Monday, February 25, 2013

Asmara Songsang

Figures as much for the sadly maligned gay community here. No sooner have we recovered somewhat from another vilely homophobic brickbat from gay guidelines to homo rehabilitation camps, we have yet another shameful slur coming our way.

And this one from the entertainment industry instead. Et tu, Brute? Would have thought the one exemplary industry where flamboyant homosexuals actually form the obvious majority would have refrained from offering us such an insulting slap in the face. Isn't musical theatre almost synonymous with fabulously loud-voiced. limp-wristed queens?

Seriously what would musical theatre be like without a flaming queen or three!

But as usual there's always a hint of political intimidation, even in the least likely places. Which is probably why our presumed bastion of fine arts and culture - the apparently misnamed Palace of Culture - has decided to stage a controversial play called Asmara Songsang
Dipentaskan secara percuma pada 1 dan 2 Mac 2013, Asmara Songsang berkisar tiga sahabat, Latip, Karimah dan Nasir yang terpengaaruh dengan dunia Gay dan Lesbian. Pendek kata, maksiat sudah menjadi sebahagian daripada hidup mereka. Malah mereka cuba mempengaruhi anak-anak muda dan gadis-gadis ke kancah maksiat. Namun kegiatan mereka tidak berpanjang kerana mereka akhirnya ditimpa musibah, disambar petir dan membuatkan mereka bertiga insaf.
Basically the Unorthodox Affair - a pathetic attempt by the Malaysian musical theatre to showcase how the homosexual plague has started to propagate to the gullible masses, especially the vulnerable young, influencing them into a wicked demonic lifestyle. Pretty sure out of the three main protagonists, one dies a horrific death, one gets struck by lightning (??) and one tearfully repents by the end. 

The story of our lives presumably. And if I recall, the only possible endings allowed for gay characters by the national censorship board. Death or Denial.

Though the directors unconvincingly reiterate that there's no clandestine political agenda to their scripted tale, the play remains open to the public - for free. Surely someone has to pay the actors so it makes me wonder exactly who's behind the scenes footing the bill for the entire production. From the unflattering preview pictures of the staged play, it's grown quite obvious that the fabulous gay boys have all wrung their hands in abject surrender since the staging looks decidedly awful, as do the wildly garish costumes. Quite a far cry from the stereotypical fashionable gay man about town. 

Dare I hope it's all an amusing satire? 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Mystery of the Disappearing Great Grandpa

Any family reunion is always a time ripe for intense interrogation, intimate interviews and the eventual spilling of clandestine secrets.

Though my taciturn grandmother has proven remarkably hard to crack, despite my best Russian spy techniques. Bribing her with roasted peanuts or plying her with sweet wine doesn't seem to work at all.

Till now none of us have been able to unlock the secrets of her surprisingly mysterious past. With conservative Confucianism still prevalent in China back then, for a mere girl to receive such a surprisingly accomplished, well-rounded education back in the turbulent 1920s certainly hints at a relatively comfortable liberal family. Yet my enigmatic grandmother hardly speaks of her murky past - and never of her family - even after being persistently prodded for answers.

Even on her frequent visits back to China, she never ever returns to her hometown, not even in passing.

What shameful secrets lie in the pictures from the past?

What we know of her only begins when my hopeful grandfather came knocking on the door for her hand in marriage. And even so what made her family desperate enough to send her so far away to what must have seemed a plague-infested tropical hell with an unlettered country bumpkin with very little to recommend him?

Highly suspicious. I've always wondered myself. Would have asked my far more pliable grandfather but the only way of contacting him is through the ouija board.

So several weeks back, one of my more enterprising aunts put up a picture of my grandmother holding up an ancient red-lacquered plaque detailing the innumerable exploits of her presumably eminent family. Most importantly the commemorative stele bore the words 三代五尚书,七科八进士 which means that her illustrious ancestors managed to pass the imperial examinations with flying colours and were frequently promoted to state ministers.

Aunt : I have finally found the family secret.
Paul : We're secretly descended from princes, pirates or paupers?
Aunt : Neither. Grandmother's family. Take a look at this picture. 
Paul : That's it? Was hoping they were a village of secret ninja-like assassins, or perhaps an ancient royal family betrayed and hunted down by their enemies.
Aunt : You do have a great imagination.
Paul : If not, why is grandmother keeping her illustrious family a secret? What bad times came upon the family? Why hide all this? Why has she never returned even once to her village? I bet she killed someone.
Aunt : No la! Anyway if she wants to know, she'll tell us!
Paul : Better tell us soon! What if she left behind a secret family in mainland China! We could intermarry with them in the future!
Aunt : Choi!

That wasn't the family secret. We already knew she came from a relatively distinguished reputable family. It's what happened after that which is kept hidden from the rest of us.

Ashamed possibly of her father - our missing great-grandfather? Or maybe her indolent ne'er-do-well father gambled the dwindling family fortunes away? Or he was the overly enthusiastic royal executioner who chopped off one too many heads? The possibilities are endless. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

What Happens to Old Kopitiams When They Die?

With her more well-bred, educated ( though somewhat mysterious ) background, my sensible grandmother has always revered education as her personal pantheon. Despite having some ill-formed doubts, my working-class grandfather, not knowing any better and far more awed by the intelligentsia, obviously capitulated easily when it came to schooling their numerous progeny.

Like the majority of earnest, diligent Chinese immigrants back then, they've always hoped for their prolific descendants to study hard to graduate as doctors, lawyers, engineers etc. Climbing the social ladder so to speak. So even with the meagre earnings from the family coffeeshop, all my uncles and aunts managed to scrape through high school - and yes, the peers of my own generation consequently got browbeaten into returning with, at the very least, a university degree.

Leaving the unfortunate family coffeeshop as the inadvertent victim of their own success, you would say.

Since now, the old coffeeshop seems to be sadly languishing in need of urgent direction. Hardly the money-spinner it was in the post-colonial heydays, the metal grilles of the gate lie open on a daily basis but few customers trickle in, more from the dismal lack of dishes on the menu than anything else. Literally a coffeeshop these days since that's almost all that's on offer these days.

A cup of coffee anyone?

Overly educated with books and degrees, few of us pampered college boys can handle the zealous back-breaking work required to run a simple coffeeshop. Mixing a simple cuppa wouldn't be that difficult for me but I doubt I could handle more than that. Not that my conservative grandmother would even hear of such a thing.

Paul : Maybe it's time one of us came back to run the coffeeshop. 
Grandma : Good God WHY!
Paul : Someone has to! It's a family legacy. 
Grandma : I didn't send you all to college and university just to return here to roast coffee beans!
Paul : You'd be surprised at what we're learning at university these days. 
Grandma : Don't even think about it! It's such awfully laborious, time-consuming work!
Paul : But -
Grandma : You work with your brains, not with your hands. In air-conditioned carpeted offices not the sweltering kitchens.
Paul : Trust me, my brains don't work that much actually.
Grandma : Put it out of your mind, we shall just leave shop as it is. 

Like many other similarly abandoned coffeeshops around the older quarters of town. Old downtown kopitiams left behind as the younger generation moves on to easier, more profitable enterprises.

Of course unbeknownst to her - probably much to her horror - some of my more entrepreneurial cousins and I have started coming up with ambitious new proposals on how to refurbish the coffeeshop and make it work. Artisanal coffee maybe? Perhaps even a stylish bed & breakfast?

Friday, February 15, 2013

Smiles of Fortune

Abundant prosperity certainly seemed to be the order of the day back home from the endless array of dishes

Not to mention the surprisingly muscular, tanned forearm that wrapped around my neck as I leaned over to get another bite of red wine chicken. Normally having such manly biceps curled around me wouldn't be reason enough for me to squeal but at the family reunion dinner, it certainly gave me reason to nervously jump from my seat.

Turns out my hot somewhat-cousin Preppy Phillip, who makes the occasional rare disturbingly titillating appearance, was back for the reunion dinner as well. All six feet of hale, healthy hail-fellow-well-met affability.

Nigh impossible to focus on what he's saying when I keep looking at his chest. Damn.

With me thinking of nefarious reasons to climb over the wall into his bedroom for the night. Thank God for old style coffeeshops with flimsy wooden partitions to split the various rooms.

Paul : Damn, hot cousin back.
My ISO : That Preppy Phillip fellow? 
Paul : Yes!
My ISO : So you're gonna share some brotherly love this time?
Paul : Don't tempt me! And he has no girlfriend at the moment. Odd. 
My ISO : Who knows, he might have seen the light! 
Paul : Not gonna listen to you. 
My ISO : Maybe he's on Grindr now! Bet he looks good shirtless. 
Paul : Dammit. Now I am curious.

It was worth a try. And I am a snoop anyhow.

Hard to tell from homosocial apps such as Grindr especially when most closet-cases keep their identities and faces carefully hidden - nevermind the fact that their entire ripped torso remains bared to the world. One particularly scrumptious fellow with astonishingly perky pectorals turned out to be mere metres away and I kept stealing glances at Phillip wondering whether it was actually him.

Under that tight red tee, his chest certainly looked sculpted enough.

Thought of sending a message but something stopped me. A gay cousin? If homosexuality can be linked to genetics, there would be a higher preponderance of it recurring in a family! Ever wondered whether you had a relative who was gay?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

There's Something About Paul


I gotta say some of us just have loads of it - that dangerously deranged desire to dominate at all costs - while some of us are just a little more zen when it comes to the uncertain corporate ladder and their lowly, insignificant position hanging on the forgotten rungs. Can pretty much guess where I stand when it comes to this since I'm one helluva managing kiasu bitch when I have to be.

And I adore power. Offer me the job of an iron-fisted dictator in some forgotten third world nation and I just might consider it.

Now who do I have to kill off for that job? 

Which is something Charming Calvin simply can't wrap his bewildered lil head around.

Calvin : Crazy busy at work these days. 
Paul : Oh you poor thing.
Calvin : So bad that my boss fainted yesterday and passed out on the floor. Think he even vomited.
Paul : Oh that poor man. 
Calvin : Yeah we had him sent to the hospital. Hope he's alright.
Paul : Heart attack? Stroke? 
Calvin : Not sure yet. We'll have more news later.  
Paul : So have you schemed to get yourself into his position and edge him out of the corner office? Will you get a promotion if something happens to him?  
Calvin : What?

Wait. You mean I'm the only one who thinks like this?

I mean apart from Sophie Ellis-Bextor.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

The New Year Miracle

If you'd recall, a week ago I was pretty bummed, to say the least, when I realized I wouldn't be returning home for the coming Chinese New Year. Certainly cast a dismal cloud over the entire week making me crabby as hell at work - since that was the main culprit preventing me from participating in that annual spring exodus home.

A little hard finding a locum replacement when everyone else I knew - who could do the job - would be heading back to their hometowns same as me.

Damn, knew I shouldn't have packed that many oranges. 

Till someone stepped out from nowhere with a peculiar proposition. Covering a couple of places at one go? A bit chancy. A bit insecure. A bit perilous. But it was the only offer on hand.

However my staff turned out to be unequivocal in their support.

Paul : Don't know whether I should. A bit risky no?
Miranda : Just go ahead. Not like anyone else is gonna be around at work. 
Paul : True. 
Miranda : Even if you stayed, no one would be appreciative of the sacrifice anyway. 
Paul : Even more true. 
Miranda : And you always said family comes before work.
Paul : True. Fuck it all, I am gonna get the tickets now. 

Didn't need any more convincing, that's for sure. So that's why I'm going home.

Happy Chinese New Year to you all! 

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Diet of Oranges & Crackers

There are times when I actually despair over the sheer superficial shallowness of my fellow gay brothers. Sigh.

Sure, I like to look good. Hitting the gym regularly to get down to my fighting weight ( and to hopefully avoid the much dreaded myocardial infarction ) does have its little benefits. Dressing well and suiting up happens to be one of my sweet lil pleasures in life. However that doesn't mean I check myself out in every mirror I walk by.

Neither do I dedicate my life wholly to the body beautiful. Unlike Mercurial Marshall who has started counting calories these days.

Paul : Wanna go grab a bite for dinner? 
Marshall : Can't do that for the next few weeks.
Paul : What? You're not eating dinner for the next few weeks? 
Marshall : Only till Chinese New Year. Just gonna stir up some salad at home. 
Paul : A diet of twigs and leaves for Chinese New Year? 
Marshall : Yeah.
Paul : You're not trying to squeeze into a red qipao are you? 
Marshall : No!
Paul : How would nibbling nuts and berries showcase any prosperity?
Marshall : But I'd be able to wear my red tank top and white shorts.
Paul : For the reunion?

Evidently yes since Mercurial Marshall has been subsisting on meagre bird feed for the past few weeks.

A diet for Chinese New Year? Now I've heard of everything.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Fags of a Feather

They do say that discretion is the better part of valour.

Certainly rings true when it comes to the budding homosexual hiding his shameful secret in the deep dark dimensions of the proverbial closet. Sometimes there really is not much room for boundless valour in the restrictive confines of our highly conservative society.

I don't look that obviously gay, do I? 

Which gives rise to an entire battalion of silent gay comrades in the verdant fields of Miri. All highly discreet. All shockingly macho. All surprisingly deep-voiced. All living in fear of the accidental unmasking. Makes a celebratory new year dinner with them fraught with incipient danger as the likelihood of inadvertent exposure increases with intimate association. Fags of a feather and all that.

Paul : Isn't red the prevailing theme for the dinner?
Friend :  That colour's just a bit too daring! Too shocking!
Paul : But gays love themes!
Friend : Don't say gay!
Paul : And red is great! You prefer to blend into the drab nondescript bleh surroundings? 

And that was only the beginning. Basically all the much-touted guidelines for gay men were taboo. V-necks had to be covered up. Speaking with air quotes was out. Hand-waving was a definite no-no.

And God forbid you speak in a high-pitched tenor.

Felix : OMG! That is super fabulous, girlfriend!
Friend : Shh. People might be looking.
Paul : And get my evil stare in return. 
Felix : They'd be frozen dead.
Friend : Just tone it down a little.

Since everyone else was trying their best to butch it up, for once Fabulous Felix and I felt like the gayest, most out advocates in the city. A peculiar feeling since we usually tend to blend into the unassuming crowd without our feather-laden, neon-tinted drag outfits. Contrary fellow that I am, I tend to become even more obviously stereotypically gay when specifically asked not to.

Discretion can be the better part of valour. But I'll admit it can be highly irritating as well.