That I Can Do, or Have Done
  1. Be a good friend.
  2. Been 3 different kinds of paid writer.
  3. Make half-decent pancakes.
  4. Been in a cage with a live tiger, not 5 feet away.
  5. Shaken hands with Samuel L. Jackson. He came to Melbourne for the premiere of The Long Kiss Goodnight.
  6. Sing second voice.
  7. Slept on the streets. It was the first day of the new millennium. The roads were gridlocked, the trains wouldn’t run for another six hours, so I slept on the pavement, and then next to a water fountain.
Seven Things That I Cannot Or Will Not Do
  1. Remember roads.
  2. Whistle.
  3. Drink tequila ever again.
  4. Smoke.
  5. Work at any desk I’ve been assigned. It could be a great desk or a huge office with a plasma screen TV, a coffee machine and hot sexually liberated secretary. The moment you say “This is where you will work,” it’s over. I can’t work there.
  6. Watch American Idol.
  7. Leave twisted phone cords alone.
Seven Things I Say The Most
  1. “Fuck.”
  2. “No.”
  3. “Mkaaay…”
  4. “I’ma.” As in “I’ma go now,” or “I’ma fucking kick your ass.”
  5. “I love you.” This is every day, but it’s really only to those few people. Very few.
  6. “Babe.”
  7. “Previously on Battlestar Galactica.” This is to no one in particular. I love the show a lot and I find myself saying it when they show the re-cap. I sometimes say it during lunch at random which makes my colleagues roll their eyes.
Seven Celebs on Whom I Have A Crush

Had huge problems with this cos most of the celebs I love:
Aren’t actually big stars
Aren’t all in movies
  1. Bryce Dallas Howard. After The Village, I went through this period where I was so over sighted chicks. Blind girls don’t burden you with their prejudice. Blind chicks see the real you.
  2. Elisha Cuthbert.
  3. Jem.
  4. Laura Linney. I have been crushing on Laura since 1997. And she’s still the one for me. I would so be her kept man if she’d have me. She could teach me so many things.
  5. Katee Sackhoff. Smokes cigars, flies a Viper fighter, punches like a guy. Katee could conceivably paddle my ass.
  6. Lokelani McMichael. Her real name’s Lokelani Kuulei Make Mai which means 'Heavenly rose my precious flower lei.' At the age of 18, Lokelani became the youngest female ever to participate in the Ironman competition - the Holy Grail of Triathlon events.
  7. Kristie Lu Stout.
And Finally, Seven Souls I Have Ruined By Tagging Them

I’ma change this a bit.
I’m not gonna tag nobody.
It’s my good deed for the day.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

3 rainy days: 2001

(Rifles through glove box for the 17th time, still no house keys.)


(Puts car in gear, drives to end of street, brakes suddenly.)

Will you fucking move!

(Dog refuses to move)

MOVE you fucking-

(Leans on the horn. Dog is still there, unaffected.)

Ok, fine you wanna-

(First gear, inches forward, brakes suddenly.)

You mangy FUCK!

(Car is like, six inches from the dog. I’m freaked out, dog is not.)


(Backs car up slightly, drives around fucking mangy dog. Parks at the end of the street.)

(Calls mom, she answers.)

Mom: Hey.
Me: Hey Mom. Look, are you guys close?
Mom: No. We’re…I don’t know. Maybe 40 minutes, an hour.
Me: Shit. I left my keys when I left the house.
Mom: Well, you’ll have to wait. We’re in a jam. Very heavy rain here.
Me: Yeah, same here. Look nevermind, I’ll just wait here.
Mom: Ok.

(Ends call. Sighs. Turns wiper off. Notices stupid dog is approaching car.)


(Dog sits next to car, upright and proud. He just looks ahead and the rain is just soaking him.)

Stupid fucking…

(Dog just looks ahead. Rain gets heavier. Something happens and I, I dunno. I don’t know what happened. Anyway, I open the door.)

Come here.
Come HERE you stupid fucking-

(Dumb and deaf stupid fucking dog looks straight ahead. I’m getting wet, holding the door open so I fucking slam it. Sighs. Grabs umbrella.)

You’re a deaf dumb fucking-

(Dog doesn’t even move. Dog is made of stone or something.
Walks over to dog. Shelters dog with umbrella. Shoes get wet in like two seconds.)


(Waits in the rain with dog. Ungrateful dumb fucking dog just stares straight ahead.)

Sunday, September 25, 2005

3 rainy days: 1994

“Any moment now.”

That’s what my brother used to say every time it poured.
And every time he said it, I’d let out a sigh and shake my head.

We had just seen Jurassic Park and since then, my brother would peek out the window, screaming at me to come quickly lest I miss it.

‘It’ being a full-sized male Tyrannosaurus Rex stomping through our neighbourhood, broad-siding cars as it went, setting off alarms, clipping the branches off trees with its giant bulk, and – my brother predicted – stopping momentarily to peer into our house with a calculating reptilian eye.

“They’re not reptiles," my brother would hasten to correct me.
"Reptiles are poikiothermic, which means they can’t generate their own body heat. Dinosaurs were homeothermic. We know that now from fossil evidence showing hearts capable of pumping….” And so on and so forth. My brother’s delusions were nothing if not detailed, fuelled by a rich diet of National Geographic articles and thick scholarly books by dinosaur paleontologists.

Initially, I rolled my eyes. “Yeah, whatever.”
This upset him greatly.
He would give me this look and scream “You don’t believe! That’s why it won’t come! You have to believe!” Then he would storm upstairs to his room, slamming the door.

My brother however, is very forgiving.
And the way I thought he was more than a little sad for believing, I think he thought I was more than a little sad for not.


When it rained something fierce, he would again shout frantically, arms flailing, “Quick! Quick!” He would move the curtain open just a seam, just a peephole’s width, and say it:

“Any moment now.”

And then a funny thing happened.
I started coming forward. Looking out into the rain.

Even today, when it pours, I look at skyscrapers from my place in the gridlock.
I look out from my house, hiding behind the curtain.
And I find myself keeping still.
Cos that’s what they said in the movie.
They can’t see you if you keep real still.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Movie review: Flightplan

Flightplan is actually the third movie in a row I've reviewed about peril and airplanes.
Funny, that.
Anyway, check it out.

Also, to everyone who commented on the last post, thank you.
I've taken it down cos it was always meant to be a small tribute, but I'm happy to see so many people who saw the event felt the same way.

Monday, September 19, 2005

3 rainy days: 1999

I think it’s a myth that blind people have a greater sensitivity to the world around them.
That they somehow know more about the world.
I think they just pay more attention.

When your world is dark, you see with your fingers.
And if you pay enough attention, if you surrender yourself to this new sight, you will be amazed how much you can perceive.
Your fingers will remember nooks, curves, clefts.
And your skin becomes a map that not only shows the territory travelled, it captures it.

The thousand kisses that rain down on you soak into your skin.
And suddenly, the storm is inside the room.
Swallowing you whole.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

The natural

Connie is very young, but already she’s an incredible comedian. Her comic timing is perfect, her jokes unforced, and oh so spontaneous. Connie also has no idea how talented she is.

Which is why instead of her own show, Connie works as a nurse at my chiropractor.

About a year back, I had a back injury. Long story short, I compressed the discs at the L4 and L5 vertebrae (I love saying that) and had a hard time walking for a while. And so began my acquaintance with Connie.

Connie administers various treatments as per the doctor’s orders e.g. ultrasound therapy, lumbar traction, muscle stimulation (leave it). Most require a hands-on approach (leave it I said) and talking is a way to make the time pass.

Connie: Now you take off pants.
Me: Don’t you wanna get to know me first, Connie?
Connie: No. No time today. I got other guy to do after you.
Me: It’s all just a job to you isn’t it?
Connie: Yes. Quickly! Pants!

I drop my shorts, lay on my stomach, and Connie squirts cold electrode gel on my ass. Now this is purely scientific. This is muscle stimulation therapy. It’s to simulate the muscles in my lower back the way a workout would, but I can’t work out cos I’m injured. So Connie uses electricity.
Connie turns up the voltage a bit too fast and I feel the current like 400 hornets stinging my ass.

Me: Connie, it’s getting uncomfortable.
Connie: You want pillow?
Me: No, there’s too much current. It’s getting painful.
Connie: You can take pain. Other guy can take pain. You can take pain.
Me: Connie, you’re hurting me.
Connie: But only a while. 10 minute!

Some days, I get strapped into the traction machine.
You lie on your back, on a device that looks like a narrow bunk (like on a train or submarine) but is actually an electric version of the rack they used on prisoners in the Bastille.

Connie puts a stool under my knees so I look like a dead spider with my legs in the air. She then straps me in. Tight. I mean, she puts one leg on the bed for leverage and pulls on the fucking strap like she’s hauling supplies up Mount Everest. I felt I should say something before my diaphragm imploded.

Me: Connie, it’s very tight.
Connie: Tight then only good. Must tight.
Me: Do you treat all men like this?
Connie: I just follow doctor. Doctor she say do you tight (turns to leave).
Me: Wait, where are you going?
Connie: Don’t worry, I come very fast. Now I go see other man.

And I’m paying 80 bucks a session for this.

Monday, September 12, 2005


Last Friday, I went to a birthday dinner hosted by my ex-neighbour. We’d known her family for about 22 years and it wasn’t exactly something I could easily say no to. Especially with my mom saying things like “We can’t say no to them.”

The birthday was for my neighbour’s mom, who’d had a stroke a coupla years back and she’d actually made some remarkable recovery. She’ll forever walk with a cane, and now has to shake with her left hand, but her face is pretty much back to normal. This is significant because when someone speaks with a slur, we automatically slow down and speak louder. The old lady has always been sharp, and I think regaining her speech at least make us less irritating to her. And of course, there’s her smile – knowing and just a little cheeky, like the stroke never happened.

But something else did.

I had a kind of seizure myself.
They were triggered by a series of events and I had a kind of grand mal episode with the standard blackouts in between. And when I came to each time, my world was slightly changed.

They played a small slideshow tribute. They showed photos of the old lady when she was young and all the places she’d been.
I realise I have almost no photos of myself after graduation. My existence has a photographic gap of more than eight years.
I will take more photos. I will make new memories. I will make memories worth photographing.

I was seated at a table with people I didn’t know. And didn’t like.
If you’re in any traditional Chinese sit-down dinner, you will be stuck with these people for at least eight dishes plus dessert. It is a punishment consistently overlooked by Amnesty International.
My wedding dinner will be a small restaurant booked for the night. Everyone will know each other. Everyone will get to order something they like. And it won’t be expensive since I don’t actually have many friends.

There were relatives from all over. Hong Kong. Louisiana. Toronto. London. Boston.
My mother’s family is close and it hasn’t gotten them through some shitty times. My cousins and I however, have drifted apart.
I can change that. I think they want to as well. When they’re close, families don’t feel big, but the safety net does. And I want that.

My neighbour’s mom is 81.
I will be 31 this year.
We should only live as long as there are people to love us.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Too close to home

Given enough time, you can get used to anything.
You accept, adapt, survive.
Given enough time, balance returns, and though things aren’t the same, they become manageable again.

Denial is a form of adaptation.

It’s been long enough after the last visit from the loan sharks that my neighbours have begun to settle into a kind of comfort zone. What began as evasive action has become routine. They come home late, they leave early.
And unconsciously, their pattern, their complacency, became ours.
The loan sharks have given up.
Everything would be ok.

Then the red paint returned.
Their roof was covered in it.
Their garden was covered in it.
Their walls and the porch looked like the scene of a massacre.

I suspect the thugs come in the afternoon, when the guards don’t keep to their rounds as strictly and the entry of cars is less likely to be questioned.

My neighbours tried to hide their shock, and just scurried into the house. They sneaked out in the middle of the night, scrubbing furiously attempting to remove the paint. But it was no good.

The next morning, the rest of the neighbours saw everything. The red paint made the house look like the site of a slashing, but the scrubbing made it look like a botched cover-up – which it was.
In the end, my neighbours called someone in to paint over the red streaks on the walls. Maybe the painter didn’t have time to find a match, so the result was patches of off-white against light beige. None of which hides the red, which now appears as dark shadows under the hastily, unevenly applied coat of new paint.

But worse of all is the red paint they tried to wash away has settled into the tarmac just in front of my house. It stains the entrance.

The red looks at me every time I step over it to get into my car.
Trouble is at my door.
And it is no metaphor.
I hate that their siege is becoming mine.
I hate that I now share their terror.
Yet not the comfort of their denial.

Friday, September 02, 2005

The spice of life

Contrary to popular belief, the Saffron flower is a pink-petaled thing.
The yellowish tint with which we associate its name actually comes from the pistil.
The pistil is what makes the yellow dye and the fragrant, almost seductive spice used in our food.

It takes roughly 150,000 Saffron flowers to produce a single kilo of spice.

We have taken so much from this planet.
So, so much.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Merdeka! Merdeka! Merdeka!

On 31 August 1957, Malaysia celebrated its first Independence Day.

I got my first bike when I was nine. I rode every day and skinned myself badly when Dad took the training wheels off the first time. He doesn’t know this, but I cried because I was so happy.

I got my first paycheck when I was 17. I was an accounts clerk at a local department store. I made less than 400 bucks a month for a five-day week. I came home exhausted and marveled at how parents – mine, anyone’s – manage to keep it together. I regretted being a crap child, and suspected I would be an even worse parent. I still believe this today.

I drove a car alone for the first time when I was 18. When my Dad gave me the keys he couldn’t look at me and I thought he was cos he was worried about his car (it was new, it was a two door, it could fly). Mom later told me he lit some incense and prayed when I was out the door asking Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy to keep me safe.

I went on my first trip alone with my first girlfriend when I was 22. I told her mother the week before, a little awkwardly, that I was going for a holiday with her daughter. I also told her we would be staying at a hotel. “Take care of my girl,” she said. Then she kissed me on the cheek. And being a very traditional Chinese mom, she never kisses anyone.

I lived away from my folks for the first time ever during my last year at Uni. I have always been independent, but never alone. And while my friends found the first month amazing, I was nearly crushed by homesickness. But I learned to be alone without being lonely, I discovered I loved driving, and though I didn’t know it at the time, I fell in love with writing.

I got dumped for the first time ever, and it happened on Valentine’s Day. Within a month or so, people rushed to tell me she was seeing someone new, and I knew who my real friends were(n’t). In fact, she paraded him. It messed me up bad and I felt very low. Then one day, I realised: If she didn’t hurt, then it couldn’t have been special. And if it wasn’t special, I didn’t lose anything. And then I was ok.

In 7 years or so, I will have paid off my house. My parents will still live in it. As will my kids, whom I guarantee you will be beautiful – inside and out.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Movie review: Red Eye

I'm once again plugging for my poor movie blog.
Read the latest.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Bleed me

People are awfully nice to you when you’re giving blood.
They use foreign sounding phrases like “May I please…” and “Is it ok…”
All this while doing things like jabbing you with a pin.
Slapping the inside of your elbow to find a vein to stick huge fucking needles into.
Asking you to pump harder with your wrist (never thought anyone would be telling me to do that).

I read somewhere if you lose more than 50% of your body’s blood, the damage, the sheer shock to the system is irreversible, even if it’s replaced after. And I’m wondering whether it’s my life force draining from me into a plastic bag that is affording me this moment of clarity. Whether some kind of cellular death is endowing me with a period of rare insight:

The blood bank is like the tax receipts department of the government.
All smiles and helpful nods while they bleed you.

In fact, giving blood is perhaps the best way to bleed.
You can have a gallon of blood gushing out of your skull courtesy of some blunt force trauma and you’ll be told to wait.
But give blood, and you’re ushered into a nice waiting room with magazines.
And as O-type blood ran from me, I found death and taxes to be a perfectly natural pairing.

When I finish, the nurse smiles and carefully – almost lovingly – carries the 450ml pouch and sets it in a tray with its own code number. She gives me a donor booklet with the date of my first deposit. She even rushed to hold the door open for me.

“Thank you, please come again.”

Just like the tax department.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Time's up

They are everywhere.

Big friendly letters announce ‘Instant Cash’ or ‘Quick Money!’ A few speak with uncanny insight and understanding: ‘Need help?’ or ‘Take the pressure off.’

The copy for loan shark ads is succinct and effective. The language clear as whistle, and the promise like a lifeline to those drowning. And you have to be drowning to be willing to give up the following information:
A photocopy of your bank passbook/statement.
Copies of your past two months’ pay slips.
A photocopy of your ID or driver’s license.

You have to be driven to desperation to give up such private information for sums as low as 300 bucks.

Interest rates are in the order of 40-50%, usually calculated on a weekly basis.
A loan of a thousand becomes 1500 in a week, increasing exponentially.

I have wondered what drove Junior to consider and ultimately choose a loan shark as an option. His middle class parents are well to do, and outwardly, he does not want for anything. I had speculated he might have been tricked into being a guarantor for some other desperate friend. One neighbour speculated he might have gotten himself in debt with the online gambling that seems is becoming a plague amongst youths.

The house has been very quiet.
The porch light is on, but the house itself is dark.
Since the last visit from the collectors, my neighbours seem to have gone into hiding. They were missing for more than 24 hours and only returned once in the past week, and even then only during the day.
The plants are beginning to wilt from neglect.
The same laundry hangs from lines, uncollected.

Junior’s sister was asked by one of our neighbours about the trouble.
She was somber, but frank about the matter: “Yes, my brother’s in some trouble with loan sharks.” A coupla months back. Junior’s sister had a bad auto accident right in front of our street (I called Auto Assist for her). The car was totaled but she was uninjured.

She returned to the house this week to collect some things. It is mere coincidence that she also took delivery of her new car this week. And when she drove it over, I wonder if those men in the van saw her.

For two nights, a white van has been parked on our street. The men inside made no noise, but also made no effort to hide their presence. Our neighbourhood patrol were informed and on the second night, they asked the men to leave.

I wonder what they thought as they sat waiting for Junior and his family who couldn’t (or wouldn’t) pay them and yet managed to splash out for a new ride. I wonder if that’s what made them decide to crank things up a notch.

Tonight, there is red paint on my neighbours’ walls.

My mother, who grew up in a rough neighbourhood says this is the last warning.
It is a traditional signal used by loan sharks.

The red paint is a message: When next we come, there will be blood.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

This is not good

About three weeks ago, my dad was watering the plants when two men arrived in a car and started banging on my neighbours’ door. They shouted profanities and started screaming for my neighbour’s eldest son. They were so worked up they hadn’t noticed my dad, who by then was quite terrified. Then they saw him.

According to dad, it was like someone flipped a switch. All menace fled from their faces. They smiled and asked him politely if he knew my neighbour’s son. My dad said not really and added (lied, actually) that they weren’t around much.

They asked my dad to pass along a message.
“Just tell him his friends dropped by.”

They drove off, but returned a moment later. One of them got down, grabbed one of my neighbour’s potted plants and hurled it into their driveway where it shattered, sending shards of clay everywhere. Then they sped off. Nobody came out, but when I locked up somewhere past midnight, I heard someone cleaning up next door.

That they were loan sharks is no mystery. But until now, we’d reckoned we were the only ones who knew. We tried to be discreet and restricted our enquiries to “Is everything ok?” The answer was always yes, nothing to worry about, we’re fine thanks, before disappearing into the house.

On our side, we’ve been worried.
We worried about finding ourselves in a situation where we may not be able to avoid involvement. All sorts of scenarios come to mind:

Thugs storming the house.
A kidnap in progress.
An attempt on their lives.

Basically situations where you won’t know how you’re going to react until you’re in it. And you don’t ever wanna be in it.

We knew Junior was in beaucoup bad shit.
They knew we knew.
And no one else.

All that changed tonight.
This evening, many residents along our street returned to find flyers pasted on their doors and mailboxes. The notes were all in Chinese - which some can’t read - but the details were recognisable enough.
An address.
Car registration.
And most glaringly, a photocopy of an ID card.
Though enlarged and badly printed, the face is still recognizably my neighbour’s son.
There are angry exclamation marks and dollar signs all over the flyer.

My neighbour scurried all along our street, frantically ripping off the flyers.
But the damage is done. A lot have seen the flyer and very soon, everyone will know.

Now here’s the bit that scares me.
About a week ago, Junior decided to shave his head bald.
With the exception of the glasses he sometimes wears, he now looks a lot like me.

A lot.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

The powers that be

It is a new world.

Green from trees is now visible.
Colour is visible.
The atmosphere, which a mere 24 hours ago was ash gone airborne, can now support human life again.
The city re-animated itself and drew its first clean breath in more than a week, exhaling a sigh of relief.

And we have the department upstairs to thank for it, apparently.
The Prime Minister called on the country to pray for divine intervention and the front page of the papers shows devotees from every race – almost a caricature of national unity – appealing to their higher power.

And whaddya know, someone answered.

There is blue sky.
Sunlight is strong enough to cast shadows.
Birds no longer swarm aimlessly above buildings. Whatever it was about the haze that screwed up their radar, it seems to have gone.

Most days, I laugh at this shit.
I believe in will and action and getting off your fucking ass to solve problems.
But I also believe my eyes.

About four years ago, I was at the Sepang International Circuit covering the F1 for the magazine. My photographer was delayed by heavy rains though he was calling a mere five minutes from the circuit. The rains were bad enough to cause a gridlock several kilometres long.

But up above the racetrack, was a perfect circle of clear blue sky.
You can see the circle because the blue ended sharply, bordered by storm clouds. It was like someone had cut a hole in the storm and let the sun in.

A few days before, there were reports in the papers the race might be suspended due to the rains that had been falling non-stop for a week. It was monsoon season. But the organizers confidently stated that race fans had nothing to worry about. Reporters asked if bomohs would be called in. The organizers simply reiterated that all would be fine.

Bomohs are local shaman who have been called upon for generations to cure illnesses, exorcise demons, remove curses (or create them) and other sundry mystical services.
Bomohs can find out if your husband is cheating on you.
They can curse the little 19-year old tart he's been screwing.
And they can make him fall head over heels in love with you. Again.
But bomohs have corporate clients too.
Whenever organizers have a big event that they don’t want ruined by petty things like the weather, they sometimes call in a bomoh. It could be the launch of a new car, or a rave party. Doesn’t matter.

But even magic has rules: Apparently, bomohs cannot change the order of events, merely the timing. For instance, they can hold off the rain or speed it up.
But it usually means stealing from the future.
A call for rain now might possibly mean worsening some dry spell into a full-on drought somewhere in the future.

And if you believe the rules, and we’ve had any help for this haze, well.
We can only pray.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Something wicked this way comes

I’m typing this from my office. Outside, the city is covered in ash. Anything more than five minutes in the open and your eyes sting and your body coughs, rejecting the lungful of ash and smoke it just inhaled. Seeing beyong 300 metres is futile.

The international press – BBC, AFP – report that the Malaysian government has declared a state of emergency. In reality, only two areas on the west coast have been included. The government were quick to dispute the foreign news reports. But it doesn’t matter – the winds will turn the errors into fact soon enough. Anyone with a window can see this.

I’m thinking about the Time magazine article on the anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing I read a few days ago.

I’m thinking of Krakatoa as the volcano rained hot ash and death onto fleeing citizens.

And more than once, I push back from my desk to check the horizon.
That out of the thick grey smog, machines on metal legs will arrive to claim our planet as their own.

Monday, August 08, 2005

3 Immigrants: Nick

Nick is Greek (but of course) and makes some amazing burgers. They are huge, jaw-dislocating things, and when I finish one, there’s no room for the fries I always order and end up throwing away.

I usually turn up Thursday, late in the evening, always forgetting that Australian shops close earlier than Malaysian ones. But Nick is there, always smiling and always ready to make me a burger.

And there were the little things.
Every now and again, I get a fried fish fillet or a mutton kebab. Despite my strongest objections, he would give them to me completely free (“It end of day. If you don’t take, I throw anyway. At least you eat!”)
I also noticed no matter how late I was, he was always open. Then I realized he was waiting for me.

After awhile, I couldn’t take the guilt so I lied to him and said my Thursday classes had been shifted to Saturday morning. So I walked in every Saturday morning, and I sat down without a word. Nick would know to bring me what I wanted – a bacon sandwich, toasted, and a cup of strong black coffee.

I took a picture of Nick on my last day in Melbourne. He hugged me and when he cried, so did I. When I moved to my new house, I lost a coupla things. That picture was one of them.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Someone told me

"It doesn't really matter how you meet.
It only matters that you do."

How true.
How very true.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

3 Immigrants: Keng

Mine was the first presentation of the semester and when I finished, my lecturer commented that I had “a startling grasp of the English Language. And after only one week in Australia.”

The rest of the Australian students laughed and he patted me on the back like an amusing pet that had done good.

But he was a funny, innovative lecturer. One who had actually been in the world, had made his mark, and came back to make better business professionals by first making them better students.

He was not the condescending racist fuck I’d complained about to my friends. He was a man of good humour who dressed badly and loved his half-Malaysian children.

His wife’s name is Keng and she’s from Penang.
Despite having lived in Melbourne for 10 years, her accent remains like mine.

Keng: Did he give you his ‘your English is pretty good’ speech yet?
Me: First day in class.
Keng: Yeah, he did that to me too.

But now am found

By now, some of the old visitors have found my new address.
I'd like to say sorry if I didn't let everyone know.
When I left the old place, a few people noticed I left and I wrote them and that was that.

If I haven't gone over to your blog to comment, please don't be angry.
If your site trackers recorded any Malaysian visitors, believe me when I say one of them's me.

So I've put my old blogroll back up.
And I've dusted off the welcome mat.

Saturday, July 30, 2005


Jamie Foxx, pre-Oscar.
Self-flying homicidal stealth bombers.
And Jessica Beil is da bomb.

Check it.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

3 Immigrants: Margaret

When I first met her, Margaret always looked at me like I was trying to steal something. “Fucking chinks,” she would mutter under her breath, softly, but not so soft that I couldn’t hear, which was the real intention anyway.

I normally walk away from this kind of baseless racism, but she was harmless. She looked about 80, voice a mix between gravelly Marge Simpson (hmm, Margaret too, funny that) and whoever played the Wicked Witch Of The West in the original Wizard of Oz (hmm, Oz as well). So one day, I spoke to her:

Me: Can chinks buy tea?
Margaret: They can, if they got money.

And so it began.
First tea.
Then conversation. Strained at first, and peppered with accusations of how “your kind were stealing jobs from honest Australians.”
Then, slowly, revelation (I dare not call it trust): “I was an army nurse, divorced twice and happier for it.”

After a while, she refused to accept my 25 cents for the tea.
And I brought clean clothes that didn’t need washing to the launderette.

The Island

That dude who made Armageddon and Bad Boys.
Scarlett Johansson in what looks like a sprayed-on jumpsuit.
Some guy named Ewan McGregor.

What's not to like?

Friday, July 22, 2005

Nothing, really

At the time of this writing:

A family friend just returned from Europe. I know this because my mom messaged me and told me that he has passed her copies of FHM and Sports Illustrated: Swimsuit Edition 2005 for me. Mom, ever discreet, merely noted that "They’re in German. Which will make the articles harder to read."

I’ve had a really nice lunch. A nice 3 1/2 hour lunch with two like-minded colleagues. Like-minded cos we all agreed the best way to deal with the terrifying rumours of instability swirling around our company was to get well and truly stuffed. Fried squid, chicken, fish eggs, briyani rice and 4 different kinds of curry. And we didn’t have to lie either. Yes, we’re going out to lunch. Yes, we’ll be back. What you shoulda done missy, is ask when. Nyuk nyuk.

I was a bit of an asshole. An intern rudely shoved an ad in my face and said "Check this for me."
Me: Ok.
Intern: (drums fingers)
Me: You going to stand there while I check this?
Intern: Yes (defiant and smug)
Me: Staring at me while I check it won’t make it go any faster.
Intern: It’s ok, I’ll wait.
Me: In fact, you r staring might make it go a lot slower.
Intern: How long will it take?
Me: Might take forever (smiles sweet smile).

This is a hollow victory. It is petty shit, and it could’ve been avoided. All she had to do was be polite.

I have not run for a week. I’m disappointed in myself cos I was so fucking disciplined. I just can’t seem to get up this week. I worry I might be getting old. But I’m also very, very happy. I don’t feel running is a chore. There are some days I go to bed smiling thinking "At least tomorrow’s a run day." This Sunday, I swear.

The Ringgit has been un-pegged for the first time in 7 years. Our currency has been pegged to the US dollars since the Asian financial crisis of 1998. Today, it floats free. I don’t know why, but I felt proud. Maybe it’s my soft spot for underdogs. Maybe I’m a naïve and sentimental fool who knows fuck-all about international money markets. But I remember my first day without training wheels. The cuts and bruises are how you earn your wings.

I spoke to my brother.
Bro: Miss me?
Me: You call so often I don’t get a chance to miss you.
Bro: :-(
Me: I love you. And that shit don’t change.
Bro: :-)

As I type this, I miss him so so much.

Have a good weekend everyone.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Just in case

The first time I ever saw the whole condoms-in-a-wallet thing was on an episode of 21 Jump Street. Entire TV episodes, whole movies have been made about always having a pack of rubbers at the ready.

Now, I’m all for condoms. I’m all for protection. But I’ve never carried any in my wallet.

Thing is, I’ve never needed condoms except when I’m in a relationship. And though you generally want to have convenient access to them when an opportunity for life-changing sex arises, it always gives me a moment of pause when I see people who always seem to have condoms handy. Like spare change or toothpicks.

Some examples:

I come pick him up.
“I’m almost done, dude.”
And he is.

Hair, check.
Keys, check.
ID, check.
Cash, check.
Movie tickets, check.
Condoms, check.

I don’t say anything.
I’m thinking all sortsa things, but I don’t say shit.

I’m helping move MY’s sofa into the living room of her new place.

MY: Hey come up, I’ll just clear up some stuff and I’ll buy you a drink.
Me: You better (stepping into the bathroom with her cos I need to wash my face).

She empties the contents of a recent trip to the pharmacy: a bottle of Dove shampoo, some of that tape you use to remove blackheads, and a pack of condoms.
Not the three-pack. The twelves.

She sees me staring and I try not to look like a judgmental prick. I pick it up and pretend to look casually at the brand.

Me: The variety is just staggering. Y’know, they have like strawberry flavoured ones now?
MY: I know. Who the fuck wants the guy to taste like fruit? I want a guy to taste like a guy. Don’t you?
Me: Er, no. I don’t taste guys. Period.
MY: Don’t be an ass. You know what I mean.
Me: Totally (a complete lie)

We reach our hotel. SC’s like this gotta-unpack-the-moment-we-check-in freak.

Razor (Gillette Mach 3)
Soap (Clinique for Men)
Nail clipper (Scholl)
Floss (Oral B)
Toothpaste (ditto)
Condoms (Durex Fetherlite)

Me: (waving pack of condoms) Is there something I should know?
SC: Oh, fuck you.
Me: Exactly what I’m worried about.
SC: You wish. It’s just in case.
Me: Just in case?
SC: Yeah.
Me: C’s at home. Unless she’s flying over.
SC: She’s not. Nothing’s gonna happen. It’s just in case.

And nothing did happen. They have a kid now. He’s always been loyal.

By now, you’ve prolly gotten a laugh and I’ve come across looking like a Victorian-era prude.

But if I were a lady and I opened some guy's medicine cabinet, and six months of Durex is sitting there, staring me in the face, almost saying "Hey go on, help yourself," I'd be a little worried.

Or am I just not made for these times?

Sunday, July 10, 2005

World famous

There was a time when if you said Malaysia, people would give you the kind of blank stare so popular with cows the world over.

As recently as 20 years ago, people would go “Right, Malaysia. That’s that small bit above Singapore innit?”

Of course, fortune’s as important - perhaps more so - than fame, and we’d already become quite well known to condom and tyre manufacturers for our high quality rubber. We were also the leading exporter of tin back then.

By the time I was in Australia (circa 1996), things had improved dramatically. When my new Ozzie class mates discovered my country of origin, they immediately recognized the name. Our two countries recently having had a bit of a diplomatic spat which resulted in then Ozzie PM Paul Keating calling our own Prime Minister a ‘recalcitrant.’
“Oh, you’re from Malaaaysia…” Yes, mate. I am.

By coincidence, I’ve been seeing a whole slew of movies recently on cable that mentions my homeland. We just keep popping up:

Batman Forever
Val Kilmer visits well-to-do shrink Nicole Kidman and spies an ethnic-looking wood carving among the items of office décor. It is a doll with hair made of hemp-like rope in ragged strands, its body sleek, shiny and charcoal-dark. “It’s a Malaysian Dream Doll,” Nicole says. It really is beautiful. And if my country actually had such a thing, we would definitely flog it to the tourists for a pretty penny.

Airhead supermodel (is that redundant?) Derek Zoolander is hypnotized so when he hears the opening bars of ‘Relax’ by Frankie Goes To Hollywood, he will assassinate the prime minister of Malaysia whose support of worker unions have are wreaking havoc with the fashion industry’s practice of using child labour to make their garments. They make Malaysia look like communist China, and unsurprisingly, the PM looks like Mao. Complete fiction of course. We’re a multicultural society, as a quick trip to KL (or a good bookstore) will reveal, so making us look Chinese really ignores about 70% of the population. And for reasons I can’t go into here (I’m allergic to jail) the likelihood of a Chinese PM in Malaysia is rather low. In the way zero is very low.

Michael Douglas is having his life turned upside down by corporate bitch and sexual predator Demi Moore. Who should come to his aid but his Malaysian friend Abdul (or something) whom we only hear as a voice on the phone. Abdul’s accent is extremely Indian:
“My wife dink you are fool of sheet. Bud I like you Tom. When are you cumbing down?”
We do have Indians, the way we have Chinese. But most Malaysians don’t sound like that. Truth be told, there is no one Malaysian accent. Disclosure does however mention a fictitious TV station named ‘TV Tiga’ (‘Tiga’ means 3). That we do have.

Season 1, Episode 1: Open on an aerial shot of the twin towers of the KLCC (Kuala Lumpur City Center), for now, the world’s tallest buildings. Cut to a terrorist on a cell phone making ominous plans. Ironically, the least inaccurate depiction is also the most irrelevant. Terrorists can operate anywhere, and Malaysia is never referred to again in the storyline. It’s also the one with the most potential for real offense, if you’re the sensitive type.

But I think there’s something here. People keep mentioning us. And not, I feel, for (consciously) negative reasons. There’s seems to be something appealing, exotic even, about our country that people seem to want to portray, resistant to the molding hands of progress.

Why, just the other day I saw a re-run episode of Star Trek: Enterprise and Lieutenant Malcolm Reed was speaking to his estranged parents – via subspace radio - who reside in the tiny town of Ipoh, Perak in a country named Malaysia. A town which incidentally, was the world’s leading exporter of tin. Nice to know they're still talking about us in the 22nd Century.

I can see clearly now

I just watched The Village again on DVD.

I’ve decided I’m so over sighted chicks.
Sighted chicks and their prejudiced, biased point of view, worshiping Orlando Bloom and Jude Law with their slutty stares.

Blind chicks are different.
Blind chicks see the real you.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

What if it all means something?

When I reached the age of 12, I had the strongest impression that my first child would be a girl.

In fact, it wasn’t just an impression. It felt more like knowledge.

To a 12-year-old, especially one who wasn’t even interested in girls yet, much less thinking of parenthood, this is weird shit. And when you have more pressing things like homework, video games, and how to skip school on your mind, you generally file it away.

But it kept coming back. So for more than half my life I’ve had this feeling, this certainty.
My first kid will be a daughter
I like kids, but I’m not rushing to be a dad anytime soon. The main reason being well, me. You see, I have all the maturity of a 10-year-old. And I don’t think one 10-year-old can take care of another.

But the feeling persists.

And if you think that’s weird, or that I’m just a bit of head case, or that people experience this déjà vu shit all the time, get this:

I had a dream once. The same dream for almost two solid weeks.
I didn’t tell anyone about it at the time cos it’s not exactly what people wanna hear before they go for a company trip in Perth.

Again, the impression was so strong, it seemed like a memory.

In my dream was a plane.
And it was flying into two very tall buildings.

War Of The Worlds

It may not be the best sci-fi movie Steven's ever made, but it's the most realistic. They came, they saw, and they said "Nice planet. We'll take it."

Go see it with an open mind.
Or not.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Music from another room

Wilson Philips is not cool. They may have been at one time, but that time has come and gone. Even more uncool is a guy singing Wilson Philips and quite enjoying himself.

Now normally, I’m quite careful to reserve my uncool behaviour when I’m home alone – far from the judging eyes of friends and colleagues – but this obviously wasn’t normal.

I’m at the lights when Wilson Philips comes on and I (fuck this is embarrassing) turn up the volume and belt it out:

"Don’t you know…things’ll change…things’ll go your way, if you hooooooooold on for oh fuck me dead someone’s looking at me."


A rich someone (brand spanking new BMW 1-Series).
A nice-looking someone (female, 20-23, blunt cut bangs, nice lips).

I stop singing the way we stop discussing a colleague’s fat, cellulite-riddled ass when she walks into a room: It’s unnatural, and you’re not fooling anybody. She doesn’t do me the courtesy of looking away. She just looks at me. And then, through the glass, I see her lips move:

Someday somebody’s gonna make you wanna turn around and say goodbye-eye!
Till then babay are you gonna let ‘em hold you down and may you cry-eye!

And I sing back up. And we are fucking hitting all the notes like karaoke night and my God it’s so beautiful when the girl smiles.

I pull the handbrake and get out, leaving the door open. I run over to her car and I don’t even gotta tap. The power window goes down.

Me: Will you go out with me?
Her: Aren’t you supposed to ask for my number first? My name at least?
Me: No. If you don’t go out with me, I don’t even wanna remember today. Will you go out with me?
Her: We’re in the middle of the road!
Me: You better hurry then.

She shakes her head and mumbles “Fucking psycho,” but I get a name. And a number.*

The lights go green, have been for two seconds, which activates the horns of all the cars behind us and we snap back to reality. And like the final verse of our duet, the last bit of our perfect chemistry, we both hit the gas, and wave goodbye to each other.

I turn left, she turns right.
And I don’t stop smiling til somewhere after lunch.

*This middle bit in italics is completely made up. But the rest is real.


I saw this one on DVD and I'm once again reminded if it weren't for this wonderful medium, I'd enjoy far fewer movies cos our local cinemas only want to bring in big Hollywood stuff, or movies whose only reason for inclusion under the 'indenpendant cinema' listings is that they require subtitles to understand.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Dispatch, I need you to run a plate for me...

After three weeks, somebody finally called the cops.

They came, took lotsa pictures and finally towed it away. The next day, we read in the papers that our car (hey, we found it) was used as a getaway vehicle for an armed robbery. Now, a Kancil* isn't exactly Italian Job-nimble, so we all found it a bit of a laugh. Then we read the next paragraph.

You see, not too long ago, there was a slashing in our office block. Like the good tabloid magazine writers that we were, we all went down to have a gander.
There was a pool of blood ending in a longish streak and the restaurant owner was screaming at one of his waiters to clean the bloody mess up. The owner in turn was screamed at by the cops for washing away evidence their crack CSI team could've used to solve the case within 24 hours. And though we only now realized it, the slashing musta happened about the same time our Kancil appeared, parked in a spot reserved for the resident optometrist.
Probably even the same day.

So. Our Kancil and the slashing were related, said the papers. We spent lunch going over all sorts of crackpot theories but by evening, deadlines and the pub beckoned so we forgot about it.

That was four years ago.

In my new office, on basement three, is an Isuzu Trooper which has been parked there for some time. We don't know how long, but the air has gone out of its tires and it's covered in dust. I had a peek through the windows.
The glove compartment lies open.
On the passenger seat are several brochures for an up-market service apartment in KL.
On the driver's side is a pair of high heels.
The road tax on the windshield expired in January.

*The Kancil is a Malaysian mouse deer about the size of cat. The car of the same name is only slightly larger, but just as well known.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Time travel and a brief sex change

Run days are good days. The alarm buzzes at 5:45am and I snap up soldier-quick, wash my face, down some granola bars and lotsa water. And I’m off.

After the first kilometer, my engine is running at optimum and with my iPod playing I am fucking flying. On Sundays especially, when the sun feels it should sleep in and there are no soccer moms in their MPVs on the road, my neighbourhood is the right kind of deserted. An entire housing estate vacated, streets cleared, children hushed because I want to run.

Then I feel a sharp stab of pain. Actually, the pain comes later. What I feel actually is surprise and shock and a blow to my head. I feel a whoosh and flying off into the distance is my assailant. A guided missile disguised in feathers and claws. A mafuckin' crow.

My shock turns to anger and I curse this winged spawn of Satan, this scavenger, and I swear to you if you try that again I'ma fucking kick yourohahmyGodhelpmeeeeeeeeeeeeehaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaalp!!!

And suddenly, I’m ok.
I’m alone again.
I am in fact, 2 full streets – approximately 700 metres – from the spot of the first attack.
It was as if I somehow managed to fold space, skipping the distance between point A and point B instantaneously. I have no memory of making the journey. And for some reason, my throat is sore.

What happened of course is the very essence of Occam’s Razor - the right explanation is mostly likely the obvious one:

That I shat my pants, ran for my life like a yellow bastard, screaming all the way.
Like a little girl.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Neil Gaiman wil be in Singapore!

I don’t usually do this because I’ve never been a raving fan of any sort for anything.
Ok, that’s a lie.

If any of you:
  • Know of and love Neil Gaiman’s work
  • And are anywhere near Singapore
then PLEASE go see Neil Gaiman!
His Singapore itinerary is:*

Monday, 4 July 2005
Neil Gaiman Book Signing, Talk and Screening
Neil will be showing 15 minutes of an extended trailer and a complete scene from his upcoming movie, MirrorMask
4.30 p.m. and 7.30 p.m., Orchard Cineleisure (Level 6)
Tickets: S$8 per session available from 17 June from Comics Mart Pte Ltd (at any one of their outlets):

Tuesday, 5 July 2005
Neil Gaiman Book Signing
4:30 pm, Kinokuniya Book Store, Ngee Ann City

Neil Gaiman Talk
7:15pm, library@orchard, Ngee Ann City

Wednesday, 6 Jul 2005
Neil Gaiman Talk and Book Signing
6pm, Borders, Wheelock Place

Spot, asmadi, mahi, are you reading this guys?

*Please don’t be giving me shit about the accuracy. We’re trying to drive down from Malaysia and we got this from the web, so we’re taking a risk too ok?

The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy

I went and saw this against practically everyone's advice and caution (I know Mahi, I know), and it wasn't dreadful. It's other things, but not dreadful. Read all about it, chaps.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Is she, or isn't she?

She wasn't old and bent.
She wasn't blind.
The thing is, I couldn't really decide if she was pregnant.

If there's one thing I've learnt in my various male capacities (son, boyfriend, colleague etc) it's this: Never - not unless you see a fetus emerging from her lions, umbilical cord still attached and covered in afterbirth – never, ever imply a lady is pregnant. Even if it's to offer her a seat on the train.

At that moment, the only thing I could say is she looked large-ish.
And I wasn't alone.

There was a guy opposite me reading his papers, and a girl messaging someone on her cellphone. The three of us looked at each other in this triangulated crossfire of uncertainty. Because nobody wanted to be the one who got it wrong about this lady's physical condition (pregnant, or just wide and badly dressed?). It was way too early in the a.m. and way too crowded to be adding insult (hers) to serious injury (possibly ours).

After two stops, the girl looked down and tried to ignore Large Lady (look I gottta call her something ok?) the way we try and pretend we don't see the assorted homeless begging for change. That left Newspaper Guy and me.

One more stop passes and I decide to bite the bullet. I begin the rise when Newspaper Guy leaps up from his seat and offers it to Large Lady. I try to descend gracefully from my aborted launch, all the while looking to see if Large Lady will accept or give him the look of death.

She accepts. Everyone's visibly relieved. A few smile polite, approving smiles.

And then I see him.
Newspaper Guy.
Standing in the corner, looking all smug, his eyes saying "I beat you."

New review, and new post coming up

Just posted my review for Batman Begins on my movie blog. The blog's not completely there yet, but I feel like posting something soon.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Honey, it's only a movie

Things at the new place are coming along and I'll prolly start posting again in a week or so. My movie blog's back up though and I just posted a review of Mr. & Mrs. Smith. I also wanted to do some new stuff with it.

I've been looking at some of my old stuff and looking at the memes I've done (gosh, that sounded a bit slutty), I'm thinking getting more casual with the movie reviews might be good.

The Kingdom of Heaven review is a good example. Reading it again, I still think it's a decent review. But it's the kind of review you can get in magazines and a lot of places on the Net. I need to remember I'm not writing for a magazine anymore. Of course I'll occasionally have something to say about stuff I feel strongly about (Revenge Of The Sith was an act of betrayal) for instance, but mostly I should be telling you like it was over coffee. Not at a film school lecture.

I'm also hoping anyone out there who enjoys TV - and there have been some nice things happening there - to speak up a little. And not just mainstream TV. I am a HUGE Cartoon Network fan and this shit ain't just for kids.

You are out there, I know it, and I wanna hear from you. I mean, I can't be the only guy who hates David Caruso on CSI: Miami. I know you're out there.

Talk to me people, talk to me.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

There's a lot of unpacking to do

There's a tonne of baggage, a little housecleaning, and some things have to be replaced.

But it'll get there.

And it'll be great.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Like an open book

I got tagged by eM.
What, you want a preamble?

How many books I own.

After eM's (2000) and Jay's (800), I'm embarrassed to say I own a semi-literate total of less than 300.

The last book I bought.
Powers, #1 by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming. (Look, technically, it's a book. If people insist on calling it a 'comic' or a 'graphic novel,' I can't help it). It's about a detective named Christian Walker who solves crimes involving super-powered types. In fact, Walker may or may not have powers himself. There are now nine books in the series, and the first one is about Walker investigating the murder of a superhero named Retro Girl.

Bendis writes some very nice dialogue:

Coroner: You know how these things go. There's no guarantees.
Detective: Why's that?
Coroner: Why? Why do you think, Detective? Could it be that we might not be able to figure out how to break her skin to perform the autopsy? Could it be that we don't even know if she's biologically human?
Detective: Come on, we know she's human-
Coroner: We do? How's that exactly? Can you fly around the room and throw cars across a parking lot? Take many bullets, do you? The thing is, I can't when it comes to this stuff. There's no textbook. There's no manual. I have to retrain myself every day. I might as well throw my M.D. in the garbage. Throw it out! It's worthless! Bye-bye!!
Detective: Yeah, well-
Coroner: Do you have any idea what it's like every goddamn day? Fucking space lizards and orangutans with laser guns! WHAT THE FUCK?

Okay, you pedants, don't get all knotted in the knickers.
I bought a 'real' book too. Jeez.

Out by Natsuo Kirino. Factory worker's quite had it with her abusive husband and kills him. Turns to colleague whom she doesn't know very well to help her clean up the bloody mess. Colleague calls some not very well acquainted people of her own. Everything goes straight to H-E-double hockeysticks. I had to buy it.

The last book I read.
We Don't Live Here Anymore by Andres Dubus. If any of you liked the movie Closer, you'll like this. It's a collection of short stories, all about adultery and the reasons we give each other (and ourselves) about why we do it. It constantly surprises, no horrifies me, the extent to which people can fuck each other up. I got this at a second hand bookstore and creepy notations by the previous owner aside, I seem to have gotten lucky. The story's been turned into a movie starring Naomi Watts and Peter Krause. I saw the updated version (with the usual cheesy movie tie-in cover) and it has only three stories. Mine has four. I know why they cut it out – it's the only one that doesn't have the same characters so I guess it's not part of a 'series.' Which is a shame cos I think the new version's poorer for it.

Currently (re)reading The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. It's so beautiful this one. I've read it a hundred times (it only takes 10 minutes) but it's so moving. If your eyes don't get a bit moist at the end, it's cos you're:
a) a hater
b) you have no tear ducts
c) a hater with no tear ducts.
My friend has practically given up asking for it back. I'm gonna get my own. Just one more read.

Five books that mean a lot to me.
Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton. It showed me you can make complex, technical stuff sound exciting. I used to think flowery, bombastic words were a sign of good writing but Crichton's prose is unsentimental. You won't find a lot of metaphor. If he says it looks 'like oil on water' that's because it looks like oil on water. Not all of his books are good, but they all draw you in, at least on the first reading. You may realize the loopholes and implausibility of it all, but only later. And not before you've raced through it, riveted all the way. I have read Jurassic Park 8 times and I never get bored.

It also got me interested in writing. Like many authors, Crichton puts quotes in front of his books. I was about to hand in my law assignment (on time for once) but I held back because it didn't look, I dunno, complete. Then I put a grey A4 sheet as the cover, and inserted a page before the table of contents. On it was a single line: "Law without force is impotent," Pascal.

My lecturer told me to stop "fucking with the format" and I had to re-print and re-submit. But I still have that copy in a box. I didn't know I wanted to be a writer then, but I knew I wanted to write.

It's Not How Good You Are, It's How Good You Want To Be by Paul Arden. There are a tonne of books out there that try to inspire you by merely stating the obvious and I've hated every one I've read. If you don't feel patronised, you feel depressed because the author's way of coming across as a hardened expert is to tell you some hard truths you don't want to be reminded of. Arden basically confirmed all the bad things I suspected about my job. But he also somehow managed to say 'You can do this, or not. Your call.' I no longer monologue about how bad everything is. And though most of the shit I see won't change, I'm less prone to play the victim. Down to 2 woking days a week now. Hurrah.

The Wolves In The Walls by Neil Gaiman. I wanna do something like this. Go out and look for the book and you'll see. God, I wanna do something like this.

I, Robot by Isaac Asimov. So many books and movies escape with a lot of technical bullshit ("We designed a pixel extrapolation algorithm that could filter out the digital noise and separate the image into RGB layers. And THAT is how we knew Forrester was the real killer!"). The movie was fun but was nothing compared to the book for this very reason. Nobody writes undeniable logic anymore. Not like this. There are many ways around the 3 Laws of Robotics, but they are unbreakable. And by trying right before our eyes (and his attempts are brilliant) he proves it.

The Lord Of The Flies by William Golding. We know a plane crashed. We know children are marooned on an island. I have read it over and over again, but nowhere, nowhere does it say a plane crashed. And yet you give it to someone to read and they'll tell you: A plane crashed. How they fuck did he do that?

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. I'm not religious and though I often want to believe there is a God (capital G) watching over us, I find it hard to believe He (big H) waits up all night to listen to our prayers, much less answer them. After all, if He answers our prayers for justice paid in blood, isn't He as human as we are? At the same time, if His only answer is 'You can't understand it. All this pain and suffering is for your good, and through it you will store up treasures in Heaven" He's just not human enough is He? I like the idea of a Heaven though. My version of it has always been a place where everything and everyone that you love is there. You can read comics and shop and your dog lives forever and of course you can have incredibly rude sex on the grass with your sweetheart. And to have it mirrored so exactly in a book, well, I start wondering again if there's a capital G after all.

Five more people to tag.
I can't wait.

Grafx Gurl
Madame Mahima
Couch Potato

And NM. Cos I think the answers will be interesting, coming from a wookie.