Monday, December 29, 2014

A Christmas Abroad

Sue : What are your plans this Christmas? 
Paul : The usual I guess. Party and all that.
Sue : A bit tired of all the brouhaha, feel like laying low for that month. 
Paul : If you wanna lay low, why not head somewhere else instead? 
Sue : Family vacation? 

Yes, just that brief texted conversation with my sister-in-law several months back prompted our December escapade! First time we haven't had our annual Christmas party for... well a really long time!

Providential though - since I honestly can't recall the last time we travelled famille en masse to some foreign destination! Perhaps our eventful Eurotrip almost a decade ago? Ever since my niece and nephew made their jubilant appearance on the domestic scene, family trips together have become increasingly rare apart from the mandatory Chinese New Year reunion dinner. With my distant brother far off in the desert climes of the Middle East and me isolated on the large tropical island of Borneo, scheduling conflicts are bound to occur.

Picking places to go is simple enough - having all of us agree to the finalized plan, especially the finicky children is something else however. Surprisingly - had us all agog I swear - bringing up the easiest suggestion of Bangkok seemed to garner quite a positive response from my niece and nephew! Apparently their last exhaustive trip tramping through gilded temples and bustling bazaars in the sweltering tropical heat didn't seem to deter them in the least. 

And we did dangle the possibility of lazing about in the luxurious hotel suite which the kids always adore. Though like any horrible unreasonable adult, I would probably curtail those fun-filled activities to the minimum so as to maximize our shopping time. 

Calvin : We're not lugging all that!!
Paul : Maybe some candy canes?
Calvin : No!

Of course I didn't need much persuasion since Bangkok is always the ideal destination for me, what with the relatives, the food, the shopping - and hey, let's admit it, the hot male eye-candy. With December ushering in cooler days up north, seemed like the perfect time to go!

Was half afraid that Charming Calvin would give the trip a miss with the recent bereavement in his family but a short break was exactly what he needed - so several days before Christmas saw all of us packing to leave for Bangkok. 

Friday, December 26, 2014

Deck the Belles

Yes, I tend to be more dressy than usual. Chances are very few have actually seen me out and about in something more casual than a shirt and slacks. More often than not, there's usually a tie or even a vest included in the ensemble. Blame it on my upbringing - my strict mother never ever let us leave the house unless we're perfectly presentable - and also perhaps my formal workwear where Casual Fridays are practically unheard of.

Perhaps it's my advanced age speaking but it always puzzles me to see youthful teens gallivanting abroad in their Wednesday Worst. What happened to dressing up tastefully for a night out on the town? With industrialization and mass marketing making readymade clothes easily available to all, what cheap excuse is there to be bundled up in a raggedy tee-shirt and rattier shorts out in public?

And flip flops - which I swear can only be appropriate for the beach or a pasar malam.

Paul : What is she wearing?
Kat : I know!
Paul : Is it laundry day and she doesn't have anything left to wear? 
Kat : Really hope that's the reason.
Paul : I wouldn't even use that tired tee to scrub the floors. 
Kat : So strict haha!
Paul : If that were my child, I would immediately drag her home to change. Or perhaps to a store for a new dress. What she's wearing now I would immediately consign to the flames. 

Yes, mean girls do judge.

Come on, there is dressing appropriately for the occasion - and there's just tearing out whatever crushed leftovers you can discover in the laundry basket. Just because everyone's dressing way, way down doesn't mean you have to join that motley crew. Seriously, almost everyone looks good when they put in some minimal effort to dress up but only a lucky handful look great in just a plain tee and shorts.

Not unless you're super fit and handsome like the fortunate fellow below. Disregard whatever fulsome praise the doting aunts showered on you - chances are you're never quite as pretty as they said you were.

Unless you're this guy. I assume Alex looks great in almost anything. And better in nothing. 

So short of being genetically blessed with good looks, don't even think about stepping out in anything but your best. Unforgivably elitist perhaps but even Cinderella knew the worth of dressing in her glamorous finest. Never even occurred to her to arrive at the ball clad only in her grimy kitchen rags. Hell, even the fashion-forward rats in her kitchen instinctively knew she would need a decent ballgown for her swanky soiree.

Imagine if she hadn't gotten her fairy godmother to offer some sartorial magic!

Cinderella : Oh hello!
Prince : Umm wait, isn't the help supposed to be downstairs? 
Cinderella : Oh no, I'm a guest! Really. I mean I had no time to dress so I just came in whatever I had on. 
Prince : Oh really? 
Cinderella : The card mentioned formal wear but I am going for comfort today.
Prince : I think there's a gravy stain on your tee shirt. 
Cinderella : Oh maybe. 
Prince : I think I see someone else I need to talk to. 
Cinderella : Wait, you haven't seen my flip flops!

Yeah, she might not have gotten her happily-ever-after if she'd come in her Wednesday Worst. 

Monday, December 22, 2014

Season of Giving

Christmastime also marks the time when I wait patiently for the elusive mailman to arrive. Especially this far in the boondocks, the mailman can sometimes be our only lifeline to the real world out there - at least that of the material sort. Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be any proper schedule for the slippery fellow who seems to pop by according to his volatile whims and wants.

Honestly Santa would be easier to catch than our unreliable mailman. 

But not only does he deliver the sadly mundane such as bills and solicitations, during the magical month of December he also drops the occasional Christmas card. And of course, my favourite brown paper packages tied up with string -- all bought online the weeks before Christmas.

Unfortunately I couldn't find this on offer. 

After all I still need to send my ISO some coal with his black stockings. Though it also comes with similarly coloured charcoal body soap this year. 

My ISO : It's all black. What the hell did you send me? 
Paul : Coal.
My ISO : So I toss them into the fire? 
Paul : There's only one lump of coal. The rest are soap!
My ISO : Black soap. Seriously?
Paul : Well it's to wash away your evil deeds this year!
My ISO : You didn't get me enough soap for that!

Have to assume my ISO flirts shamelessly with the usually grumpy mailroom workers to get his gifts sent out promptly every year since it usually arrives surprisingly early. Surely he doesn't actually queue up at the post office since that very idea of such patient selflessness on his part boggles my mind. 

Which is why I have a wrapped gift box waiting to be opened very, very soon. 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

All I Want For Christmas

Well perhaps not me but apparently all Diffident David wants this year from Santa is a new toy. Don't worry, you'll be forgiven for thinking along the naive lines of a boy's snazzy technogadget plaything but it seems our fellow here wants something far more.... gratifying to say the least.

No simple cellphones or tablets for this fellow.

Dammit where's my Christmas Tenga!

Sympathizing with his perpetual self-enforced bachelorhood - and his recently avowed virginity pact, my friends here banded together to present him with a novelty hoping to placate some of his more libidinous urges. A boy has his needs after all - and since David refuses to participate in the mindless orgies about town, he abashedly received a plaything that would afford him endless prurient pleasure for as long as it lasts.

No, not a hunky submissive sex slave since I would have kept that for myself. No, not a dildo since he hasn't quite decided which end of the controversial top-bottom spectrum he's gonna land on yet - though we all have our compelling suspicions.

So David got a Tenga. For those who aren't in the know, a Tenga would be a revolutionary masturbatory toy for men; just imagine a corrugated sleeve made out of flexible elastomer with various adjustments to help achieve tremulous exhilaration. One of the taglines for their more popular product calls it the Joystick of Pleasure so you can just imagine what to do with it.

Me, I'm honestly happy enough with my trusty hand and a whole lot of wicked imagination.

Not so our Diffident David. For someone so desperately averse to the more raunchy side of our gay lives, he seems to have taken to the erotic wonders of Tenga almost instantaneously without reservation. Apparently our friend here revelled in the novel product with quite a lot of admirable gusto - and obviously very little diffidence - since it didn't take him long to entirely annihilate the ultimately fragile product.

Felix : I think we'll get him another Tenga for Christmas. 
Paul : Didn't you just get him one?
Felix : He broke it. 
Paul : Gosh. 
Felix : I know. 
Paul : How rough is this fellow! 
Felix : I know!
Paul : Does he use it ten times a day?
Felix : I know!

Far be it to wonder about a friend's masturbatory conduct but surely he must be shockingly aggressive to destroy the product in such a short period of time. Pounding sledgehammer much? Even I'll admit to being slightly perturbed at the thought!

So would that be naughty or nice? 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Under the Mistletoe

IT is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife. However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered as the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters.

There's nothing wrong with being single.

Lots of things to rejoice over when you're all me, myself and I - and certainly nothing to be ashamed about. But while you're busy revelling in that sexy singleton status, that doesn't mean there's any harm in checking out what's available on the marvellous marriage mart either. After all as Jane Austen has said, matchmaking has been going on ever since monogamy came into style.

Paul : Ooh you're single?
Bachelor : Yes!
Madison : Ooh, someone's gonna start matchmaking!
Paul : Of course! Let's make a list of everyone we know who's single!
Bachelor : No, you don't have to do that. 
Paul : It's our pleasure seriously. So any peculiar likes or dislikes? 
Madison : Oh yeah any preferences?
Bachelor : No, I don't want to seem desperate!

Yes, we do tend to browbeat the singletons here into getting matched up - though of course they keep vehemently insisting they would prefer being alone. Which if fine by me but really, being happy single doesn't preclude wanting to find someone special, does it?

In fact, during the times when I was single myself, I always put myself out there. Made it almost a mission to accomplish : happily chatted up single guys whenever I could, cautiously answered every random stranger I found online and gamefully attended every blind date my friends set me up with. Certainly nothing desperate about it, let's just call it being open to all the possibilities.

Definitely didn't bury myself at work. Seriously, modern day romantic comedies might have the lucky protagonists meeting up in the most peculiar happenstances but in real life, there wouldn't be a random meetcute if you're locked up in that office tower alone with loads of assignments.

Unless you're desperately keen on the night janitor.

Something you won't have to deal with if you're fortunate enough to be a doctor or a nurse. Curiously enough, ardent matchmaking is rife in the medical world - practically the first question asked on arrival in the ward is an urgent confirmation of the marriage status followed by an extensive roll call of everyone still left available on that floor. Occasionally even the fitter patients ready for discharge get slotted into the list of marriage eligibles.

Possibly the reason why we have so many salacious goings-on in the hospitals.

It all begins with the meetcute!

Evidently something the professedly independent engineers don't seem to be into! From the illuminating conversation we had above, it turns out friendly matchmaking is almost taboo in their corporate world - and coming off as faintly desperate would almost doom them into something close to a pariah status at work! Tough job to play stupid cupid over there, that's for sure.

However we haven't let said trivial obstacle deter our meddlesome efforts in the least. Since Mad Madison seems to have a surplus of single yuppies in her office, we have decided to make matchmaking her Key Performance Indicator for next year. After all she herself was happily matched so she might as well pay it forward by bringing other couples together as well. Two couples by next December maybe?

Time to get some folks under the mistletoe!

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Coming Out on Christmas Day

In case you didn't know, Diffident David is gay.

Shh.... don't say it out loud 'cause someone might hear! Part of the discreet closet case comrades here, David vehemently insists that he passes as 'normal' despite being quite painfully obvious to the rest of us. I mean, surely nattily fussy fellow with painstakingly coiffed hair and perfectly rolled up sleeves still reeks of pink suspicion, no? Evidently he doesn't think so - and blithely believes the rest of his erstwhile colleagues remain utterly oblivious to his apparently deviant sexual predilections.

David : I'm not gay! They think I'm metrosexual.
Paul : My present to you is allowing you to keep your cherished illusions. 

Ever the game changer, Mad Madison has taken it upon herself to make sure things get better.

By outing him for Christmas.

Paul : Did anyone check Facebook? 
Kat : What happened? 
Paul : Apparently Madison appreciates all her gay friends. 
Kat : That's nice!
Paul : All her gay friends including David. 
Kat : He's tagged?
Paul : Oh yes. 
Kat : Talk about blowing his cover! He's going to have a cow.
Paul : He doesn't check his phone so that would be several hours of being outed before he comes to that particular realization.
Kat : Oh that Madison.   

Like some other friends on Facebook, they maintain supposedly 'straight' lives on Facebook where anything even vaguely homosexual being posted would drive them up the hysterical wall. Even the random shot of a half-naked hottie would probably trigger their hypersensitive homophobic alarms.

So imagine Madison thanking him for being a great gay friend. With an appreciative tag.

Obviously getting him out of the closet is her novel idea of a Christmas present.

Remarkably took David less than an hour to become conscious of the fact that his crouching homo hidden gayness was being recognized by one and all, courtesy of the ever-accessible Facebook wall! Perhaps one of his burlier patients sent him a salacious wink? Cue his overwrought wail of distress that was heard for miles on high, amped up even louder when the tag couldn't be removed.

David : What if everyone knows!
Paul : Providential! I do have a song for Coming Out on Christmas! 

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Back to December

That new tenant. Perhaps one of the most common tropes ever on every possible television show you've ever seen. An easy way to bring in some fresh colour to something that's grown a tad predictable after some time.

Though certainly not my intention, the new tenant certainly has brought some drama into our lives. In her short time here in Netherfield, Pretty Paisley has done a meetcute, dated that perfect stranger and ended it melodramatically with a bit of a teetering cliffhanger - all in barely three episodes. Such thrilling theatrics! God knows there's hardly enough time to even heat up the popcorn!

Paul : Whose dogs are these?
Paisley : His.
Paul : You stole them?
Paisley : And programmed his scent so that they would track him.

Haven't actually met the stranger, don't really know much about the whys and whens - but near the end, I found my sympathies lying squarely on the poor fellow's side. Well I could hardly blame him. Full of whims and fancies like any budding ingenue, our volatile Paisley certainly gave her bewildered beau the complete runaround during the breakup. 

Paul : So you think he cheated.
Paisley : Yes. 
Paul : So you ended things with him?
Paisley : Yes. 
Paul : That's over then. 
Paisley : I still went over to his house to check up on him.
Paul : After you told him to leave you alone? 
Paisley : I messaged before going.
Paul : You told the guy you wanted it quits and yet you message for a drop by? 
Paisley : Why not? I saw that he was at home on Facebook. 
Paul : You initiated the breakup and now you're stalking him! What the hell.
Paisley : How else do I know what's happening?
Paul : You already dumped him. Leave him alone. 

Surprised he didn't suffer from frequent migraines caused by her wildly contrary behaviour. Almost impossible to predict where the fickle winds would carry her actions next. Last we heard, the terrified fellow apparently packed up and fled to a faraway hermitage - utterly inaccessible by any electronic means.

Ever since high school, I have witnessed the most peculiar breakups with the female partner frequently exhibiting increasingly bizarre behaviour after! No doubt we'll soon hear of Paisley donning overly large sunglasses, a fetching trenchcoat and matching fedora to pursue her hapless ex to his hidden retreat.

Does she want him back? Does she not want him back? Seriously don't think Paisley knows the answer to that herself. 

Like I've said repeatedly, break up cleanly. Leave no ambiguities about the hopefully valid reasons for breaking up. Hand whatever belongs to him back. Then for God's sake, delete his name from your phone - and from everywhere else if at all possible. Don't call. Don't text. Don't tweet. Don't follow him.

Just don't.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Bah Humbug

Cooler December days are here again with cloudy climes bringing some soothing respite from the usual tropical burn. Advent calendars are already counting the days till that wonderful time of the year. Even people on the streets seem quite a bit more cheery as they hurry home from work, sometimes with hidden packages in their bags.

Ah, more Christmas gifts to send!

And like all traditions before Christmas, I've already found my first Grinch so far. 

Or should that be a Scrooge? 

Several weeks back, one of my work colleagues suggested having a Secret Santa for this year. To those who are wondering, Secret Santa is a Christmas tradition where members of a group are all randomly assigned a person to anonymously hand a gift on that special day. Think of it as a way to save cost as a group since each person only purchases one individual gift rather than a whole lot of smaller gifts for everyone. 

Receiving nary a protest, we had already set out happily to write down a list of participants when a little miserly whine came from the corner. 

Scrooge : I don't think I want to join. 
Paul : That's entirely your choice. We're not making you do this. 
Scrooge : What if I don't know that person very well? 
Paul : Well, then you'll have to get to know them better.
Scrooge : What if I don't like them?
Paul : Then the gift would be twice the charity, no? 
Scrooge : Meh. And what am I getting? Something equal in return?
Paul : No one can promise you that. But we did set a maximum price tag. 
Scrooge : Bah-Humbug. I'd rather buy my own gift.
Paul : Suit yourself. If you think I'm going to spend my time persuading you to join, you're quite mistaken.

There are times when I think I'm quite the stingy, self-absorbed lil shit. Then not soon after a far more egregious creature creeps out of the shadows - like our odious Scrooge here - just to remind me that I'm not that atrocious at all! 

No one expects to find a Tiffany bracelet for a Secret Santa exchange here. A gift for a tuppence or two is all we're looking for, just a simple gift to cheer someone's day. Yes, even a total stranger. Surely that's not too much to ask for?  

Christmastime has always been doubly special for me since it gives me that extra excuse to max out my cards shopping for presents for all my loved ones. In fact, quite a few get gifts in multiples since I keep finding things that would be just simply perfect for them. And no, I don't ask for something equal in return. Have we all forgotten the wonderful gift of giving?

The Scrooge obviously has. Guess who's getting coal in their stocking this year.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Death in His Family

Just like everything else, growing up has its advantages - and also its disadvantages.

A significant - though desperately unwanted - milestone for any adult would be attending a funeral of someone he knows, whether a friend, a relative or someone close to them. In the past few years, I've had several of those dark moments under my belt as I've had two of my uncles pass away suddenly; even been there for some of my closest friends who have lost their parents.

In my line of work, we deal with death almost on a daily basis - part and parcel of the intensive care life - and we know exactly the right dose of compassion and sympathy to dole out to the grieving relatives at their time of bereavement. Though it has become almost painfully mechanical the way we pat them consolingly three times on the shoulders while muttering our sorely inadequate condolences, there's always throbbing ache in our heart no matter how clinically detached we try to be. 

Could we have done more? Could we have done things differently? Could we have saved the patient? Chances are there's usually not much we could have done. That acute feeling of painful inadequacy providentially fades away just in time for the next incoming patient.

And the next. And the next. Till we learn quickly how to tamp down that niggling emotion the moment it tries to surface - giving rise to the callously brusque doctor stereotype. 

Though sometimes there are times when we just can't.

The funeral 

When a distressed Charming Calvin called to tell me that his brother had suddenly passed away, I was quite appalled. The horrible spectre of cancer had struck tragically fast - and this time it had delivered a final killing blow. Since his brother hadn't been stationed close by, I didn't really know him well enough to summon up any available feelings of remorse. However just giving Calvin the usual prescribed treatment for grief didn't seem entirely sufficient. 

And when I heard the unshed tears in his voice, I knew it would never be. Though he claimed that he was doing alright, all I knew was that I wanted to be with him through this dark period in his life. Never have I packed that quickly for a flight that fast. Half the time I imagined that I might have purchased the wrong return ticket since I barely skimmed through the details.

The unforeseen death in his family had left its mark with Calvin looking almost shellshocked at the funeral. Faced with his seemingly inconsolable anguish, I couldn't seem to find the words to soothe and comfort him. All I could do was hold him as he wept.  

Death is a terrible event but it reminds us to always hold those we love close and dearly as long we possibly can. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Third Date

Why buy a cow when you can get the milk for free? 

Remember that horrid adage repeated to the red-faced sophomores on their first dates by their domineering mothers? After all these years of making a pained face when I hear that oft-repeated line, I'm finally starting to see there might be some truth in it.

Coming from a lusty horndog like me who'd prefer to grind on first sight, that's really saying something.

Boy : Hi, wanna fuck?
Jamie : Seriously, that's your pick up line?

Boy : Is it working?
Jamie : It kinda is.  

Especially when everyone these days seem far too eager to give away their milk. Literally. And if you're just a prick teaser, well there are dozens of guys in a one mile radius ready to be ... well, milked.

Unfortunately with the ready availability of horny homosocial apps around - and an even easier supply of randy headless torsos, you can imagine eligible gay bachelors these days are spoiled for choice. Say farewell to the halcyon era of the wit and flirt. These days it's far easier to find out if someone's neatly circumcised than to figure out their favourite colour. An inappropriately graphic penis picture is the new hello apparently.

Jamie : It's hard to find a relationship these days. 
Paul : How so? 
Jamie : I wish guys are more into dating.
Paul : What do you mean? Haven't you been on quite a few? 
Jamie : Well... not exactly. We don't really talk that much.  
Paul : So you're having sex on the first date. 
Jamie : Umm yeah. 
Paul : And it's not working?
Jamie : Well...
Paul : You know two fucks and no dinner just means NSA fun. It's not a date. 
Jamie : Well I like sex too!
Paul : But now he probably thinks you only want him for sex. 
Jamie : You think?
Paul : Maybe wait a little while? 
Jamie : Till when!
Paul : Three date rule maybe? 

Couldn't believe myself either. Gosh, now I am sounding like a prudish Victorian.

But really. Speaking from experience - and possibly that of quite a few guys, the last thing I wanna do after I'm done with the dirty deed is to share meaningful life experiences. I saw, I conquered, I came - there's no need to enjoy the bucolic view after. And obviously little reason to get to know each other which defeats entirely the principles of dating.

You can't call it a date if you spent it frantically swapping spit ( or other bodily fluids ) rather than carefully edited biographies. Maybe keep the hands away from his belt and exchange funny interludes over dinner first?

Monday, November 17, 2014

'Twas the Month before Christmas

Been a pretty hectic week here for me! Hardly any time to settle my brain for a long winter's nap.

Not only has the dreadful work been piling up for a few days, I only have two short weeks to prepare for the annual Christmas fete which is coming up soon enough. Entrusting some of the tedious work of preparation to my fellow tenants in Netherfield would certainly help to lighten the load - but with my intensely finicky micromanaging approach, I doubt I'd be able to leave them to their own devices.

At least not without breathing down their necks barking out strict specific instructions. Simply can't trust the kids to have the stockings hung by the chimney with care!

Wow, that bracelet would look great on my sister-in-law. Wonder where she got it. 

Which is why every year the task of taking down - and placing up the Christmas tree falls to me. Though I do sometimes - reluctantly - relinquish the simpler assignments of placing the odd bauble to Charming Calvin and my niece, I'll admit I tend to reorganize every single bauble on the tree to my utmost satisfaction much, much later at night when the children are nestled all snug in their beds while visions of sugar plums danced in their heads. Monstrous. I know.

With the future demesne of Hartfield looming not too far in the horizon, I realized it was time to furnish the home with a tree far more generous in size - certainly wouldn't do to have the judgmental neighbours find us lacking - which of course called for the crucial purchase of several dozen more baubles of different shapes and sizes. Candelabras are taking the stage this year as ornaments around the house - and even as the tree topper.

Though it's a month before Christmas, my gift list is being filled up as I write. Board game for Fabulous Felix. Toys for my nephew and niece. Shorter list this year as I'll be spending Christmas away with family but still quite a lengthy proposition nonetheless. Caterers have been handed our orders of puddings and pies.

Which only leaves me with my own Christmas list this year full of odds and ends as usual. Let's hope that right jolly old elf with that broad face and a little round belly, that shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly, would see fit to fill up my stocking.

Well him and his eight tinny reindeer.

Christmas List
  • Ted Baker leather satchel
  • Lego Santa's Workshop
  • Gramophone Music Station
  • Jo Malone Wood Sage & Sea Salt perfume
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Bluray
  • The Chef Bluray
  • One Hundred Foot Journey Bluray
  • Faking It Season One
  • Penny Dreadful Season One
  • Marvel's Agents of Shield Season One
  • Funko Legacy Action Figure - Book of Life Manolo
  • Gianfranco Ken Doll
  • Earphones
  • Push up bars
Of course I'm sure I'll end up with the unexpected shirt or two. Along with some knick knacks that I'd wonder about for weeks to come. It's all good though - it's the sweet wonderful anticipation that counts.

Still my favourite Christmas ad ever. If only we all looked that wildly glamorous trying to get everything spick and span for the holidays.

Friday, November 07, 2014

How To Get Away With Murder

So what would you do if you killed someone?

Which is exactly the premise of How To Get Away With Murder, the latest hit television thriller by the astonishingly prolific Shonda Rhimes. Though judging by the increasingly unhinged reactions of the hapless law students involved with said corpse, they would probably find it very hard to get away with anything much less than petty thievery.

Even with the subsequent bonfire, burial and beyond. But who could blame the unfortunate foursome? Especially when the details are yet to be revealed in this thrilling drama.

After all when we find ourselves figuratively buried under relentless pressure, each of us individually emerge with surprisingly different reactions. With a dead body and a possible murder investigation held over their heads, the law students provide a decent tableau of predictable human reactions to shockingly extenuating circumstances! One pathetically crawls back into a weeping catatonic shell, one understandably freaks out into a full-blown hysterical panic attack, one forcibly takes over the entire fraught situation - and the last one remains almost preternaturally calm in thought examining her moves.

It could be renamed How We React To Stress.

And yes, there is a sexy, smart and scheming stud reputed to be able to do things to a man's ass that would make his eyes water. 

Faced with similar circumstances, don't know what I would do myself but I hope that I would be able to handle the situation calmly. After all it wouldn't be my first time handling dead corpses - nor facing them in the eye.

Reminds me of a certain simulation course we once attended where we were all put into untenable situations under the watchful supervision of our consultants behind a camera. Initially presenting with quite simple everyday problems at work - portrayed by our devious peers, the case progressively deteriorates into nightmarish scenarios straight out of some devil's medical textbook. Everything that could, goes wrong basically. Truly worthy of a television medical drama - just short of the prerequisite manmade / natural disaster which probably would have cropped up if our supervisors had known how to successfully reenact those.

And we get to watch that all - and our subsequent panic attacks - on television after the taping. It was quite the harrowing experience.

Back then, I did manage to remain super calm. Watching myself on camera, it was like an outer-body experience where I seemed almost like an unflappable android coolly handing out orders as chaos reigned around me. Of course I knew deep inside I was practically overwrought wanting to tear my hair out in frustration.

Just like the law students when faced with a corpse.

Makes me wonder how my friends would fare. Somehow I find that my friends would all be placed under the morally good category - despite the fact that I'm .... a tad ambiguous when it comes to certain issues. Come to think about it - though I really hope he doesn't, I have a funny inkling Charming Calvin might sink rapidly into a meltdown.

Paul : Let's go for a drive. 
Calvin : At this hour? Where? 
Paul : Just around.
Calvin : What is that thing behind wrapped up in a carpet?
Paul : Some dead body. 
Calvin : OMG. I think I'm about to throw up. 

Monday, November 03, 2014

The Wrath of a Woman Scorned

With that seemingly controversial title, you might think I'd be talking about the recent almost-ascension of a prominent political wife to the role of chief minister - and the endless squabbles over her supposed qualifications or lack thereof. Unfortunately impotent rage over the misogynistic prejudgements brought up would only render me near speechless, if not stupefied, were I to speak on that particular political issue.

So I'm talking about someone closer to home, specifically Cotton Candy who transferred here with her boyfriend. Much like the unpredictable title character in Sex and the City, my version of Carrie remains quite as carelessly carefree, wonderfully wild and more than likely to be that senselessly spontaneous as well.

Which probably prompted her sudden impromptu relocation across the Big Puddle to be with her fledgling paramour! Like any budding romance, there's bound to be some initial complications when precipitous proximity occurs. Even more so when - unsurprisingly - the callow boy hasn't quite gotten his act together yet. You would think he would have learned his lesson heartily after the suitcase incident barely a month back.

Paul : It couldn't have happened again. 
Candy : He was flirting with her! I can tell!
Paul : He was talking to her I assume.
Candy : Yes, and in a very suspicious manner. 
Paul : No hanky panky?
Candy : Don't think so.
Paul : And?
Candy : Obviously he denied everything.
Paul : Which could be true. 
Candy : So I am not speaking to him this week.

Ah, ye olde tried-and-true freeze-him-out method. Don't know if that would work that well but I assume the boy ( and boy he shall be till he grows up ) had better return with the customary chocolates-and-roses apology if he wants to be allowed back in after the treasonous act of criminal conversation.

Yes, I hear you Candy but I somehow can't empathize eventhough I'm trying...

Tried my very best to sympathize I swear but I don't think I succeeded well enough. Emphatically shoved myself into Candy's high heels but I couldn't work up a similar measure of rage! At the most I only had a frisson of mild irritation over the boy's seeming ineptitude.

Perhaps I am growing more mellow with age. Or maybe just plain flirting doesn't irritate me as much. Am I just not as uncommonly possessive when it comes to a relationship? It would certainly take more than just a simple conversation to rile me up.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Wagnerian Opera

Rivulets of sweat drips down your brow, there's barely time to catch you breath but you daren't stop. Your heart is beating a mile a second, pumping blood so hard through your engorged arteries that you can barely hear your thoughts. Feet thumping relentlessly on the ground, all you can do is run as the drumbeats of your dreaded enemy's army marches ever closer. 

You're not trembling at the penultimate scene of almost every adventure movie you've ever seen though. Above you, there are no dastardly villains twirling their oily mustaches as they didactically recount every punishment they will soon gleefully inflict upon your helpless self.

No, that blasted Wagnerian opera you just sat through is coming from the alarmingly gargantuan gym speakers. And the only seemingly heartless monster hounding you is the cute physical trainer yelling irritatingly encouraging catchphrases across the din of screaming Valkyries. Fortunately his sculpted pecs are perky enough that the sudden monstrous urge to viciously maim him with a barbell subsides.

I blame the music.

Despite being quite the garrulous sort, there are times when I prefer the sound of silence. Tense moments in the operating theatre, bibliophilic reverence in the library / bookstore - and yes, lifting weights at the gym.

Unlike most, I am not a fan of music in the gym. Don't get me wrong, I fully understand the important role that music plays in workout motivation - and I do play the occasional upbeat pop track while sprinting a mile on the treadmill.

But my gym plays only two kinds of music. Usually it's the dreadful thumpa thumpa techno club hits sounds that makes me feel involuntarily buried in a recurring feng tau 揈头 disco nightmare! Judging by the club kids that come by in the evening, I don't blame the gym for trying to build a familiar environment for them.

Worse though is the terrifyingly devilish Wagnerian opera sound - by way of Hans Zimmer - that makes me feel like I'm being hunted down by a cacophonous band of raucous Vikings - armed with their ear-splitting howls of fury. There's nothing more I wish to do but willingly surrender but I don't know by what irrational terms these screeching demons are persecuting me!

Egads! They play such infernal music in the place you call... gym? 

And by ye Gods, the resounding volume. I bet even the Norse Gods can hear it crystal clear in their halls of Asgard.

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Sick Buffalo

Scorpios are naturally suspicious creatures.

And surprisingly contrary! Rather than be doubtful about the scruffy miscreants around, it's the slick, shiny paragons that bother me more. The closer they are to approaching a marble pedestal, the more leery I am of the incomparable nonpareil in question. No one's ever that perfect after all, not even plaster saints.

Which is how all my cagey senses came alive when a friend resurfaced after several years of disappearance raving madly about his new Thai paramour. From the way he summed her up almost reverently, I imagined a magnificent apsara had drifted down from the mighty heavens to grace us with her magnificent presence!

Friend : She's the best thing that ever happened to me!
Paul : How about a picture?
Friend : Sure, look at her! Isn't she beautiful?
Paul : Sure she is. 
Friend : Check out all her pics on facebook!
Paul : Sure does have a lot! It's all of her only! Doesn't she have any friends? 
Friend : I'm sure she has! Just no pics together I guess. Maybe she just doesn't put it up. 
Paul : Isn't she supposed to live with her family? 
Friend : Camera-shy relatives?
Paul : Her supposedly hi-so relatives are camera-shy?
Friend : Well it happens. 
Paul : And her profile has nothing prior to last year? 
Friend : Maybe she was shy. 

Usually I'd be all clapping congratulatory when it comes to new romances - but the only thing that came to my mind at that moment was the legendary sick buffalo story. Unfortunately that cautionary tale happens all too often in Thailand. Boy meets girl. Boy falls for girl. Boy returns to home country.

And then the sob stories begin, starting with the inevitable sick buffalo story. 'Tee rak, my family buffalo fall sick. So cannot work. My family no money. No money to buy food.' Or an improved variation thereof. Sometimes it's a college loan unpaid. Or even an ailing parent. Regardless of the tragicomic reason, some immediate monetary help would be kindly appreciated, khop khun ka.

Hard to say no when some of them invariably look like this. I mean, wouldn't you help his sick buffalo? 

Or khop khun krap - since these days, even lovelorn homosexuals get similar treatment from their native toyboys. Even forewarned and forearmed, the most hardened cynics still fall hopelessly for the unequalled charms of these irresistibly charming conmen.

Yes, I am quite the hopeless cynic as well - though I hope for my friend's sake that my sneaking suspicions are wholly unfounded! So I purposely held back when he asked for my opinion, just hemmed and hawwed, made a brief comment on her far-too-obvious prettiness. Let us all believe that her intentions are pure, her heart is secure and her wallet isn't being filled up with his hard-earned savings. Please let there be a happy ending for this particular fairy tale.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Second Slap

Even amongst my uninitiated friends, the Slap of Shame has become quite the legend. Timed to coincide with any overly emotional boo hoo crap, it usually shocks the unfortunately near-senseless victims into painful reality. Honing the skills at work with my patented soft tap of wakefulness does seem to toughen up my shocking soberslaps so it works like a sobering charm.

With most of my friends currently happily involved and few sobmelodramas, there hasn't been much use for the Slap of Shame. Well at least till recently.

You see, one of my friends spends way, way too much time at work. For someone in my line, working too hard is quite usual - but you'd rarely find us doing it more than we should. Saving lives are one thing. Staying over just because is definitely not done.

But overworking seems to be par for the course for our Zealous Zoe. Doesn't surprise anyone to find this lean, mean working machine toiling away at the office without any overtime allowance on Sunday mornings. Staying late past dinnertime finishing up paperwork on weekdays is a usual thing for our dedicated salarywoman Zealous Zoe. Even having the entire building gradually shut down around her, leaving her tiny cubicle the only one spookily lit on the entire darkened empty floor, doesn't give Zoe enough incentive to leave her place at work.

Wouldn't surprise me if she has a battery-charged lamp ( along with several candles and energy bars ) at the ready just to work past midnight.

Zoe : This has to stop. 
Paul : What? Our thoughts on how to prank you when you work till midnight all alone in the empty office building? 
Zoe : Yes, that has to stop. But I'm talking about my pace at work. 
Paul : Oh?
Zoe : I might be overworked. 
Paul : Might? 
Zoe : Okay, I am overworked. 
Paul : From your own volition. 
Zoe : Yes. 
Paul : Finally. You haven't seen sunlight in weeks. Well at least not from outside. 
Zoe : Promise me you'll make me leave work on Fridays at least. 
Paul : Oh?
Zoe : Promise!
Paul : Oh, why stop there? Let's make it really interesting.

Gives me a good enough reason to bring back the Slap. All in the interest of loyal friendship, I swear. Obviously worked till near mental exhaustion, poor Zoe capitulated far too easily to my demands without giving it too much thought. No doubt our little workaholic has forgotten that my legen... wait for it... dary slaps have the sheer power to almost bring back the dead.

Zoe : Maybe I should just type out one last e-mail.
Paul : Well if you really have to.
Zoe : You're being awfully nice.
Paul : It's almost 745.
Zoe : You just want to lay the smackdown, dontcha.
Paul : Got that right, sista. 

So come 1945 H on Fridays, I will spend my time stalking her office with my heated palm all ready.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Oh Josefov!

With the increasingly restive religious conservatives in the country perpetually painting the Jews as the unseen bogeymen, is it any wonder that the number of existing Jews here probably number in the low hundreds? If there are even that many! Though the unfortunate Jewry here erroneously get the blame for almost every existing problem in the country from rising inflation to economic troubles, very few Malaysians have ever laid eyes on any of these presumed troublemakers.

Even some of my sadly anti-Semitic colleagues who bear such ill-placed rancor against them don't actually know very much about them!

Colleague : We hate the Jews. 
Paul : Why?
Colleague : Because of Israel.
Paul : And?
Colleague : And the Jewish conspiracy
Paul : And?
Colleague : Our book tells us to hate them.
Paul : Have you actually met any of them?
Colleague : No. But I still hate them.
Paul : Good to see that you actually gave some deliberation to that. 
Colleague : What?

The heedless animosity can be quite palpable.

Closing the door on mindless prejudice

Obviously the endless indoctrination by our state-sanctioned media has produced some alarming effects so it doesn't surprise me that the few Jews left here in the country have remained relatively discreet for fear of reprisals. But I'm far less convinced. Hate is a strong word - and to arbitrarily hate a community without even knowing anything about them seems preposterous to say the very least.

In fact I've never even set foot in a known synagogue here in the country. Last one we had was the one sole synagogue in Nagore Road, Penang - and even that closed down several decades back due to a lack of quorum.

So you can imagine how intrigued I was to be in Prague, one of the oldest and most well-known cities in Europe with a previously thriving community of Jews. One that gave birth to the infamous artificial man made out of clay called the Golem - reportedly created by a Rabbi Loew in the late 16th century to protect the quarter from anti-Semitic attacks.

So we took a lovely autumn morning to join the tour around the historical Jewish quarter in Prague, otherwise known as Josefov, bringing us around the beautiful art nouveau buildings there now - built after the modernization of the ancient quarter - with the few synagogues left standing. Even without the tour repeatedly drumming it into our heads, it was quite obvious that the Holocaust - and the subsequent relocation of many of the Jewry - had decimated what was left of the quarter.

However not all is lost since I did manage to spy several Jewish boys in kippahs hurrying down the streets with stuffed bookbags in tow.

Obviously it's for good reason that the Jews are known for their sharp business acumen! Souvenir shops abound in that area as well - with far more convivial shopkeepers which made such a lovely change from the usual dour Czechs - which is why I came home with a rabbi marionette, a Jewish themed nesting doll and even a shiny new menorah!

Monday, October 06, 2014

City of Music

One thing quintessentially Prague for us would be getting all dressed up in suits and ties, then racing across the length of a medieval stone bridge under the austere, almost judgemental gaze of marble saints towards the Gothic church in the Old Town for a chamber music concert. As we raced across the cobblestoned streets, no doubt several gawping tourists must have thought that we were headed to play in the concert ourselves!

Dammit why does the church seem so far away!

Nearby Vienna might lay claim to the term City of Music but Prague is surely a strong contender for that distinction as well. Concerts, musical revivals, ballets, plays etc are staged all over the city, a handful in churches barely a stone's throw away from each other. With so many cultural programmes on offer in Prague, how could we possibly not participate? From a chamber music concert to a pipe organ recital and even to a ballet, we did it all.

Even watched a marionette puppet theatre playing Don Giovanni with its shockingly horrific ending!

So shockingly cultured we were!

Though of course I did struggle to remain awake through several renditions of Mozart, Dvorak and Handel. There's only so much classical music I can take in endless repetition before I require some enlivening intoxicants to counter the inevitable soporific effects. Fortunately the evening concerts were invariably held in breathtakingly beautiful churches with soaring vaulted ceilings painted with delicate frescoes. Really hard to nod off amongst the wooden pews with dozens of plaster saints on their pedestals above glaring down in obvious outrage!

Fortunately I had the ballet to perk me up especially with the more lively Tchaikovsky providing the score to the quintessential ballet Swan Lake. For those who didn't know, Charming Calvin is a closeted devotee of the dance - literally watching everything from the flashy Dancing with the Stars reality series to the more classical ballet movements.

The Swan Lake? 

From the boys above, I would infinitely prefer a lap dance instead but that's something else entirely. Much to Charming Calvin's surprise, I managed to stay somewhat awake throughout the entire ballet - even after consuming a delicious supper of cakes and confits in the art nouveau magnificence that is the Municipal House.

Calvin : At least you're not snoring through the show this time!
Paul : I don't snore!
Calvin : That's what you think. 
Paul : Well, this is far more thrilling. Always preferred Tchaikovsky to the rest. 
Calvin : I'm glad! I like ballets. 
Paul : And don't forget the dancers!
Calvin : The dancers?
Paul : Check out Siegfried's ass. Really pert. 

That unwarranted revelation didn't exactly increase his enjoyment of the show. But really. Male ballet dancers. Hot asses. All those jumps and jetés obviously help.

Of course we saw the more traditional hetero-normative version of Swan Lake - but here's Matthew Bourne's more edgy, alternative reworking for comparison. Thankfully we had the more optimistic happy ending otherwise I would have probably thrown a hissy fit worthy of furious flock of sullen swans.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Principles of Prague

"Prague won't let you go, the little mother has claws." 

An ominous phrase Franz Kafka once penned about the uneasy relationship with the city of his birth. Not exactly the glowing review of a city you'd expect from a renowned local - so I did have some initial misgivings when we randomly picked Prague to visit. Practically hidden from view in the impenetrable eastern bloc of Communism all throughout my school life, I knew but little of the Czech Republic - or Czechoslovakia as it was known then! Didn't know very much about the city of Prague either - other than three very peculiar yet oddly salient facts, that the city had given birth to Kafka, Mucha and the Golem.

And though a brief run-through of all the kitschy touristy places would doubtlessly confirm that fact with dozens of souvenirs touting those familiar names, the beautiful city of Prague can lay claim to so much more than that.

A symphony in stone they call it - and how very true that is!

The view out the window

Just the view from my hotel window - right next to the visually stunning Charles Bridge spanning the width of the Vltava River - is enough to reveal a picturesque scene of towering spires and spiralling turrets straight out of a beautiful handpainted storybook, each pastel-coloured building block enhancing the next to form an unforgettable vista of breathtaking beauty. Spared hideous large-scale destruction during World War II unlike other less fortunate European cities, the city's largely medieval core remains thankfully intact. Narrow cobblestoned alleyways tempt the intrepid visitor down the most remarkable examples of architecture ever seen, literally a living textbook of building styles throughout the centuries.

Baroque. Gothic. Art Nouveau. Even up to the avant garde deconstructivist design of the Dancing House by Vlado Milunic and Frank Gehry.

The Golden City of a Hundred Spires indeed! Honestly if I could, I would have carted back half the amazingly intricate doors I'd seen - and let's not forget the framing statues around the doors. Honestly didn't do very much on the first day we arrived apart from oohing and aahing over the beautiful buildings, along with darting in and out of stores.

Funny things is you would expect having such architectural beauty surrounding them all would lead to some ecstatically jolly local merchants dancing maniacally on the cobbled streets - which is unfortunately very, very far from the truth. Couple Germanic reserve with some Slavic dourness and you'd get a bit closer! Perhaps that is what Kafka initially meant about the claws since the storekeepers all seem remarkably glum despite garnering booming business.

Which leads to the most unusual shopping experiences I've had.

Paul : The gemstones are lovely. 
Shopkeeper : Garnets. 
Paul : Could I see more examples? 
Shopkeeper : You can. 
Paul : Are there bigger stones? 
Shopkeeper : There are.
Paul : Maybe teamed with some gold?
Shopkeeper : Yes. 
Paul : Well, are you going to show me? 

Lest you mistake their monosyllabic grumpiness for misinterpretation, most of the locals actually speak English very well, mind you. There's just a curious lack of salesmanship for the lack of a better word.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Braving the Big Black

Though I prefer cooperative games with my friends, sometimes I don't have much choice but to take a solo flight. With my work schedule a bit more uncertain compared to the rest of the regular nine-to-fivers in my gaming crew, I do have a few games set aside to play on my own.

One based on what's surely the biggest scifi television series ever to be cancelled after one sad, desperately-missed meagre debut season. Firefly of course.

For the sadly uninitiated, Firefly is a short-lived yet much-loved series about a space western drama in the future when China and America rule the roost following the adventures of a motley renegade crew on the ship Serenity; all covering the various characters you'd probably find traipsing around the space frontier from the likes of a heroic cowboy captain to an elegant witty Companion, from the brash lawless mercenary to the urbane young surgeon. All seemingly flat cookie-cutter tropes for a typical Western till you've caught more than one thrilling episode!

Unfortunately they only made thirteen episodes to cherish - which is thankfully more than enough to inspire a board game for the show.

Just a standard pick-up and deliver game across the known Verse with our cunningly crafted little Firefly-class ships. Mine's a sweet lil cocoa number called Yun Qi 运气; sure doesn't seem like much but with an enhanced graviton accelerator for a drive core, the crew manages to finish the deliveries damned fast no matter how far. Which helps matters a bit since my crew tends to stay on the straight and narrow, picking up jobs only from the more legal side of the Verse with very few instances of misbehavin'.

A pity since we do have a fully equipped medical bay - and the stoically sexy Dr Simon Tam -on the ship ready to deal with emergencies.

Yes, we know you're real smart and all - but I'd still prefer ya nekkid on my bed. 

And if jobs are slim pickins along the way, there's no fear as I have a ship full of licensed Companions on board as well, all ready to service respectable clients on the more hospitable planets. Not to mention the occasional disgruntled crew member but let's keep that on the down low, shall we? Of course, those who don't exactly follow the series wouldn't find it hilarious to have an entire ship of nubile Companions - and the oh-so-proper Simon Tam - traverse the Verse together.

Well who knows the good doctor could pick up a few skills along the way.

Flying Yun Qi alone at home definitely inspired me to make crew cards of my own to supplement the one at hand. After all there's a real need to increase the Asian influence in the game. Perhaps a more fun-loving doctor / companion of Chinese descent? Someone who looks like Godfrey Gao? Endless possibilities I tell ya.

For those who still can't get enough of Firefly goodness, there's even an online strategic role-playing game coming up soon!

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Confounding Challenge of Charming Calvin

Calvin : This time I shall do it!
Paul : Sounds ominous. 
Calvin : I shall read the books listed on the Big Read!
Paul : A lil heavy don't you think? Why not try something easier first?
Calvin : Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, then Catch-22 by Joseph Heller!
Paul : Yeah, I don't think you should do that. 
Calvin : Have to read it! Then I can say that I have done it. 
Paul : You want to do that, you should read War and Peace. 

After scarcely managing to complete his adamant resolution to read five books the year before, Charming Calvin has decided to scale another unsurpassable mountain! This time the daunting challenge before him is to finish as many books as he can on his own ambitious list, that counts several heavy classics such as the ones mentioned above to a few easier reads such as Persuasion by Jane Austen and Little Women by Louisa M. Alcott. Both amongst my favourites!

As an avid bibliophile, I guess everyone would reasonably expect me to sing endless praise of such laudable high-brow literature - especially since quite a number generally get on the must-read lists - but they would be erroneous in that particular assumption. Yes, most of these books might be held up as wonderful literary works worthy of any great library centrepiece, and quite deserving they are too, but generally very few would merit a second, or even a third look.

As a fledgling reader back in lower secondary, I marched steadily through the deepest trenches of all the required classics from Austen to Shakespeare, from Dickens to Poe. Not forgetting the works of the foreign writers such as Tolstoy which included the dreadfully intimidating War and Peace. At the end of a miserable week of endlessly battling the Bezukhovs, Rostovs and Bolkonskys, I almost put up the flag of surrender myself, refusing to even be curious about what happens to these troubled Russians. Really, Tolstoy? I plodded through the foolish Anna Karenina hoping to dropkick her onto the train tracks only to find myself being tortured with bickering Russian aristocrats again?

Not even the charming Vronsky could keep me that interested in the affairs of Anna Karenina

Important works of literature, yes - but would you honestly read it again for pleasure? Perhaps the occasional Dickens or Austen but really, would you seriously pick up Catch-22 for a reread on the fly? Some literary works are great for pertinent discussion but not so great for a weekend read!

Reason my personal list always has books such as the endlessly engaging novels by the little-known yet well-loved author Georgette Heyer - most whom I've read probably a dozen times from cover to cover. Wonderful reads on those chilly rainy evenings, goes really well with a cup of hot chocolate and a blanket. Wherever I go, you can be sure I have several copies of her novels littered all over the house, these days I even have them on e-publications.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Off On Scampering Feet

Which is no small feat, I tell ya. When you stand barely yea high - only a couple of inches tall! - just a simple stroll across a crowded kitchen turns into a dangerous battlefield of rapacious roaches and rabid rats. Not to mention the occasional roving feline.

But that's what happens when you've been turned - rather unwillingly - into a brave band of mighty mice by the confused antics of a muddle-headed magician who obviously didn't know better! All in a chapter's work for the Mice and Mystics.

Gotta admit my group of friends didn't expect to love this narrative game quite as much, since how much could we possibly get out of a bunch of rodents running about searching for cheese? As it turns out, that's only a tiny part of the entire saga if the adventure's played well enough.

What? You want to turn us into mice?! Are you crazy high on something, sorcerer?

And it all starts with a brave prince finding his ailing father ensnared in the beguiling wiles of a scheming witch named Vanestra. Tossed into the dungeon with the rest of his loyal compatriots, they could find no other way to escape than to turn into hardy - and obviously minuscule mice. Armed with their trusty weapons - and whatever sharp kitchen utensils they can find, they brave their way through the suddenly gargantuan palace to unravel the evil plot of Vanestra.

Now doesn't that just sound like an epic in the making? Of course when it comes to my group of players, we tend to casually meander away from our main mission. Guess I do play to type since I usually gravitate to healer type of characters.

Paul : Man, my monk is obviously quite blind. Whenever he searches, he comes up with nothing.
Kat : Isn't your character female?
Paul : Ah that's what they think! Teddy was a foundling brought up in the Convent of St Luke and the Mother Superior hid his gender from everyone - since the note that came with his cradle claimed that there were some who wanted him dead - by dressing him up as one of the nuns. Along with the note came the Mace of Malice which grows stronger with blood spilled, one of the heirlooms from his wicked family. But I guess he doesn't know that yet. 
Kat : Wow, that's complex. 
Paul : And he's gay. 
Kat : No wonder Teddy's trying to hit on my sexy yet commitment-phobic Filch the Thief. Blame it on a lifetime on the run after being shunted from one crappy orphanage to the next. 
Sam : Both of you are gonna get stabbed by elite monster rats. Get back to the game!

Clearly the character Sober Sam plays doesn't have much of a background detailing his whims and ambitions - but we're always glad to make one up for him!

Gameplay certainly reminds me of a new fave, the beautifully sketched and compiled graphic novels by David Petersen which is the Mouse Guards.

If you haven't read it, you must.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Malevolent Medical Monsters

Think it's common knowledge these days that ingenuous house officers practically outnumber the ailing patients in our hospitals. In fact, some of my senior colleagues have taken to shutting the windows tight lest the overflowing number of house officers threaten to tip out of them.

As they are wont to do - whether due to suicides or other reasons unknown.

After all medicine is a course infamous for having an improbably high attrition rate, quite a few possibly due to the startlingly high rate of suicides for physicians. Though I am pretty sure that the working environment has mellowed some due to my more tolerant peers - no longer do we have the dark days of demonic surgeons tearing up the scribbled notes of a lowly intern in front of everyone followed by a vicious profanity-spiced diatribe - but still we have some of the more gentle souls who are trampled along the way.

Patient : Hey, where's my regular doc?
Doctor : Oh, he's long gone.
Patient : He left this hospital?
Doctor : I would say he did. He stepped off the tenth floor of this hospital.
Patient : OMG.
Doctor : Eh, it happens. 

One of whom I met just the other day. It didn't take me long to suss out why Meek Martin was suddenly voluntarily taking up an entirely different course. After all no one does repeated postings during their housemanship in different hospitals unless there are extenuating circumstances.

Paul : So you quit? 
Martin : Yes. 
Paul : Horrible times during your housemanship? 
Martin : Yes. 
Paul : Had someone tear your notes and make you rewrite them? Berate and call you names in front of everyone? Force you to take more oncalls?  
Martin : No. They just weren't nice to me. 
Paul : That's all!?

Ooh were they mean ole doctors?

Unsurprisingly our locally graduated house officers, used to our far more taxing environs, tend to last longer with the rigorous taskmasters here. 'Cruel to be kind' seems to be their motto here - definitely not what those abroad would be used to. Acclimatized to the more genteel, benign lecturers abroad, the house officers who return here find themselves exposed to the sweltering jeremiads of the heated tropics - certainly enough to have even the strongest wilt.

Anything you see dished out by the fierce Miranda Bailey in Grey's Anatomy is almost negligible compared to some of our malevolent dragons here. Unfortunately weakness is something they tolerate only in their patients. Amongst their colleagues in the medical fraternity, it's almost an anathema.

What monsters they be, you'll say! Back then as a houseman seeing that horrible surgeon tear up the notes of my colleague, I thought pretty much the same.

But along the way I met up with one of those monsters we had and realized that he had done it truly out of kindness. Yes, I was almost apoplectic in shock myself. Though I don't agree with his abhorrent Machiavellian methods, I think his ideas are relatively sound.

The Monster : It's a stressful job. If I hadn't done so, they would have continued for the next few years and burned out eventually. Better they leave sooner than later. 

Which is exactly what Martin did.