Friday, August 31, 2007

One Step Forward

As we're celebrating our 50th Independence Day, I find myself rifling through the archived papers recently reprinted by the press telling us how life went on exactly fifty years ago - with the words MERDEKA emblazoned loud and proud on the front page. Thankfully in the relatively cool balcony off my bedroom - unlike the poor perspiring schoolkids slogging away with their patriotic banners, colourful fans and other whatcamacallits during the sweltering parade earlier this morning. Hope they at least managed to find some shelter and loads of Milo afterward.

And pray to God they don't get the suicidal idea of playing hooligan riding madcap across the streets at midnight in their ten-speed bikes yelling patriotic slogans while waving flags - just waiting for a runaway express bus veering dangerously in the dark to run right over them.

Yeah, we get a bit cynical working in the hospital. But I believe I'd rather they show their love for the country by staying home, working hard at whatever field they choose and receiving accolades for themselves and their country.

Rather than play at junior mat rempit with their bicycles.

Just hope the illustrious pioneers written about in the archived papers would be pleased with what we have achieved so far. Of course there are setbacks aplenty especially with increasing racial distinctions and overzealous religious conservatism but hopefully we'll be able to work things out - with or without the reluctant help of some of our more narrow-minded politicians.

Trishaw pullers
Wanna take a ride back into the past?

Folks weren't so cynical back then in those halcyon days, that's for sure. Fifty years back, everyone regardless of age, race and creed greeted the exciting dawn of the new nation with much hope and fervour, the joyous culmination of several years of peaceful lobbying for independence from the colonial powers.

Though the Union Jack had come down for the last time on the Malayan Peninsula, that certainly didn't mean that we were resolutely turning our backs on everything British. Ovaltine, Magnolia and Wall's Sausages seemed to be breakfast staples for the schoolkids while the older folks waited for night-time, dressing up for dinners out with joget bands listening to reworked jazz hits by the P. Ramlee.

The Unholy WifeScandalous movies such as the Unholy Wife ( free for blonde ladies and those able to guess the delectable statistics of the main actress ) and the iconic Dendam Pontianak played at the packed cinemas of that time. Those who chose the latter clamored for a view of the incomparable Maria Menado, the reputed most beautiful woman of her time.

Elegant ladies in skimpy kebayas and ginormous teased beehives tottered by in skyscraping heels while their beaus, dressed up to the nines in rented tuxedos and Brylcreem-slicked curls, escorted them to their waiting trishaws ( or Fiats for the well-heeled ).

Richer folks flew the then Malayan Airways across the new nation while the less well-to-do had to make do with the chugging trains - either the Southern Cross or the Golden Arrow. If not there were always ships travelling from our ports to exotic cities such as Rangoon, Tientsin and Yokohama.

Folks weren't too worried about racial politics yet. Far too new a nation and certainly much too naive a people back then. After all, they had much more pressing problems to think about such as tropical diseases, tiger attacks and the ever-encroaching Red presence. Despite the size of the nation, there still seemed to be some communality as weddings, appointments and even relatively minor bicycle thefts were reported.

Life was simpler back then. Is it any wonder with the increasing complexities of life these days that we all look back with bittersweet nostalgia?

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Aiming Blind

For me, love isn't all long-stemmed roses and dinner by candlelight. It isn't overblown gestures and overly loud arias by moonlight. It's hot chicken soup when you're sick and a call when you're lonely.

And these days, seems like it's also simmered taro potato.

Spurred on by Jaunty Jared's enthusiastic previews - and oddly enough by Yasmin Ahmad's unequivocal online support, I made my way this surprisingly relaxed afternoon to the international screens for the acclaimed Love and Honour (Bushi no Ichibun ) otherwise known as 武士の一分(いちぶん).

Alone. Yes. You'd be surprised to know that I actually watch quite a number of movies alone. Timing was just perfect as I strolled in just as the movie was being shown. Though I half expected the hall to be swamped with obsessive Japan-philes, it was surprisingly empty despite the hype surrounding the latest Japanese Film Festival.

I know the trepidation people feel for foreign films. Honestly when the first words in kanji appeared across the screen, I was half afraid that I'd have to struggle through two interminable hours of cultural confusion without the expected subtitles. :) My fears were unfounded however and I found myself reluctantly drawn ( with the other four dedicated fans in the cinema ) into this sombre retelling of the perennial tale of the blind swordsman. Renowned director Yamada Yoji brings his acclaimed samurai trilogy to a beautiful close with this evocative glimpse into the lives of the samurai in the Edo period based on the works of Shuhei Fujisawa.

Man at sea
Take my hand...

Search and you'll find little of the feudal Japan dreamt up by orientalist Hollywood producers. For action flick fans, you'll be sorely disappointed if you enter the hall expecting gravity-defying sword-wielding samurai fights with gratuitous bloodshed elegantly spattered onto ancient wooden screens. And you can dismiss any thoughts you have of exquisitely-dressed geishas back-stabbing each other as they catfight venomously across their muddied courtyards as well.

What unfolds naturally across the screen is the simple tale of a lowly Japanese samurai who finds himself yearning for more, even as he struggles with his singularly unexciting duties as a court food taster. It's a simple prosaic life for our samurai with his devoted wife and elderly retainer. Unfortunately his cherished dreams of opening his own kendo dojo are unceremoniously dashed when he's blinded by poison during one of the food tasting sessions. All is not lost however since his inimitable wife rises to the occasion, proving her faith and love by making the ultimate sacrifice to preserve her husband's honour - though he might be too blind to see.

And she knows how to make one mean simmered taro potato. If you know me well enough, you'd be able to guess the ending easily enough!

Not that I'm planning a dreamtrip to feudal Japan anytime soon. Heartthrob Takuya Kimura might be able to pull off that shaved hairstyle but I doubt I could - although I might be swayed by the idea of strutting around with a vengeful samurai sword in hand. :)

Scorpion Samurai : That's a freaking stupid hairstyle you've just given me! Traditional, you call it! I'll give you samurai tradition. Die, ya namby-pamby hairdresser!

Evil ronin for sure.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

All Fair and Above Board

Not only is our country celebrating our independence this week ( note the perennial Merdeka sales, the neverneding parade rehearsals in town and also the supposedly patriotic souls screaming down the highways at midnight with flags in tow ), more than a few Americans are doing pretty much the same.

Man at sea
A few good men from the sea...

Sailor boys on shore leave, I mean. Virile post-adolescent seamen fresh from the USS Kitty Hawk out celebrating their well-earned freedom from the cabinned, cribbed and confined bowels of their ship. Of course judging from the various celebratory banners and buntings around, the bars and nightclubs in the city are just waiting for the arrival of the squids with much glee. No doubt more than a few ambitious sarong party girls in search of the American Dream have already hitched up their proverbial printed pareos for a wanton display of their tanned pins.

I'm pretty pleased myself honestly. Seems like a decade since I last drooled over friendly sailor boys that one fine weekend in Penang during Fleet Week and today I had a spectacular front-row seat. Nothing like a fresh pair of faces to brighten up the place - blond, blue-eyed Abercrombie twinks aplenty for the fans - though I have to admit that the ones that I saw today were mostly second-rate versions of the ever luscious Chris Evans. Sigh. Have the standards fallen? Or have I grown up?

Or are the fanciable navy hunks travelling in packs somewhere else?

Believe it's the latter so anyone who's seen hunky Americans hiding out somewhere, tell me about it :P

Certainly nothing to draw my attention for long - which is why I later found myself in a dark theatre trying not to get all choked up over Yasmin Ahmad and her team's sweet, heartrending commercials for Merdeka. Friends. Family. Fellow countrymen. The things that matter after all.

Hope our politicians don't ever forget the hopeful message above.

And for my friends - most of whom have forgotten my favourite controversial ad of them all - and surprisingly one suspiciously censored from the ones we viewed in that dark cinema. Adorable chinese hunk falling heads over heels for this delicious Malay temptress of a neighbour with Indian music playing in the background? Then said temptress licking the forbidden fruit while the besotted boy tries desperately not to drool - whlie keeping the pretence of teaching her maths? Not surprised the close-minded conservatives threw a damned fuss.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Lights Camera Action

The lights would be enough to scare me away - don't even talk about the cameras. :)

Seemingly out of the blue, my lil godbrother Strapping Shane has suddenly made up his mind to try acting. Not sure exactly what possessed him, whether he picked up the acting bug after one too many cam-whoring sessions for the ubiquitous youtube or whether his shocking para para excursions has acted as some sort of catalyst on his search for fame.

Not sure if it's an inspired flash in the pan as yet since we all know his short-lived interest waxes and wanes with the changing tides of the moon. Short attention span, I call it :P Blame it on the MTV generation.

If it lasts, I wish him luck. Certainly Shane bears most of the qualities I've probably erroneously attached to actors - a sincere mutual admiration society with the camera ( adorable dimpled kid though I'll deny it if he ever asks! ), the occasional diva-esque melodramatics / theatrics and of course, an unfailing obsession for the limelight. :P Would be pleased to stand in line for his show boasting to everyone on the street who would listen that I once knew this boy-man.

Although I did participate in the occasional stageshow, the wallflower in me tends to stay away from the blinding spotlight preferring to hang with the backstage personnel amongst the anonymous shadows. Still, bewildering circumstances have thrust me into the forefront more than once and I've played several roles in school from the swashbuckling prince of a fairytale with a wooden sword ( talk about bad casting ) to a superstitious village chief wailing over the eclipse of the sun to that particularly wimpy spineless heroine who does nothing but shriek at every turn ( hey, it's an all boys-school after all ).

Come buy my American Dream...

Even to a memorable turn as the sleazy, ambitious Engineer in a butchered, cut-rate version of the musical Miss Saigon. Nothing like preaching to the audience about the American Dream - though I never quite bought into Chris, the white boy's tearful confession of love for Kim. Then again, I might have been having the first stirrings of a crush on the kid who acted as Chris. Wouldn't mind singing about the sun and moon with him on the last night of the world :P

No auditions ( no casting couch either... sigh ) back then of course. Never could dance, never could sing either but that never seemed to stop me. Back in school, speak English anywhere close to being audible to the general audience and you'll be shoved into a minor role of some sort. :)

Monday, August 27, 2007

Road Trip

Roadtrips are the stuff of legend. From adolescent teenage girls bundling into creaky jalopies for the perennial search for identity to frustrated, gun-toting housewives picking up a luscious Brad Pitt for the ride to matured gentlemen cramming into a monster truck aiming for that final fling, we have seen them all dramatized on the Hollywood big screen.

Roadtrips have always been a general staple in my life, from the quarter-yearly pilgrimages with my family up north to the motherhouse to the more recent university escapades with my intrepid compatriots in my trusty ( and much-missed ) Kancil. However of late - especially after falling into the hectic working life of a lowly salaryman ( yes, a common gripe for me ), roadtrips have become increasingly rare for me apart from the inescapable new year homecomings. Thankfully the slick ultra-modern highways we have now are a far cry from the meandering back lanes and heavily-navigated trunk roads favoured by my father many eons ago - although regular roadworks on the ailing highways these days actually narrow the difference.

So when Jaunty Jared suggested a slow drive up to Ipoh for a day-trip to canoodle with his loved one Lanky Lex, I called shotgun. Nothing like another trip in his Jumping Jalopy. Which left Zany Zinedine with the entire backseat, suitable for his lanky multi-poseable ( and periodically disjointed ) limbs. As usual for roadtrips, lips start to loosen, mouths start to tattle and we start to learn the most unusual facts about our friends.

And about ourselves - like my inexplicable predilection to sing a cappella to the bossa nova at friendly neighbourhood fruit stalls ( these days fitted with karaokes for your convenience ) after a dimsum breakfast.

Zac Efron
Seriously. Blame it on the bossa nova...

1) Jared goes bad

Along the drive, Jared regaled us with tales of his naughty exploits from crashing new year parties to rubbing naked bits with swinging studly strangers. Here I was thinking that he was such a sweet innocent soul when our experienced man of action's actually been busy cruising bars picking up men to totter up drunk and horny into anonymous apartments. A couple of days later he met me, repented and turned over a new leaf.

Coincidence? I think not :P See, I am not the maleficent spectre that people think.

2) Jared asks for directions

Regular adage claims that men don't ask for directions. Certainly doesn't fit Jared's profile though. During a brief interval where we drove in increasingly confused circles around Ipoh city, Jared suddenly flipped out at an intersection, wound down his window and yelled out threateningly at an elderly gentleman ten yards away. Zinedine and I were half afraid he'd suddenly draw on the man out of frustration ( possibly kickboxing him into submission ) but fortunately he only stopped for directions.

3) Jared flirts with old ladies

Just when I thought he'd gone off the bend - after driving for so long understand, the man starts waving money in front of an old lady, laughs it off and places it back in his pocket. I didn't know what to think. Of course he later claimed that he dropped the money accidentally without noticing the begging indigent but I started having serious doubts. Raced through dozens of provisional diagnoses. Had the endless drive seriously unhinged the poor man? Was it road sickness? Mind-altering dehydration? Untenable butt cramps? :P Did we need to veer off towards Tanjung Rambutan for an immediate psychiatric evaluation?

4) Some folks don't know nuts about Geography

Not talking about me. Not talking about the driver either ( otherwise we'd have been driving halfway to the East Coast! ). But some folks seem to think that Kuantan is a new development on the west of Malaysia. That Klang is located to the north of the city. Next thing some folks would say that Malacca could be east of Singapore. And they turned Geography into an optional subject for upper secondary. Nuff said, don'tcha think? :P

I am so gonna kena ketuk for that :P

5) Paul is glad he isn't 19

God. To be 19. Sure I might wish I still had that astounding post-adolescent metabolism that ate up late night teh tariks and char kuay teows like zero-calorie air ( and that I resembled the shockingly precocious Zac Efron at that age! ) but I certainly don't miss hideous dorm rooms, grimy showers with unspeakable stains and sweltering walks down endless uni corridors to the class at the other end of the enormous state-wide campus. And does anyone remember horrible inedible campus food?

Still the ( definitely legal ) college boys were hot. And it was nice watching them big boys cavorting in small towels.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Weekend Bounty

I think mosquitoes should be eradicated.

Pretty sure some overzealous bleedin' heart environmentalist would dredge up some teary reason why we should save those wily sneaky bloodsuckers but for me, I think we should gas the entire miserable lot. Smack them dead, I say. It might potentially destabilize the entire fragile ecosystem leading towards the apocalypse as we know it but I think i could live with those dire consequences.

As long as there aren't any mosquitoes.

Let's face it, my ISO and I aren't nature lovers per se. The only attraction nature might hold for either of us would be if mother nature had seen fit to populate a particular secluded forested eden with naked nubile submissive males with rapacious bicurious sexual natures.

The natives are restless...

So it doesn't make sense that we both found ourselves miles away from civilization fending off bugs, sandflys and mosquitoes over a dinner of prawns and crabs. No we weren't shanghaied and held at gunpoint - though I was beginning to feel that I had been after being talked into the crazy scheme. All because my ISO ( who possibly had been drinking excessively the night before ) had an insane yen to go adventuring in the hinterlands for fresh seafood.

Of course I didn't know he meant catching it fresh and wriggling from the sea with our bare hands. And who'd have guessed that midway on our journey to the secluded swamps Charming Calvin rang only to have me screaming for my life as I'd almost driven into a ditch by the side of the endless deserted road.

Paul : If we're still miles away from your mysterious makan place, I'm gonna chuck you in that swamp ravine there.
My ISO : Like you could, little man. And you almost killed us back there.
Paul : I have a crowbar at the back of my car that would do the job.
My ISO : I'll wrestle you for it.
Paul : What gave you this crazy idea?
My ISO : A whim. It's a little off the beaten track. I read about it.
Paul : In Malaysian Pirates Digest?

Off the beaten track, he'd said. Well it was more like miles away from any possible path made by anyone, man or beast, in the entire history of mankind. Seriously it was as if we'd stumbled onto some secret pirate's cove. Complete with the pirates since the shady place seemed like the perfect hideaway for crooks, murderers and folks of similar ilk. Not to mention a perfect dumping ground for mutilated corpses.

Wasn't far wrong though since the patrons all looked a lil shady to say the least. Pirate's cove it was, though there were no dark-haired, perma-tanned Orlando Bloom's running about to my dismay. Instead we had swarthy tattooed heathens who downed slugs of rum ( well actually some locally made tuak ) while singing boisterous songs. Wouldn't surprise me to find the buccaneers getting soused enough to whip out ancient pistols to gun each other down in a bloody gangfight. Of course my ISO with his sadly limited imagination was simply oblivious to the fact that we were this close to being disemboweled by heartless hoodlums and continued happily munching on crabs.

Of course the food was alright. Though I wouldn't drive for miles just go there. But I wasn't paying so who was I to complain?

Though I have to admit the cute waiters helped. No Orlando Blooms but I certainly wasn't complaining. Somehow or rather in the midst of all these swampy slimy splendour, mother nature decided to repay our dedication by giving us some pretty dark-skinned natives to look at. Though I have a feeling most were illegally imported from Myanmar.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Bad Education II

One of my all-time secret fantasies ( well I admit I've already seen it live in front of me so does that still count? ) is a guy stripping down from a sharp suit and tie. You know what I'm saying... sexy businessman coming home and stripping, swinging his silk tie around that perfectly coiffed head accompanied by the cheesiest seduction tunes with muted lights and all. Isn't that a classic?

Somehow or other, a guy in a suit just makes me melt - well just moments before I jump him. Someone once said after all Scorpios always have a thing for men in suits :)

Sexy teacherObviously the clever folks out there do know of our naughty predilections since they've found an entirely novel way of teaching American History. Albeit the naughty professor way. Just answer correctly and our sweet and sexy professor over here obliges by removing one item of clothing. Starting with his glasses to his jacket and down to his...

Well you'll have to find out, won't you? So you'd better start cracking 'em books. Suddenly I have an all-too-healthy appreciation of history.

Hell, my teachers never looked so good. I'd certainly have paid more attention otherwise. Mine were all ancient, crusty, drooling and half the time had their wrinkled, spattered shirts barely tucked into their sagging pants. Not at all appetizing. Seriously. Maybe it's a prerequisite for male teachers in all-boy-missionary schools.

The schoolmarms weren't much better either - though I admit I might not have looked quite so hard.

Do I get an A now?

So no salacious teacher-student fantasies for me unfortunately. Of course if I had a really hot teacher like that, I might have turned out to be a really really bad student. Too much fucking distraction. How to concentrate on my books when there's some really hot man-candy strutting out front by the blackboard playing with his hard chalk?

Hot Teacher : Congratulations. You did well, Paul.
Paul : Are you sure? I wouldn't mind polishing your... apple, sir.
Hot Teacher : N-no. No polishing needed. It's an A. It's all good.
Paul : Only good? Well I could be better... much, much better. Surely I'll need some extra tutoring later, maybe some extra-curricular work in the evening?
Hot Teacher : What do you mean? You're doing well enough.
Paul : But I've been bad lately, sir, haven't I? So very naughty.
Hot Teacher : Uhh... I think you'd better sit down, Paul.
Paul : Sit down? Wouldn't you rather I bend over your desk, sir? Maybe you'd like to punish me?
Hot Teacher : OMG.

Yeah. Cheesy gay porn stuff, I know.

But I'd still have tried it.

Unfortunately in real life, I had seriously fugly teachers so I mugged hard in school - and in return I managed to get the American History professor to go all the way. Studying does pay back sometimes.

Friday, August 24, 2007


Just yesterday someone asked me whether it's easy finding gay-themed novels in Malaysia.

An unusual and surprising question since I - obviously wrongly - assumed that the gay readers here number only 5 at the most. After all even Charming Calvin takes almost a month to finish a good-sized bestseller.

Me, I have an obsession bordering on mania. My friends would certainly attest to the fact that I'm usually the first to jump on any particularly queer sounding novel in the new booklist. While sniffing through a pile of dusty paperbacks, even the faintest tinge of the rainbow has me picking it out. Some have gay-dar, I have a better gay-book-dar.

Sharing secrets
Come follow me, I know where they hide all the good stuff...

Those books certainly aren't easy to find though.

For one thing unlike other more tolerant countries, it's nearly impossible to find specialized sections for gay-themed novels. Not that I'm a particular fan of clumping all gay-themed literature ( does that make every other book straight-themed lit? ) in a separate ghettoized section but it does make easier browsing. Some time back, one of the larger chain bookstores even had a small niche set aside surprisingly but that area has since faded into obscurity leaving the pink novels tossed helter skelter amongst the rest of the unfabulous hoi polloi.

So it's a bitter near-futile struggle through a mindless haystack for that particular pink feather. And a really rare feather too. Let's face it, a large number of our disco-dancing queer brethren wouldn't dream of spending their time reading when they'd prefer spending the night rubbing up against thirty other sweaty, half-naked studs on the glittery dancefloor. Hence gay novels probably get a limited publication with obscure publishers which reduces the chances of them ever appearing on our shelves.

And these days its getting even harder. Not that gay-themed novels are banned precisely - or at least I don't think it is - but these days booksellers are a little more cautious about bringing them in. Same goes for regional online bookstores ( oh the betrayal! ) unfortunately as they apply a blanket censorship for all. No need to rock the boat with the scissor-happy censors after all. Only the more... straight-acting novels make it through. Glossy book covers that are a bit too explicit with barechested Adonises going at each other with full abandon are a no-no in this puritanical state. Same goes for book titles that are overly suggestive such as Nasty : Erotic Tales of Hunk-humping and Man-loving.

Even certain notorious authors ( and publishers ) receive an automatic shake of the head at the information counter.

Paul : Do you have Patricia Nell Warren?
Salesperson : One moment... let me check, sir.
Paul : Yes?
Salesperson : Umm.. I'm sorry, sir but we can't bring those titles in.
Paul : Because it would cause widespread havoc and mayhem in the nation as previously heterosexual men start getting jiggy with each other?

Censorship seriously pisses me off.

Talk about a serious deterrent to budding readers. Not sure how it is but I assume there's a tenacious homophobic fellow up there ( certainly my lifelong nemesis ) hiding in the censorship bureau who goes through all the upcoming booklists feverishly searching for the slightest taint of homosexuality hoping to stop the following from infecting the innocent masses by setting up pink warning flags.

Sharing secrets
I sense an evil gay presence out there...

Perhaps some of these deeply conservative Victorian prudes imagine that merely browsing through a book about rapacious man-sex would inevitably turn the highly suggestible readers gay. If only it were that simple. Hell, I've been reading frothy chick-lit romances with overenthusiastic muff-diving scenes followed by the relentless search for the elusive G-spot - and yet I haven't been tempted to journey where no dedicated gay man has gone before.

Still as gay novels slowly sashay into the mainstream runway even making sporadic appearances in mystery and fantasy, it's getting a bit harder for that determined fellow to track their furtive movements so every once in a while some books slip through the cracks. Search slowly and patiently through the racks of books with a keen eye and you might find a gem. There are always subtle tell-tale signs about a novel ( or even a hot guy come to think about it ), certain key words and fey expressions, that particular distinguishing look on the cover...

And that's where the gay-book-dar comes in :)

Perhaps even find that the hot target Jules Cassidy has finally done the near impossible ( a Force of Nature really :) ) by scoring with the elusive Robin Chadwick.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Ain't Misbehavin

I have decided that I'll definitely be a monstrous father. One of those tough, no-nonsense disciplinarian dads who believes in speaking softly but carrying a big stick. Beware my wrath.

Made that fateful decision today as I watched gazillions of primary kids dashing, sailing and cart-wheeling through the halls, shrieking heedlessly at the tops of their voices while blithely tossing stuff at one another.

If it was a playground or a yard, I'd have been fine with it - and probably joined in with the pre-pubescent games. But this was a bookstore, the kids were playing hide and seek between the towering shelves while tossing slim hardcovers like frisbees. Even one particularly unruly enfant terrible who insisted on using the corridor between the shelves as a slide while screaming Geronimo. All under the hardly watchful eyes of their overly doting parents.

Wouldn't surprise me to find that bookstore owners probably look forward to school holidays with some sort of ... horrified anticipation. Just go take a look at the children's section of each major bookstore and watch the disastrous events unfold as schoolkids run amuck while some of the more indulgent parents watch without a care.

Not all the kids of course but there are a few hooligans out there.

Big Stick
Who has been a very very bad boy today?

Tell me exactly what's wrong with the parents I saw today? Am I overreacting? Is it me or have they totally lost control of their spoilt children? Were they just waiting to stop him only when he brought down the entire store in broken shambles? Or had they simply mistaken the bookstore for a daycare center? Took me an entire minute to suppress my impulse to reach out and throttle the overindulgent parents of lil Geronimo.

God help me, if it was my own kid misbehavin' like that, I'd have grabbed him by the scruff of his neck and marched him home immediately promising divine retribution. Certainly would have reimbursed the store for any damages done. I certainly wouldn't have just nodded carelessly at his reprehensible actions as his parents did.

Watching him for an entire five minutes as he mistook the center aisles for literary criticism for a roller derby, I hoped that lil Geronimo would subside of his own accord without adult intervention. Or that his parents would at least make some sort of valiant attempt.

When they failed to do so, I stopped him in his tracks with my evil eye.


Thank heavens it still works. No doubt I could have used psychological warfare on the hooligan but I didn't have the time nor the patience. Under my devil glance, Lil Geronimo seemed to wilt under force majeure and skulked off silently to his unmindful parents. They got one of my patented red-eyed glares as well.

Of course if the kid had gone on misbehavin', I'd have given in to my baser instintcs, stealthily slid out my foot and tripped the bratty miscreant as he performed his somersaulting stunts. Hopefully sent him flying hopelessly into a tower of hardcovers - if not some monstrous death-trap planned by the maleficent Princess Allura.

See. I can be pretty monstrous myself.

Then again that's an innocent rugrat. It's not his fault. I'd rather trip the parents into that death-trap.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Austerity Drive

In the vastly consumer-based world that we live in today, it's not a surprise that most youthful salarymen these days end up in crippling credit debt right out the gate. After all inflation's rising slowly while irresistible megasales continually cropping up in regular intervals leaving our credit cards practically burnt out from frequent abuse.

I'm hardly immune to impulse buying - my friends would certainly attest to the endless Kinokuniya / MPH bags I cart back each time I go out. At the end of each month though, the extent of my credit card statement would have eyebrows raised ( certainly my frugal brother's ) in astonishment. Fortunately I somehow manage to scrounge enough crumpled dollars ( beg, borrow and steal! ) from my emptied pockets to cover my debts on a monthly basis.

Care to loan a fella a dollar?

But with Charming Calvin gone on his half yearly sabbatical to Beijing, I've decided to start on an austerity drive. Been trying to work out how much I can save by turning into a penny-pinching skinflint eschewing all ( well, most! ) worldly luxuries in pursuit of that ever-burgeoning trust fund.

Turning into a miserly hermit for the week limiting myself to a minimal expenditure of a fifth of my meagre pay cheque.

Confined my caffeine addiction to precious weekly visits to the temple of java, Starbucks while subsisting on substandard 3-in-1 packs for the rest of the week. Daily work lunches consist of pre-packed sandwiches if not unappetizing protein bars that I hide in my trusty white coat. Or on special days in the week, I feast on fresh chicken pies humbly donated to the famished poor by the good samaritan Jaunty Jared courtesy of the Jaylex Foundation. Contemplating hanging up an IV drip for dinner ( parenteral nutrition full of processed milky goodness ) but I figure someone at work's gonna comment on that.

Obsessive bibliophile / bibliomaniac that I am, spending on books seems to be my fatal addiction so I try to avoid bookstores ( including online stores ) as much as possible - limiting them only to my weekly java visits. Staying away from furniture stores / clohing stores at all costs to avoid aggravating my latent oniomania.

Still using premium oil for my car ( would diesel be cheaper? ) but I've been avoiding toll booths maniacally all week. Of course it involves stumbling onto horrid circuitous little backroads ( with all the other stingy freaks in their economical tincans ) to avoid the expensive highways but hopefully it's worth it. I've even taken to parking illegally at unusual parking lots miles away from my scheduled appointments to escape the monstrous meter maids. Even considered the feasibility of cycling to work but I'm sure I'll be knocked down by distracted ( and homicidal )physicians speeding heedlessly on the hospital grounds, if not drenched by the torrential rain.

How the mighty have fallen. At this rate, I'll be starving, pathetic and miserable - but hopefully wealthy beyond my wildest dreams in a millenia.

Of course you guys know I'm gonna blow it all in Beijing, right?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Baby Talk

One way to survive the grueling madness of medical school is with a good support system of friends and family. Without it, many a bright mind has succumbed to the intense pressure of scholarship - dropped out, interned in nearby asylums or taken the easy way out by bungee-jumping without a safety cord off the nearest skyscraper.

Me, I had Eye Eddie and Doubting Danny. Coincidentally they both turned out to be raging homos as well - although I only learned that much later. Birds of a pink feather do flock together. Close friends but we never actually roomed together - although we somehow managed for the length of medical school to remain perpetually clustered in the same block. Shared our dinners, our midnight movies, our late night mugging sessions but not our love lives ( that only came later ).

Still after graduation, adulthood and a hectic working life beckoned - and we all returned to our respective states, keeping in touch only irregularly. Till recently when a chance meeting with Danny at a medical conference brought us three together. Barely time enough to catch up with their busy lives which is why I spent one late afternoon lunch with Eye Eddie ( or should I say Eagle-eyed Eddie after the advent of Lasik ).

Since he'd recently stumbled into the seedy world of gay saunas, Eddie regaled me with some of his more... risque experiences while I probably bored him with some of my more sedate travelogues. However not long after that we somehow veered inexplicably towards children when he mentioned that he wasn't a big fan.

Eddie : You actually want kids?
Paul : Who knows? Maybe someday.
Eddie : Never thought of kids.
Paul : None at all? Not even a pet? A houseplant?
Eddie : Not at the moment, no. Probably never though. I don't even think Danny has thought of this either. Danny hates kids.
Paul : Hates kids?

Danny hates kids?!

Did he actually say hates kids?!

Hey, I am a realist. I know kids can be a pain sometimes. They scream and yell at inappropriate moments ( somehow fortuitously planned at the most torturously embarassing moments in public shopping areas ). They spew gooey bodily fluids out of every orifice at every inopportune moment ( just when I'm wearing some sinfully expensive silk shirt ). They set up regular howling protests with revolutionary placards whenever bedtime is near.

Trust me, I babysit on semi-regular occasions with doubtful results :)

But my occasionally nightmarish experiences with my niece and nephew certainly hasn't put me off children. As a matter of fact, it has made me long to be a dad even more.

Now no worries, don't panic. I'm certainly not going to pull a Jolie, rush off to some troubled developing banana republic and pick out a cute kid from an adoption line-up.

Hell, I haven't even picked Charming Calvin's brains on children. For all I know the man wouldn't touch them with a ten-foot pole. Not everyone thinks like me, that's for sure. After all most gay men I know wouldn't drive of giving up their designer tees and thumpa thumpa clubbing nights for soggy diapers and midnight feeds.

But that didn't stop me from accidentally stumbling into an adoption site. :) Makes for interesting reading. Now for a bit of trivia, betcha didn't know that single men in Malaysia could only adopt boys.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Song of Shanghai

It doesn't seem to stop snowing.

Blood Brothers
Snow snow everywhere...

"It's even colder where you're going, you know."

I turned to look at my ISO standing several feet away with his cherished cigarette in hand, watching me disapprovingly. He doesn't understand - nor accept - the decision I'm making. Then again he probably objects to standing in the blustery cold of a winter's night at the edge of the deserted Bund. "Guess you'll have to loan me a sweater."

Blood Brothers
Smoke gets in your eyes...

"Leaving this place for good?" My ISO gestured towards the glittering row of skyscrapers towering above the Bund. "What the hell are you going to do there?"

"My uncle has a shop in Beijing and he's retiring." Which means the end of my brief but eventful sojourn in Shanghai though I always knew that it would never last. In the relative silence of the night, I imagine that I might still hear the creamy smooth croon of Preity Posh headlining in the Paradise Club, the muted din at the entry doorway as elegantly dressed patrons came by in their hired rickshaws and shiny automobiles.

Chuckling softly, he dropped his cigarette butt to the ground and crushed it underfoot. "Doing what your father intended? Weighing herbs, crushing roots and making medicine?"

He's never thought much of that particular dream. "If that's where destiny is leading me. Calvin will teach music, I guess."

The thought of that dour entertainer taking up music lessons for spoilt bourgeouis children makes him grin a little. "You ever throwing that?"

I looked down at the folded package in my hand. Moments ago, I had already decided to turn my back on my disreputable past, dropping the weapon into the murky depths of the Huangpu where it rightfully belonged. But as I held the still warm pistol in my hand, I hesitated.

My ISO might be able to kill with the tip of a pen but I needed something far more substantial. "Who knows. I might still have a use for it."

Guess what I did all this weekend. I researched Beijing. I read up on Chinese History. I ate dim sum this morning. And watched the movie Blood Brothers after lunch.

Then when I reached home for a nap, I found myself transported to Shanghai again. I blame the dim sum. Didn't kill anyone this time though so that's a vast improvement - though I have to wonder why the pistol was still warm.

But can anyone blame me? I think almost everyone's helplessly fascinated with that particular era, the decadent, cosmopolitan Shanghai of the 1930s. Hell it's the literal stuff of romance and adventure - and of course, movies in turn with all that grit and glamour, heartbreak and tragedy...

Not that I would recommend Blood Brothers wholeheartedly but it's worth a visit just to have a peek at what life must have been like back then ( during the evanescent boom years after the civil war and before the Japanese invasion ) - or at least the glorified cinematic version of it. Like the city itself, the movie has short poignant moments that flare too briefly only to die away, leaving us very little chance to truly appreciate and empathize with the multi-faceted characters.

The ever-hunky Daniel Wu plays the main character of Fung - forming a buddy-buddy threesome of sorts ( not the naughty fuckbuddies we love but the more platonic sort ) with Hu and Kang who move from the sheltered countryside to glamorous 1930s Shanghai only to tumble inevitably into the seedy criminal underworld. Plagued with time constraints and choppy editing ( or would the blame go to our overzealous scissor-happy censors? ), there is little time to appreciate the tragic loss of innocence as these three country boys literally find themselves enmeshed with the prevalent underbelly of society. Even poor Daniel Wu fails to carry the show - though from my POV that might stem from a serious lack of shirtless naked torso time.

I only empathize with Mark ( played by Zhang Zhen ) the tortured, charismatic enforcer of the triad who longs to walk the straight and narrow. Doesn't mean he isn't willing to gun down the few obstacles standing in his way however :) Now, that Mark can shanghai me anytime!

Shuqi ( who I love ever since her incredible martial arts display in So Close ) who plays the ravishing gangster's moll sings the theme song as above :)

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Magic of Mao

What did I do this weekend? Since I've gone back to pack up some things, I said no to my friends' cordial invitation to participate in a sinful chocz saturday! Apart from babysitting my lil nephew Rambling Raoul ( more on that tomorrow ), I spent the time researching my upcoming Beijing Break.

Since Charming Calvin will probably be slaving away at his Beijing office during the day ( well that's what I assume he does unless he's actually busy counting zzzs at his desk ), that leaves me on my lonesome till around 5 when he clocks out. But that's alright, I won't pine away since there are sights to see, people to meet, dishes to sample - though I seriously don't now how I'm ever going to take the required pictures all by myself.

Still it's supposed to be tiangao qishuang so I shall go a-rambling.

Blood Brothers
Ooh Beijing!

Never been all that hyper-religious, probably allergic to a surplus of incense and my mantra has always been one temple is one too many so I'll probably stick to only the Temple of Heaven for the entire visit. The other usual suspects such as the Forbidden Palace, Tiananmen Square and the Summer Palace are obviously on my list. Even thought of donning one of those expensive rented pseudo-imperial costumes to pose for a shot!

Even the late Chairman Mao has insisted that he who has not climbed the Great Wall is not a true man so who am I to argue? And we all know it's almost a prerequisite for everyone to take pictures cam-whoring at the Wall, right? Hell, even presidents and royalty have done so. Though I have a feeling I might give the Chairman's mausoleum a miss since queuing for hours just to pay a respectful nod to a mummified corpse just isn't my thing.

Curio shopping streets are of course a must so places like Liulichang and Wangfujing are a definite on my list. Not to mention markets such as Panjiayuan and Baoguosi! And before you remind me, yes I do know most of the supposed antiques out there are fakes or at least reproduction pieces ( and yeah, I know they are gonna try to fleece the hell out of an innocent like me ). After all caveat emptor! And we all know it's illegal to export the genuine articles out of the Middle Kingdom.

So we'll see what catches my eye. Even if I leave empty-handed ( how unlikely is that? ), it's still gonna be fun checking out the salesman's enthusiastic spiel.

Salesman : This genuine article! Tang Dynasty vase special for you! Look at the intricate carving, the lovingly decorated details! Been in the family for generations!
Paul : Seriously? Must have been hiding in the basement for centuries then through war and famine.
Salesman : Yes. Yes. Precious precious item. But since you're early today and you look like a decent discerning gentleman, let me tell you I give you very very special price.
Paul : For me? I am speechless.
Salesman : Yes! Because I like you, I give you really good discount.
Paul : Only a discount? I'm sure you can do better than that.

Of course if he really liked me - and he looked anything close to the delectable Huang Xiaoming, I'd be suggesting a private rendezvous at some steamy bathhouse close by. Screw the priceless objet d'art, I'd rather screw hot young salesmen over antique Ming furniture.

Blood Brothers
Checking out the merchandise...

Did I actually say that?

Bet Charming Calvin's shaking his head tsking away right now.

Plan to take in some Chinese Opera ( whether refined art or raucous din! ) though I'm still wondering whether I should add some acrobatic shows into my itinerary. Would I rather take in the sights of Wangfujing or should I watch some folks tumble on barrels and spin some plates?

I know Calvin's got a decent apartment not very far from downtown ( from what our taciturn fellow describes in his succinct emails ) but I've got an intriguing idea of my own. Gonna try checking out various courtyard hotels online ( quaint old places in the hutongs! ) though of course it's a bit hard booking places sight unseen. After all little pictures through the internet can only tell us so much. God only knows if the rooms stinks like a malodorous outdoor latrine - or even if the ancient tiled ceiling actually falls apart in broken pieces during the night!

But I guess part of the fun of travelling is taking that risk :)

Saturday, August 18, 2007

A Sweet Escape

My cousins are turning slutty. And I blame the religious zealots - otherwise known as our supposed self-appointed guardian of our morals.

Thanks for watching over our morals... but no thanks. You'd do well to keep your hands off my morals since I prefer them dirrrty.

Not the first time Malaysians have decried the serious dearth of good solid entertainment in the country. Well, I seriously doubt any of them would be fool enough to try since each time a foreign artiste is invited to perform here, there's the usual hue and cry over the perceived decline of morals in Malaysia. And the latest furore is over poor Gwen Stefani.

Imagine Gwen, our Orange County Girl. I think our hollaback girl is as clean as they come actually. Doesn't do drugs, doesn't do rehab stints, doesn't do wild parties - from all reports, seemingly a hard-working, dedicated mother of a newborn son, Kingston. No doubt getting up to feed at 4 in the morning. Wouldn't surprise me if they put her up for sainthood soon.

Gavin Rossdale
Dude, are you dissing my wife?!

Me, I'm still waiting for the raunchy bits. Not sure exactly what kinda wild, uninhibited parties they expect during the concert but here's what the religious zealots have to say.

This concert does not bring any good to Malaysians except invite youngsters to enjoy themselves, mix around too freely, get drunk and commit sins.

And this from a sanctimonious soul who hasn't even gone to a concert ( poor sad deprived thing ), much less heard of poor Gwen. Not sure exactly what's going on in her singularly close-minded brain but no doubt she imagines salacious activities not seen since Caligula's infamous orgies at the Roman Baths.

Seriously though, Malaysian concerts are as tame as they come. By and large, Malaysians are still a conservative, law-abiding lot. And if any are tempted to stray but a little, not only are there prudish Victorian rules aplenty governing our behaviour, there are also burly guards waiting to enforce them. Hell it's practically as safe as a Sunday sermon in a select seminary.

Been to half a dozen concerts in my time and I have yet to watch youngsters getting crazy drunk and committing so-called sins at a concert ( though I'm not sure exactly what sins they are talking about ). I doubt anyone forks out a big chunk of their allowance just to get drunk, stoned and grope each other at a concert. And is there something terribly wrong with allowing wholesome youngsters to enjoy themselves and mix freely? Am I to assume that we've all brought them up so badly that we can't even trust their judgement for one night?

Then shouldn't the adults take the blame for shoddy parenting?

Seriously, go watch over your own moral values. Obviously after years of child psychology, they have learnt nothing about teen rebellion since all this moral guardianship only makes me wanna go bad. Talk about winding me up.

So come next week when Gwen comes by, my cousins will be tarted up in their sluttiest Harajuku inspired nymphette outfits trying to outdo each other in licentious wanton behaviour whlie waving around spiked beer bottles. Saint Wicked will drive them over, all clad in orange tanktop, pierced belly button and possibly tattooed arms.

Maybe I'll even smoke a joint.

Then again I might save it for Beyonce in November.

Friday, August 17, 2007

On the Manhunt

Where were you yesterday morning? If you were going by Sri Hartamas, you might have chanced to see two guys walking down the sidewalks after a heavy ( albeit carnivorous ) brunch. One of the duo tall, husky and good-looking while the other's considerably less attractive, shorter and dumpier.

Let me give you a clue. If I was tall, husky and good-looking, this blog would have evolved far differently - certainly would have been chock-full of daily cam-whoring no doubt :) And more than a few Not Safe For Work pics.

On the manhunt...

Get close enough to the squabbling duo and you might have heard them arguing over numerous philosophical topics ranging from troubled mothers in neverending rehab to cockrings that sting.

My ISO : Hey you going to Gwen Stefani?
Paul : Wasn't thinking about it but since the little protest, I've been dying desperate to go.
My ISO : Naughty boy. Damn, would you look at that? Nice ass.
Paul : No wonder we broke up, you obviously have a fetish for the infantry.
My ISO : Getting catty in your old age?
Paul : Says the guy born in July.
My ISO : We are aging, aren't we?
Paul : Far from gracefully too.
My ISO : Hell, he can't be less than 20.
Paul : Please, that child's not even finished with secondary.
My ISO : You're just torturing me.
Paul : It's a hobby of mine.

Which is the story of how two grown men accosted a relative prepubescent to ascertain his age. Poor boy. The wholesome rice-fed twink never saw the assault coming - and probably thought we were two indecent, perverted gay chicken hawks out to score with some youthful, nearly ripe manflesh. Well he wouldn't be far wrong.

I was reluctantly impressed to say the least.

Not by the nubile jailbait though. See, my ISO can put on this posh Brit-prep-school accent that he picked up while studying abroad ( if you can call getting drunk while making the rounds through the gay bars studying! ). Using his befuddled-tourist-vaguely-lost pretext, my ISO managed to demonstrate his vaunted charm, getting the boy to point out directions to places he already knew by heart ( since he stays barely a stone's throw away ) while slowly digging out points of interest to him - namely the kid's age and contact number.

A slick professional at work obviously.

After about five minutes of relentless flirting and enthusiastic hand gesturing though, he came back to me with some consternation ( if not frustration ) clearly written on his dark features.

My ISO : Fuck.
Paul : Ah. Straight?
My ISO : Yeah. What's the world coming to?

Well not everyone scores all the time.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Urban Jungle

I have two serious nature-loving friends who providentially enough managed to find each other in this confusing tangle of humankind. Found kindred spirits in each other, these two city boys who find magic in every rock and tree and creature while running through the hidden pine trails of the forest. So through the hills and vales Lanky Lex and Jaunty Jared ( of Jumping Jalopy fame ) go every weekend bringing back breathless tales of bird-watching, firefly-baiting and cloud-appreciating.

And serious man-loving no doubt - but you didn't hear this from me. :P

Love story
Baby, come to bed...
No! I must catch the damned fireflies!

Each time they return to regale me with the glorious wonders of nature, I stare at them with bemusement.

Jared : They have exotic birds. Brahminy Kites. Oriental Orioles.
Paul : Oh. Do they serve them roasted or steamed for dinner?
Lex : They have gliding lizards. They have flickering fireflies.
Paul : Hmm. Sure they are not christmas ornaments?
Jared : They have beautiful waterfalls. They have awe-inspiring mountains!
Paul : Get me a postcard with the colours of the wind. Hey, do they at least sell arts and crafts?

Different wavelengths. :P

Me, I'm an urban fella. Never been all that enthused with nature. Sure I did all that back in school during my much-lamented scouting days, communing with nature and the like. Somehow or other though, nature and I never got along all that well. Thoughts of jungle-trekking only brings to mind irritating mosquitoes, tenacious leeches and uninhabitable swamps.

And unfortunately no muscular scantily-clad Tarzans wrestling in the mudswamps.

Jungles of the concrete nature though I can deal with. Even tolerate some of the barely civilized baboons that inhabit the cities. If not essential for the continued survival of our fragile environment, no doubt I would have razed the remaining forests and replaced them with rows of pristine, air-conditioned shopping malls. Maybe a hulking cineplex or two.

Sacrilegious to the nature-lovers, I know. I think I just heard Lanky Lex choke in his chair somewhere.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

God ManWatching

These days, that Big Fella up there in the sky is having a hard time keeping his reputation intact. Whereas in the past, monumental floods and terrifying natural disasters would be more than sufficient to scare the bejeezus out of the ancients into believing blindly in a malignant higher power, these days there's always some cynical scientist out there just waiting to debunk that particular myth.

What's an omnipotent being to do?

In the space of a few centuries ( probably measly moments in His Grand Scheme, whatever it was ), the poor Almighty's been gaining a heap of heathenish disbelievers fast - heretical folks that would have been tied up and set on fire at the stake not too long back. Even some who insist zealously that God is a pitiful delusion, our own Lanky Lex amongst the doubtful skeptics. Even His miraculous works are dissected, probed and placed under an electron microscope merely to debunk His very existence. Poor God just can't catch a break.

Me, I believe in the Big Fella up there. A simple question of faith since it'd be almost impossible to prove ( though surely we have some scholarly monks in a covert Vatican-sanctioned complex out there hoping to prove it by some Heavenly Formula ). Perhaps a subliminal command drummed into us by years of catechism and mission schools - but it's alright even if it's a mass delusion since it's shared by many.

Till today!

Just listen up, ye non-believers for I have found proof. All I have got to say to my non-believer friend is this. For those who doubt the presence of a higher authority, here is indelible proof of God.

Chris Evans Takes Out The Garbage Naked

Neighbors of Fantastic Four star Chris Evans are in for a visual treat - he often takes out his garbage naked. Evans, who recently came third in a poll of most eligible Hollywood bachelors, admits he is fond of streaking in his yard.

Chris Evans!
Come check out my backyard...

He says, "I have a nice backyard. It's very secluded, so every now and then I might just run out quickly and take the trash out."


Chris Evans. Naked. Backyard.

Hallelujah. There is a God.

And btw Mr Evans, no need for any explanations. I have no doubt that you have a very nice *ahem* backyard.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Midnights of Maggi and Milo

What are all good doctors made of?

If processed food manufacturers would have their way, I think we'd all be made of instant noodles and chocolate malt drinks. How else to explain the amazing scarcity of everything vaguely wholesome and nutritious in the pantry leaving the ever faithful Maggi packets and the ubiquitous Milo tins?

Somehow I've always associated Milo with hospitals - seemingly a panacea for all ills.

One bite please...

Playing the public relations game, most physicians would have you know that we all eat fruits, vegetables and a high-fibre diet on a daily basis. *snort* Like come on. Say what you like about preservatives and MSG but just place a six-pack of instant noodles in the pantry and in an instant, famished doctors from five blocks around would swarm like tenacious vultures, pecking at it till the last crumb.

Seriously. I've seen it happen. Even seen the horrible bloody melee that occurs with that last packet at midnight as fists fly and stethoscopes swing.

And here you thought we were all peaceable folk.

Still after the merciless foodfight, we usually gather as sworn blood-brothers to swap war stories ( barring the unprecedented attack of Gungho Ginny ) of problematic patients and naughty nurses over Maggi and Milo at midnight. Right before the next wave of patients hit.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Lessons When You're Drunk

Fathers always see their children as six year olds. They can't help it, wouldn't be surprised if it's encoded in their genes to do so :)

Of course these days, telling a child ( well dictating would be more like ) what they can and can't do would be tantamount to a declaration of nuclear war for some. Yeah, I might be already past the big 3-0 but believe me, that doesn't stop my father from occasionally dropping advice in my ear - though dropping would be a major understatement. Life critic, backseat driver, domestic backbencher, he covers all these awfully irritating roles with aplomb. Certainly would have driven me up the wall when I was a semi-rebellious teen - but these days I think I've grown up into quite a stick-in-the-mud fuddy-duddy as well.

Doesn't mean I don't feel like knocking my head on the wall sometimes as well :) Just means I've gotten to understand how parents think.

These days when I listen to my friends' rants, hear them complain about their controlling parents - and sometimes I actually do see the view point of their parents. Old age is certainly creeping up on me. But I understand why we get curfew, why we parental controls, why get certain privileges removed. After all I'm gonna turn into a monstrous dad when I get older, I'm sure.

But seriously if the parents didn't care, if they didn't give a damn, just imagine this. We'd be able to run out late at night, get pissed drunk, get high and stoned - and possibly even land up in prison for the night. And no one would come save us.

And no one waiting for us tapping their slippers impatiently ( if not the blistering cane ) while staring at the clock - with the faithful porch light on.

Now wouldn't that be sad?

Take a drink
Maybe one more for the road...

Still that didn't stop me from bursting out in laughter when my father caught me last night nursing a glass of Bailey's. It really astonished my father leaving him slack-jawed possibly imagining me still in my primary blues dashing around the school yard.

Dad : You shouldn't drink so much. You might get sick tomorrow.
Paul : Get sick? Last time I got sick was more than ten years back.
Dad : Oh. Yeah ... but still, you shouldn't drink so much.
Paul : It's a glass. I'm not downing the bottle in sorrow.

God, did he actually think that i was a teetotaller? I mean I try not to drink excessively in his presence but still... Come on, I was at home. I wasn't going driving. I wasn't working the next day. And hell, it was only one sissy glass with a froufrou umbrella! I can hold my liquor dammit :)

It was nice to know that he cared though.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Milk of Human Kindness

Guys, don't judge the rest of my colleagues by the crazy things I do.

As a whole, most doctors are kind, sweet, innocent creatures of God who follow the vaunted code Hippocrates laid down in some sunny Greek orchard a millenia ago. Gentle peaceable folk who wouldn't dream of wielding a bloody machete to spread murder and mayhem in the general populace ( like I wish I did ), much less hurt a fly. Folks like Gungho Ginny.

Folk obviously judged to be easy prey for swindlers.

Devious hunk
Hey man I've got a get-rich-quick scheme that's abso-fucking-lutely guaranteed to work...

Seriously. Some guys take doctors for mindless dupes. Since we're all judged to be cut from the same charitable do-gooder cloth, seems like we'd all be easy targets for sly telemarketeers eager to siphon off our meagre earnings. Multi-level marketing agents. Wannabe conmen patients turn mercenaries.

And now evidently, even simple schemers by the five-foot-way.

I know we're all supposed to have the milk of human kindness ( milk of amnesia for anaesthetists :P ) running in our veins - but at the same time, we do have bits of grey matter up there, you know.

Schemer : Doc. Doc.
Paul : Yes?
Schemer : Doctor, can you spare a dime? I need money to pay for my motorcycle oil.
Paul : WTF.
Schemer : Really, doctor. My mother's sick, I can't afford money for my baby's milk and I...

Perhaps I've turned into a contemptuous misanthrope. Unfortunately this isn't the first time I've been treated to such a pitiful sob story. Wouldn't surprise me if he'd also claimed to have ten wailing malnourished kids, a handicapped missus and three choleric cats in a leaky tenement shack with zero basic amenities.

God, how did I get to be so cynical!

But to my way of thinking, a perfectly able adult male with serviceable limbs shouldn't be desperate enough that he has to accost any white coats that walk by. Get to work dammit!


Another post from work! Yeah, I'm being worked to the bone this past week. Still earning barely enough to support myself though - how to donate to charity when I'm sorely in need of some at the moment? Sounds like Charming Calvin's been getting the same dog's treatment over there ( but for infinitely more pay ) in Beijing.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Miss Goody Two Shoes

You know the sort. They are everywhere. Squeaky-clean, butter-won't-melt-in-their-mouth pink-cheeked sweethearts. Goody-two-shoes, the sort that help tottering grannies across the road before lending a hand to that helpless kitten on the tree.

And also the prudish sort who wave their minatory fingers admonishingly when something bad comes their way. In our office, we have our very own Gungho Ginny to give us the neverending tsking when me and my more nefarious colleagues cook up wildly imaginary schemes.

Brief hunk
God grant me the patience...

At work, overworked physicians have their own brand of black hospital humour - no doubt unpalatable to the general public. What can I say? It helps release the tension.

And then here comes Gungho Ginny, our very own resident angel sent down from the high heavens with a holy mission to rehabilitate unrepentant sinners and save the helpless masses.

Colleague A : God only knows. I doubt they'd be able to make it. Probably have the old man's leaking aneurysm bursting along the way after hitting a sinkhole.
Paul : Or get run over by a runaway lorry. You know the way ambulances fly down the highway.
Colleague A : Your mortality report for sure!
Ginny : No. No. You guys can't say that. You're supposed to hope for the best. Our patients are our priority.

Now what do you say to that?

Seriously, I felt like twitching off her vaunted halo, snapping it in two and beaning her with it repeatedly. Granted if I had a pistol at hand, she'd have been pistolwhipped mercilessly before being gunned down in cold blood. What can I say, I'm kinda a violent sort.

My colleague looked like she was spitting nails.

Fortunately I didn't give in to any of my crazed homicidal intentions. It was three in the morning and murder wasn't exactly in my plans that day ( since I'd exceeded my hit quota for that week ) so I settled with only giving her my infamous evil eye. Which thankfully was more than enough to send her scurrying off to spread her good cheer all the while warding me away with hasty signs of the cross.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Of Minge and Men

Something funny I find about patients is their shocking inclination ( for want of a better word ) to show us things we don't actually wish to see - and pray to God don't ever have to see again.

Patient A : Here doctor. This is the gross Coke bottle I accidentally shoved up my arse.

Patient B : Doctor, you must take a look at this. My hand got torn off during the accident but I kept the grisly dangling bits for you to see. Here's a tendon.

Patient C : I'm in pain, doc. Come see the black and blue hernia with undulating bowels protruding from my groin!

Patient D : I have some worms in my stools! Come take a look. See them wriggle!

Okay. I know I am supposed to empathize.

And I do. Seriously. But it's not show-and-tell time - honestly, you've showed it to me once before, you don't have to enthusiastically display it every day each time I walk by. All part and parcel of the job though ( patients come in all shapes, sizes and temperament after all ) and I accept it gladly.

I have a little something for you to see...

Of course that didn't prepare me for someone flashing me her privates in the ward. Really, I kid you not. Thought I was in a kinky Malaysian edition of Punk'd.

I tell ya, I never quite expected it of this sweet-looking makcik in the ward. Waved me in to her room and started telling me all about her grandchildren. One moment I'm talking amiably to her about her scheduled operation the next morning and the next minute I get a proper uninvited close-up of her minge.

Makcik : What do you think? Guess I'll have to do the operation. It's already getting quite unwieldy down there.
Paul : Uhhh.. yes. Yes. It is.
Makcik : See. It's oozing a little and..
Paul : Hmmm. You know, I think I need to go... get a pen or something.

That was before I ran screaming hurried off to splash my face with water, praying hard that what had happened was a figment of my imagination. Unfortunately it wasn't. Not the first time I've seen it of course but I never expected such a disturbing ( and certainly unwelcome ) display that early in the morning. The horrifying image was stamped indelibly in my mind - honestly, I could have sworn the entire montage of my life flashed MTV-like through my astonished eyes in that moment.

Straight boys, don't get too excited with the naughty poontang talk. Uterine prolapse isn't all that pretty.

Fortunately I was saved by a particularly good-looking house officer who asked me whether I needed anything ( thank the Lord there are handsome doctors after all! ). Of course I actually needed to slam him on the wall, grope his tight ass and stick my tongue down his helpful throat to prove my unbridled homosexuality but I refrained from such unsolicited advances. Interns get easily spooked.

Told him it was alright and let him continue his work. Didn't stop me from stealing surreptitious glances at his pretty face though - have to admit it helped blur the image of my earlier muff-diving pursuits somewhat.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

China Cousins

What else did I do last weekend? I found new relatives.

That's the trouble with large extended families. Nearly impossible to keep track of all my far-flung cousins, seems like someone new creeps out of the seams each time I turn around. Even my close first cousins already number in the dirty dozens - and these days the older ones my age seem to come in pairs ( hence the rapidly expanding online family newsletter ).

And they are reproducing just as rapidly as well.

Hijinks in the tribe...

So it didn't altogether surprise me when my grandmother produced a pair of hitherto unknown second cousins out of her amazing technicolour hat when I made an announcement of my autumn trip to Beijing during dinner. Even had an address and a couple of pictures in the tattered, stained envelope she handed to me, a few sepia toned pre-war photographs of herself with a Mao-suited Communist fellow and a couple of newer ones showing a pair of smiling, rosy-cheeked China Dolls dressed to the nines.

Along with the precious envelope came a brief lecture on the importance of keeping family ties alive - and strangely enough, tips on shopping in Beijing ( should I be insulted? ). For this of course she had to resort to the recently off-the-sampan immigrant granny accent.

Paul : Good God. Who are these folks?
Grandmother : See them you must. Family is important. Your cousins they are.
Paul : In Beijing? When did I ever have cousins over there?
Grandmother : Always there, just waiting for the right time.
Paul : Spooky. So if I'd said I'm flying to an area just outside Ulan Bator, you'd have said...
Grandmother : Ulan Bator? I think I have a nephew who settled near...
Paul : I rest my case.

Looking at the pictures again, I sigh. Damn, why couldn't they be Huang Xiaoming lookalikes?

Maybe in Ulan Bator.


Didn't have much time to dwell on the china cousins since we were all too busy grilling my cousin Fabulous Fanny's new boyfriend. Hoping that she'd catch the lot of us unawares, Fanny tried to sneak her new beau in and out of the house without alerting the rest of us. Seriously. There are only so many doors - and that many relatives.

So the poor bewildered boy got dragged under the glaring spotlight. One of the downsides of getting involved with a girl from a large family - you get grilled simultaneously by thirty trained and hostile Gestapo interrogators over fishballs and rice wine. Beleaguered Bobby never saw it coming.

Relative A : Who are you? Why are you here?
Bobby : I'm J...
Relative B : Are you working? Do you earn enough to support her?
Bobby : I just started work last year and I...
Relative C : What are your intentions? Are they honourable?
Bobby : T-they are! I just...
Relative A : Stammering? Bad blood, I say!
Relative B : Why are you not eating? You hate Fuzhou food?

Take my advice. Easier getting involved with single orphans. :P

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Grandmother Who Cried Wolf

Guess I'm no longer the biggest drama queen in the family.

Hell, I'm not even in the top three. I'll leave it to you to decide who carries the prize though.

My grandmother can hardly be considered a spring chicken these days - and sooner or later, I know we'll have to deal with her leaving us for greener heavenly pastures. Blame it on the job. Working with death on a daily basis, I can't help feeling a bit morbid sometimes. Though she might picture seriously dull evenings strumming celestial harps in the future, I know she deserves that final eternal rest after decades of caring for the lot of us ungrateful ingrates.

By the window

Of course I've come to realize that not everyone's quite as ready to let her go as yet.

Finding a quiet moment in the day, my grandmother tugged me back into her kitchen domain to recount a hilarious experience she had two weeks back. Practically bursting with hidden glee which boded ill for my cousins. Feeling particularly lethargic that morning a sennight past, she stayed in bed for an extra hour refusing to leave the bed - till one of my overanxious cousins came knocking insistently on her bedroom door.

Let's just say that short of a sledgehammer to the head, Macho Mike simply doesn't take subtle hints.

Grandmother : Leave me be. I'm tired.
Mike : Are you ill?
Grandmother : Just can't move.
Mike : Are you dying?
Grandmother : Yes, I am. I find my vision blurring slowly... I think I might be going...
Mike : What?! What!
Grandmother : It's time. So sad I have to go. Take my diamond necklace, give it to your third aunt. She bought it for me five years ago.
Mike : No, grandma, you can't leave us!

Seriously. And that was just the beginning.

According to my astonished grandmother, my surprisingly doltish but hugely sentimental clod of a cousin re-enacted a lachrymose sob-fest scene straight out of a Korean tearjerker, dragging her out of bed to clasp her into his beefy arms while wailing away. As everyone here would know, hysteria breeds easily and soon it spread easily to infect my female cousins who hurried into the room to join in the growing dramatics.

Stronger minds prevailed however ( though I'm not sure exactly who that was ) and they finally managed to make it to the hospital without further mishap - with my awakened grandmother protesting all the way. No doubt my cousins were standing outside the emergency room dressed in funereal black singing a mournful dirge.

Where the doctor pronounced her full recovery ( resurrection? ).

Paul : You are monstrous. Don't try that on me.
Grandmother : Tee hee. But I did feel giddy that day.
Paul : I'm sure you did.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Death and Murder in Beijing

Seriously. Left on their own, some people start having the oddest misconceptions.

Paul : It's not that far away.
Calvin : Die because of heat stroke, die because of food poisoning, die because of murder, die because of plane crash. You'll never see me again.

He's not talking about riding a rickety, barely serviceable helicopter to some backward, underdeveloped third world banana republic in Central Asia ( is there even a fourth world? ) where savage marauders roam the lawless cities gunning down innocent bystanders. And if they're not relentlessly hunted down and shot like unfortunate stray dogs, the ill-fated population inevitably sicken and die after being poisoned by the local paramecium floating about the sewage spillage ( or would that be radioactive wastes? ).

No. My man is talking about Beijing.

Before all ye patriotic Chinese countrymen rush to take up cudgels in defence of your country, take a chill pill and just relax first. Let me finish. Calvin doesn't mean that at all. Like any sensible fellow ( unlike senseless folks like me ), he has the jitters about going to a foreign land - hence the outlandish improbabilities popping up in his overimaginative head.

By the window
It's getting hot in here...

Okay. Maybe the heat stroke isn't so unlikely with temperatures soaring up to an unreasonably hellish 40 C.

And yeah I'm five hundred miles away, hence his increasing despondency.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Lazy Fridays

Dazed. A bit sleepy. The endless drone of the city traffic seems to have blended into a monotonous lullaby. Bones almost melting into the ratty rattan chair as the ancient ceiling fan twirls noiselessly in the late afternoon heat. Yeah, that's how I feel after just an hour back in the coffeeshop. It's easy enough to slide bonelessly into the lazy afternoon siesta that most of these good folks practise here.

Hard not to look at the old place in sepia tinged tones since time itself seems to stand still here. Seriously. I've sat for an eternity staring at the computer screen and it's barely an hour passed. I already feel spidery cobwebs clinging from my fingers to the keyboard. :)

By the window
Lazy afternoon...

Then my crotchety grandmother walks in ( supposedly down with a bad bad cold hence prompting our sudden return ) with a new Ipod and starts talking about attending Gwen Stefani's concert.

Paul : You are supposed to be resting! I came back here expecting to see you laid up in bed!
Grandmother : Well... see here.. *cough cough*
Paul : ...
Grandmother : Your arrival made me feel so much better.
Paul : ...

Yeah, I am speechless.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

The White Coat

The white coat.

I know recent journals would place the blame squarely on the unfortunate inanimate object for being a carrier of germs - instead of pointing the finger on the errant unhygienic physician. When I look around, I can't help but notice the yellowed unrecognizable stains ( baby vomit, poo, snot, all manner of bodily fluids no doubt ) on some of my colleagues' weathered white coats, a few no doubt beaten to submission with rocks by the rushing stream till nearly translucent. Citing reasons such as spreading infection and the sweltering tropical heat, more than a few physicians have shed their coats - seems like the more senior the position, the less likely you'd find them in a coat.

Wouldn't surprise me if their coats had been condemned as dangerous biological waste after years of patient abuse. :)

Jesse Spencer
Don't you like me in my coat?

Me, I like that old venerable white coat. Despite spending most of my time togged up in blue scrubs ( seriously one of the most comfortable uniforms ever ), I still have my dependable white coat hanging in my locker. Although other faculties have similarly co-opted the white coat, it still remains along with the stethoscope and the serpented staff of Aesculapius one of the most recognizable symbols of the profession. Somehow or rather despite evidences to the contrary ( and we all know about white coat hypertension, right? ), the white coat plays a role in establishing a rapport and reminding us of our solemn duties as a physician. It comforts some of the adult patients and despite how erroneous they may be, first impressions do count after all.

Note how I didn't mention paediatric patients. Some kids associate doctors with painful procedures - and anything zipping by in a white coat would have them scurrying away in fright - hence the relative rarity of coats in some paediatric institutions.

Most importantly, you see these pockets? My white coat houses my prescription pad, multiple pens ( they keep mysteriously disappearing on me! ), stethoscope and reference manuals ( PDAs for my more technologically savvy juniors ) in roomy pockets. And the unexpected... the occasional Fisherman's Friend, the emergency chocolate bar / energy bar, the crushed paperback I read in between cases, movie tickets, my unpaid bills that I plan to run off during lunch to pay.

Seriously, it's like unearthing Tutankhamen's Tomb. A bottle of mineral water. Shakira's latest CD. I've even seen a medical student produce a M.A.C. lipstick and compact from the depths of her coat.

No, I'm not ready to hang up my coat just yet.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Paint Me Black

Somehow or rather along the way I've developed a pretty black reputation. Not sure how I've acquired it since I've always assumed that I'm a sweet, peaceable fellow - but from the way house officers scurry when I so much as growl, I guess I do have the deathly tongue as Charming Calvin puts it.

Calvin : Don't be so angry. Be nice. Don't be wicked.
Paul : It's dirty, it's disgusting, it's degrading. I love it.

So what do you when you've been painted as the wicked villain?

There are those penitent few who'd sob piteously while protesting their innocence while talking about renouncing their evil ways, hoping that particular act of contrition would help change the minds of the angry masses.

Me. I'm a bit skewed.

Turning bad
When good boys go bad...

Far from trying to run away from the accusation, I'd positively revel in the unflattering title. I figure once already tarred and feathered, what's the use in trying to reclaim any lost reputation? Call me wicked, would you? Hell, I'll show you wicked. And that goes for your little dog too! Just like the infamous Scarlett O'Hara - call her a brazen hussy and before you know it, our brass-faced diva shows up all dangerously divine in her dazzling scarlet number.

Back in university, when they introduced mindless draconian laws, I'd be the first to think ways to flout them. For example, I don't drink much - past mistakes notwithstanding. Not a big fan of getting drunk, throwing up on the sidewalk and nursing a hangover the next morning. But when they informed the lot of us college students that we weren't allowed to bring booze on a class trip... I suddenly had an irresistible urge to run out, buy a case of brewskis and get sloshed.

Then they claimed that the girls and the boys were standing just a tad too close together. Felt like going crazed hetero all of a sudden.

Silly rules just make me go bad. Haven't they heard of the thrill of the forbidden?

Why the sudden flashback? You see, my cousin had a similar trip to Perhentian and they came up with the same archaic rules about drinking. Stop them from drinking too much for sure but surely a can or two won't kill anyone.

Hell, why do I have this urge to set up shop selling beer to uni students?